Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray (11) runs through the Appalachian State Mountaineers defense during the second half of Saturday's game at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports)
ATHENS — In a season that Georgia has had to fight tooth and nail for every win, the Bulldogs were finally able to put one in cruise control.
Aaron Murray threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Todd Gurley added 75 yards rushing and one score as the Bulldogs rolled to a 45-6 homecoming win over Appalachian State on Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium.
The first half had the look of a contest that might go down to the wire as Georgia’s lead at the half was only 14-6, but the second half was all Bulldogs as Georgia’s defensive effort shut out the Mountaineers in the last two quarters.
“Georgia made some good adjustments by clamping down on us in the second half,” Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield said. “They were better than us in the second half and wore us down.”
The offense also did its part in the final two quarters and the Bulldogs (6-3 overall, 4-2 SEC) broke the game open with 17 points in the third quarter and pulled ahead with another pair of TDs in the fourth.
“Appalachian State played great, especially in the first half,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “They had four field goal attempts and it could’ve been 14-12 (at the half). The defense did a good job of forcing field goals instead of touchdowns.
“That was the best thing we did. In the second half, we played a lot better.”
Murray put together a solid afternoon, hitting on 19 of 26 passes and two scores for 281 yards with one interception.
His favorite target of the afternoon was Rantavious Wooten, who hauled in four receptions for one TD and 104 yards, setting a new career high in yards in one game. His TD catch was Georgia’s first score of the game, coming with 2:08 left in the first period on a 35-yard strike.
The Mountaineers had taken an early 3-0 lead on a 33-yard field goal from Drew Stewart, but Wooten’s TD catch quickly erased Appalachian State’s only lead of the game.
Stewart would follow Wooten’s TD with his second field goal of the game, this time hitting from 49 yards out to cut the score to 7-6, but Georgia’s Michael Bennett (five catches, 87 yards) put the Bulldogs up 14-6 with a 23-yard TD pass from Murray.
The Mountaineers (2-8 overall, 2-7 Southern Conference) had a chance at more points late in the second quarter only to have Stewart miss on a 46-yard field goal. The kick was his second miss of the quarter as Jordan Jenkins blocked Stewart’s attempt at a 49-yard kick early in the period.
Leading just by eight points at the break, Georgia started the second half by getting a 42-yard field goal from Marshall Morgan to go up 17-6.
The Mountaineers, who had achieved some success with its running game in recent weeks, was never able to get it going on Saturday by netting just 32 yards on the ground.
Appalachian State’s quick passing attack, which experienced some success in the first half, suffered as a result of its inability to establish its running game, allowing Georgia to keep the Mountaineers scoreless in the second half.
“Appalachian State did a very good job with the short passing game,” Richt said. “Once the field got squeezed, they had to settle for the field goal attempts. But they had a good plan.”
Kameron Bryant finished with 22 completions on 39 attempts for 221 yards, throwing one interceptions and no TDs.
The running game added Georgia’s next two scores, one on a two-yard run from Gurley and the next on a J.J. Green’s two-yard score.
Murray was pulled after the third quarter and Hutson Mason engineered Georgia on two more scoring drives.
The first of those ended with a three-yard TD pass to Kenneth Towns, while running back Brendan Douglas bulled in from two yards out for the final score.
Mason made the most of his time, passing for 160 yards on 11 of 16 attempts with one TD and one interception.