Georgia Wins SEC Opener over Gamecocks, 41-30
Game 2: Georgia (0-1, 0-0 SEC) vs. South Carolina (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
The Bulldogs Welcome The Gamecocks To Town
For the second straight season, Georgia faces a South Carolina team ranked in the top 10. It marks the eighth time in the series that both teams will be ranked in the top 25. Overall, USC is 5-2 when the teams are both ranked. In last week's season opener, the Gamecocks dispatched North Carolina 27-10 in Columbia.
Ranked Matchups In The Series
Oct. 3, 1959 #16 USC d. #13 UGA 30-14 Columbia
Back-To-Back Top-10 Opponents
Saturday's matchup between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks will mark the first time Georgia has faced top-10 opponents in back-to-back weeks since 1998. Clemson was #8 before the Bulldogs played them last week. On Oct. 3 of 1998, the #12 Bulldogs traveled to Baton Rouge and beat #6 LSU 28-27. A week later, #7 Georgia made the trip to Knoxville and fell to #5 Tennessee 22-3.
Another SEC Opener With South Carolina
Since 1992, Georgia has opened its Southeastern Conference schedule against USC every year except one. Last season, the Bulldogs began SEC play with a 41-20 road win over league newcomer Missouri and didn't face USC until the sixth game of the year.
Georgia holds a 46-16-2 edge in the series history with USC including 13-7 in SEC openers against them. However, the Bulldogs will be looking to snap USC's three-game winning streak in the series. The first Georgia-South Carolina game was in 1894, and the Bulldogs registered a 40-0 victory in Columbia, S.C.
Aiming For Big Ranked Win Between The Hedges
Georgia is 30-45-2 all-time against ranked opponents in Sanford Stadium including 5-4 in top 10 battles. The last ranked team to visit Athens came on Nov. 12, 2011 when No. 14 Georgia crushed No. 24 Auburn 45-7. Fourth-ranked LSU was the last team in town that was ranked in the top 10. The Tigers escaped with a 20-13 victory over No. 18 Georgia on Oct. 3, 2009. Georgia's last win over a top-10 team came over #3 Florida in Jacksonville last year, a 17-9 Bulldog victory.
Gurley Provides Early Spark Again
Tailback Todd Gurley ignited the Bulldog offense with the first touchdown of the season for the second year in a row. Last year, his second career carry resulted in a 10-yard touchdown against Buffalo. Then after the Bulls responded with a score, Gurley's third career time touching the football resulted in an NCAA record-tying 100-yard kickoff return. Last week at eighth-ranked Clemson, the Tigers held a 7-0 lead when Gurley made his first rushing attempt of the season to start Georgia's second possession. The CFPA National Running Back of the Week raced a career-long 75 yards for a touchdown. Gurley, who battled a thigh injury during the contest, managed to post a career-high 154 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.
Georgia began 2013 by posting 35 points against #8 Clemson. The Bulldogs rolled up 545 yards on 70 plays, including 222 on the ground. Last year, Georgia tallied a school record 529 points including scoring more than 40 points in eight games. Gurley led the rushing attack against the Tigers, but was also aided from key blocking by sophomore FB Quayvon Hicks. Hicks accounted for 38 yards rushing and a touchdown as well as one 38-yard reception.
ON DECK: vs. North Texas
This is the first meeting between Georgia and North Texas. The Mean Green blasted Idaho 40-6 at North Texas' home field in Denton, Texas, last week. The Bulldogs are 14-4 under Mark Richt following an open date. Last season, the Bulldogs took a weekend off before topping Kentucky 29-24 in Lexington, Ky.
Gurley Named SEC Player Of The Week
Sophomore TB Todd Gurley was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week following the matchup with #8 Clemson.
Under the direction of Mark Richt, Georgia owns a 49-9 record against teams from outside the Southeastern Conference, including 34-1 at home. Last year, the Bulldogs went a perfect 5-0 versus non-conference opponents.
In 2013, Georgia dropped its season opener at #8 Clemson 38-5. Along with North Texas, the Bulldogs face Appalachian State on Nov. 9 in Sanford Stadium and Ga. Tech in the regular season finale.
NFL Picks Record Eight Bulldogs
Georgia tied a school record with eight Bulldogs selected during the 2013 NFL Draft. This equaled Georgia's tally in 2002. Unlike 2002 where Charles Grant was the sole first rounder, the Bulldogs had a pair of first round picks in Jarvis Jones (Pittsburgh Steelers - 17th) and Alec Ogletree (St. Louis Rams - 30th). Georgia had the fifth-most players in the nation selected in the 2013 Draft.
Georgia's rebuilt defense, which lost two NFL First Round linebackers (Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree), debuted at Clemson versus the Tigers' fast-paced offense. Clemson recorded 38 points on 76 plays. The Bulldog defense featured six new starters, including three true freshmen.
A pair of inside linebackers led the defensive charge against the Tigers with career-high outputs. Junior Ramik Wilson posted 13 stops while junior Amarlo Herrera finished with 12 tackles. Two more new true freshmen starters - FS Tray Matthews and CB Brendan Langley - combined for 15 tackles in the loss.
Bulldog Fast Facts
Murray Enters Final Season
Record-setting quarterback Aaron Murray opted to return for his final year and not enter the NFL Draft as a fourth-year junior. As the SEC's most seasoned signal-caller, he has started every game of his career, a total of 42 contests. His 42 starts leads the nation for active players. Murray has led the Bulldogs to a pair of SEC Eastern Division titles. He is also the NCAA active leader with 95 career touchdown passes and ranks fourth in passing efficiency at 158.47.
Active Career Start Lists
42 Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Four-Year Bulldog Starting Quarterbacks
Talented Tailback Tandem
The Bulldogs feature a potent sophomore duo at tailback in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The pair, who are roommates, combined for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2012 as true freshmen. Gurley posted the second best output by a freshman tailback in school history (trailing only Herschel Walker). Gurley accounted for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns. Marshall finished with 759 yards and eight touchdowns.
Gurley has been named a preseason First Team All-American by several media outlets, including Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. In the 2013 season opener at #8 Clemson, the pair accounted for 197 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries.
And Then There Were Two
Georgia returns just two starters from the 2012 defense: junior CB Damian Swann and senior DE Garrison Smith. Swann led the Bulldogs with a team-high four interceptions and tallied 53 tackles and two sacks. Smith led all lineman with 57 stops. The duo played in all 14 games last year.
However, there are four Georgia defenders who started games in 2012, including junior ILB Amarlo Herrera and sophomore OLB Jordan Jenkins who combined for 15 starts. In addition, sophomore CB Sheldon Dawson, sophomore OLB Josh Dawson, junior DE Ray Drew, junior SS Connor Norman, junior N Mike Thornton, senior OLB Chase Vasser and sophomore OLB James DeLoach were all regular contributors for the Bulldog defense and return on this year's unit.
New Faces Abound
As part of its large signing class, the Bulldogs had a school-record 13 members enroll in January including a pair of JUCO defensive lineman in John Atkins and Chris Mayes. Georgia lost nine starters on defense but just one on offense. The bulk of the signing class should provide immediate depth and compete for playing time in 2013.
Georgia Among Best in the SEC Under Richt
Murray Rewriting Record Books
Senior QB Aaron Murray returns as one of the nation's elite at his position. In 2012, Murray ranked second in the nation in passing efficiency at 174.82. The SEC record is 182.1 set by Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton in 2010. In 2011, Murray graduated with a degree in Psychology after posting a GPA of 3.4. He is now taking undergraduate classes towards another degree.
In his 28 wins as a starter, Murray has 74 TDs to just 16 INTs. Murray is the SEC's leading active player in total offensive yards (10,609), completions (716), TD responsibility (106), TD passes (95) and passing yards (10,414).
Here are some of Murray's highlights from 2012:
Gurley & Marshall Ignite Rushing Attack
Since the legendary #34 Herschel Walker lined up in the Bulldog backfield, every tailback since then has been compared to the Heisman Trophy winner who led the Bulldogs to the 1980 national championship. In 2012, true freshmen roommates and North Carolina natives Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall became Georgia's weapons in the backfield.
Gurley became the 12th Bulldog to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and the first since Knowshon Moreno in 2008 after going for 68 yards and a touchdown versus Georgia Southern on Nov. 17 in the 11th game of the year. When Moreno did it, he was a redshirt sophomore. He gained 1,400 yards with 16 touchdowns in 13 games. Only Gurley and Walker have tallied 1,000-yard seasons in their true freshman seasons.
Gurley finished second in the SEC in Rushing Yards Per Game (98.9), third in Scoring (108 pts.) and third in All-Purpose Yards Per Game (124.6). In the SEC Championship Game against No. 2 Alabama, Gurley rushed for 122 yards on 23 carries with two TDs. Alabama faced six 1,000 yard rushers in the 2012 season, and Gurley was the only one to go over 100 yards. Three of those six players were held to a season-low rushing total. Also, the Crimson Tide allowed only 10 rushing TDs all year. Gurley set the Bulldog freshman record for rushing TDs in a season with 17.
Gurley and Marshall combined for 12 runs of 25 or more yards during last season, including eight that went for touchdowns.
2012 Game-By-Game (Attempts-Yards-Touchdowns)
2013 Game-By-Game (Attempts-Yards-Touchdowns)
Big Guys Up Front
For the season opener, Georgia's starting unit for the offensive line was: senior Kenarious Gates at LT, senior Chris Burnette at RG, senior Dallas Lee at LG, junior David Andrews at C and junior Kolton Houston at RT. Houston got his first shot to play for the Bulldogs after he was ruled eligible after a three-year battle with the NCAA (For more on Houston, check out the story at http://gado.gs/1xu).
One of the keys to Aaron Murray's success has been his passing efficiency, and his ability to spread the ball around. In 2012, four different receivers had 100-yard games and 11 Bulldogs combined for 36 touchdown receptions from him. Georgia lost two of its receivers during the year due to ACL injuries in then senior Marlon Brown and then sophomore Michael Bennett.
Bennett has recovered from his injury and finished with five catches for 60 yards after starting against #8 Clemson. The Bulldog leaders last season were Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell and Chris Conley were very productive the final five games. In that stretch, Mitchell had 14 catches for 214 yards and two scores while Conley had 13 for 258 and five TDs. However, Mitchell injured his left knee in the Clemson game and is out for the year after tearing his ACL.
Scott-Wesley had a career day versus Clemson in the 2013 season opener. He hauled in four catches for 55 yards. He only had six catches in his career before this season.
One of Murray's new targets will be junior SE Jonathon Rumph, who finished with 98 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the annual G-Day scrimmage. Rumph sat out the Clemson game with a hamstring injury. Like TE Jordan Davis, receiver Reggie Davis also drew the attention of coaches with his play during the preseason and will be vying for playing time as well.
Lynch A Preseason Pick
Senior TE Arthur Lynch has been named a preseason First Team All-SEC selection by the league coaches and media while also garnering Second Team All-America honors by SI.com, among others. Lynch completed his junior season by hauling in a combined six catches for 87 yards and a touchdown versus #2 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and #23 Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. The 6-5, 254-pound native of Dartmouth, Mass., redshirted his 2010 season while the Bulldogs had a host of tight ends who ended up in NFL camps, including current Cincinnati Bengal Orson Charles. Lynch had one catch for 18 yards against #8 Clemson.
Mason Waiting In The Wings
Redshirt junior Hutson Mason will lead a group of quarterbacks vying for playing time behind senior Aaron Murray. Mason is listed as the No. 2 on the depth chart after redshirting in 2012 to create a year of separation between the entrenched starter. Mason played in four games at quarterback in 2011, going 18-of-30 for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, he has appeared in eight games in his career. The other two Bulldog quarterbacks (Christian LeMay and Parker Welch) to see action in 2012 were a combined 4-for-9 for 82 yards with one TD.
Often times, it has been said that there is noticeable improvement from a team's first game to their second as new starters gain experience including getting adjusted to the speed of the game. Georgia's newcomers jumped right in the fire in 2013 when facing Clemson's up-tempo attack that registered 38 points and 467 yards of total offense on 76 plays.
Georgia had six new starters on defense including three true freshmen. FS Tray Matthews, OLB Leonard Floyd and CB Brendan Langley became the first true freshmen starters in a season opener on defense under Mark Richt since Kedric Golston (2002). They are the only four on defense under Richt. Prior to them the last true freshman to start in the secondary in a season opener was Tony Flack in 1982 and it was against Clemson in Athens. Flack was the first true freshman (non-kicker) to start a season opener in the Vince Dooley era, which began in 1964.
Sterling Bailey all lined up to start the game. Wilson had a team-high and career-best 13 tackles while Matthews had eight.
Georgia's veterans look for their first win over South Carolina as the Gamecocks have won the past three meetings, scoring 17 points in 2010, 45 in 2011 and 35 in 2012. The 28-point loss last year was the biggest margin of defeat in the history of the series that dates back to 1894. Also, the 45 points allowed in 2011 was the most ever in the series. South Carolina's 45-42 win in its last trip to Athens marked the most points scored by Georgia in a loss in regulation in school history.
The hallmark for Georgia's defense in 2012 was its ability to make key second half adjustments. For example, opponents averaged just 7.7 points in the final two quarters (107 points), and one touchdown came on an interception return. In the win over #3 Florida last year, the Gators were held to a field goal. In fact in the 17-9 win, the Gators' points came from three field goals, which marked the first time since 1988 that Florida failed to score a touchdown against the Bulldogs.
The 2013 defense features nine new regulars. The returning starters are junior CB Damian Swann and senior DE Garrison Smith. Junior ILB Amarlo Herrera and sophomore OLB Jordan Jenkins combined for 15 starts last season. Additionally, sophomore CB Sheldon Dawson, sophomore OLB Josh Dawson, junior DE Ray Drew, junior SS Connor Norman, junior N Mike Thornton, senior OLB Chase Vasser and sophomore OLB James DeLoach all earned significant playing time during the 2012 campaign.
Mixture Of New & Old Faces In The LB Corps
Georgia must replace a pair of NFL First Round picks in two-time consensus All-American Jarvis Jones and All-SEC Alec Ogletree. However, the Bulldogs have a couple of returners in ILB Amarlo Herrera and OLB Jordan Jenkins. Herrera and Jenkins appeared in all 14 games and combined for 15 starts. Herrera is the top returning tackler with 70, which ranked fifth overall in 2012. Jenkins added 31 stops with the team's second-most sacks behind Jones with 5.0. Also at LB, junior ILB Ramik Wilson, who played in 10 games, and sophomore OLB James DeLoach, who saw time in 13 contests, are also penciled in as Georgia starters. Additionally, sophomore Josh Dawson played in 13 games in 2012 and will be aiming for a bigger role. Early enrollee Reggie Carter and signees Leonard Floyd and Tim Kimbrough also give the Bulldogs depth at linebacker.
Swann Lone Returning Starter In The Secondary
Junior Damian Swann is the only starter back from the 2012 secondary. He led the Bulldogs with four interception and had 53 tackles including two sacks. He capped his sophomore year by tying a Bulldog bowl record with two interceptions in the win over #23 Nebraska.
A pair of reserve safeties return for the Bulldogs in senior Connor Norman and junior Corey Moore. Norman started two games and played in all 14 contests last year. He finished with 18 tackles. In the 2013 opener, Norman started at SS and had eight tackles, including combining on a tackle for loss.
Moore played in 14 games with one start to go with 14 tackles. However, Moore was sidelined for the Clemson game with a knee injury. Also, defensive back Sheldon Dawson appeared in 13 games and had 12 tackles. Georgia's 2013 signing class featured eight defensive backs/safeties including three who enrolled early in Tray Matthews, Quincy Mauger and Reggie Wilkerson.
Matthews, a native of Newnan, Ga., enrolled in January 2013 and started at the other safety spot against the Tigers. Mauger is also expected to play early while Wilkerson tore his ACL during summer workouts and is out for the season.
The First Line Of Defense
Georgia will have to rebuild its interior line after a trio of veterans have moved on to give the NFL a shot in Abry Jones, John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers. However, the leading tackler from this unit is back in senior Garrison Smith. Smith, a 6-3, 299-pound native of Atlanta, started eight games and registered 57 tackles. The aforementioned trio accounted for 107 tackles last season.
Junior Ray Drew is one of the top options for increased playing time here. He collected 23 tackles in 13 games. Against Clemson in the 2013 sesaon opener, Drew had four solo tackles to lead the defensive front. The Bulldogs welcomed three from the junior college ranks. They are Chris Mayes, a 6-4, 321-pound native of Griffin via Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, Toby Johnson, a 6-4, 305-pound native of College Park, Ga., via Hutchinson CC and Johnathan Atkins, a 6-4, 322-pound native of Thomson, Ga., via Hargrave Military Academy. Mayes and Atkins arrived in January and practiced this spring.
Junior Mike Thornton, who was playing behind Jenkins and Geathers, will get his chance to start for the Bulldogs at N after playing in all 14 games last year. Thornton finished with three tackles and the Bulldogs' only sack of the game against Clemson. The other DE spot is expected to be filled by a healthy Sterling Bailey. Bailey was limited to three games in his redshirt freshman season because of injuries, but posted four tackles and a hurry in the 2013 opener. Redshirt freshman John Taylor (6-4, 335) adds more depth to the N position.
The defensive line will be led by coach Chris Wilson, who joined the Bulldogs in January from Mississippi State.
SPECIAL TEAMS AT A GLANCE
Specialists Gain Experience
In 2012, P Collin Barber of Cartersville, Ga., and PK Marshall Morgan of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., came in as freshman and became the starters in 2012. During the 2013 season opener, Barber averaged 47.4 yards on five punts and had impressive hang-time which forced the Tigers to just 9 return yards.
Barber also ran five yards for a first down on a fake punt from the Georgia 34-yard line. Sophomore Patrick Beless was 5-for-5 on PATs against Clemson. He was lined up to attempt a 19-yard field goal, but a high snap caused a fumble and loss of six yards.
Morgan tallied 87 points last year. He hit 8-of-14 field goals (hitting two from 50+) and connected on a school record 63-of-67 extra points.
Barber lifted a 57-yard punt on his first try against Buffalo in 2012 and averaged 41.5 yards in 2012 with a career-long punt of 60 yds versus Ole Miss. The 2012 season marked the first since 1985 that Georgia opened with a punter and placekicker without any collegiate experience. That year, punter Cris Carpenter and placekicker Steve Crumley were redshirt freshman.
Redshirt sophomore Nathan Theus started the Clemson game as Georgia's snapper. True freshman Trent Frix saw action on the Bulldogs' final extra point against the Tigers last week. Trent is the younger brother of Ty Frix, who was the Bulldogs' snapper for the last four years. Theus, who played special teams last season, is the older brother of starting tackle John Theus.
The Return Men
The Bulldogs did not have any kickoff returns in the season opener as the Tigers' Bradley Pinion had seven touchbacks. The main kickoff returner last year was Malcolm Mitchell (16 for 360, 22.5 avg.). He is sidelined for the year after sustaing an ACL injury versus #8 Clemson.
Todd Gurley had seven returns as a true freshman last year, including a 100 yarder to tie the NCAA record versus Buffalo.
Rhett McGowan averaged 8.3 on nine punt returns last year and had two fair catches versus Clemson.
Also against the Tigers, junior Damian Swann had one punt return for four yards and had a pair of fair catches.
Did You Know?
Georgia has blocked 21 punts, 13 field goals and four PATs in the Mark Richt era. The Bulldogs have converted them into 137 points. Georgia has scored 17 special teams touchdowns and four safeties in the Richt era.
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