ATHENS, Ga. – Ole Miss coaches knew their secondary would be a primary concern against Georgia, and Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray brought their fears to life Saturday afternoon.
Murray – when he wasn’t getting sacked – torched the Rebels with four touchdown passes as the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs scored 37 unanswered points in a 37-10 homecoming win before 92,746 fans at Sanford Stadium.
Georgia (8-1, 6-1 SEC) amassed 533 yards on 73 plays. The Ole Miss offense provided little help for its defense as it was held to a season- low 46 rushing yards and was forced to punt eight times.
“That was a pretty good beating Georgia put on us,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “They whipped us, and offensively, we couldn’t make any plays to give our defense much hope.”
The Rebels (5-4, 2-3 SEC) sacked Murray five times in the first half but couldn’t get to him over the final two quarters.
With cornerbacks Senquez Golson and Wesley Pendleton out with injuries – two of the Rebels’ top three at the position – Murray produced big gains when he had time.
At one point in the third quarter, Murray was 13-for-19 for 315 yards, an average gain of 24.2 yards per per completion.
“I could sit there and use it for an excuse. You know as well as I do, those guys are our starters, and I’d rather have them back in there doing what they do,” defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. “These guys are leading the East, and I think Mark Richt and his staff do a tremendous job.” Not all of the secondary problems were of Collins’ making. He was beaten for a 40-yard score when Brown got behind him in the third quarter for a 28-10 Georgia lead.
But before that, there was a blown coverage by safety Trae Elston when Murray started scrambling in the final seconds of the first half and threw 40 yards to Tavarres King for the points.
“We were in deep thirds, and our young safety floats over, so we’ve got two safeties in the middle of the field,” Wommack said. “You’ve got to go through some experiences sometime. I hate to say that, but you’ve got to understand why.”
Georgia’s first touchdown – after Ole Miss led 10-0 – was well-set up and executed. The Rebels had early success in the run game, Murray’s sold the fake by acting non-chalant in the pocket and hiding the ball from view. Then he turned and Marlon Brown for a 66-yard score.
Ultimately, Charles Sawyer was beaten too as Murray put an exclamation point on his day with a 23- yard pass to Rantavious Wooten and a 37-10 lead with 8 minutes, 29 seconds remaining.
Ole Miss took the opening kick and drove for a 34-yard Bryson Rose field goal. The Rebels made it 10-0 when Bo Wallace passed 13- yards to tight end Jamal Mosley.
The Rebels were up 10-7 when Denzel Nkemdiche recovered a Georgia fumble on the Bulldogs’ side of the 50. Wallace’s first pass was complete to Vincent Sanders to around the 15, but Sanders fumbled it back to Georgia.
That came within a sequence of four turnovers within a minute until Georgia settled in and took the lead near the end of the half.
Wallace hit 13 of his first 16 passes but finished 16 for 25 for 187 yards, a TD and an interception. “We were sitting on the sidelines with 20 seconds left telling each other, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get better,” Wallace said. “Maybe we’re not as good as some people thought we were. We have five wins. We need one more win to be bowl-eligible, and we know we can win any football game we’re in.”