On a night when Georgia’s young defense came up with big stops and the Bulldogs' offensive line contained a Heisman candidate, it was Aaron Murray who found vindication. In front of a raucous crowd of 92,746, the senior quarterback masterfully completed 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns, but most importantly, he came away with a victory.
Indeed, to Murray and the rest of the Bulldogs, the most important statistic at the end of the night was 1-0 as Murray’s first career win against the South Carolina Gamecocks gave the Dawgs a perfect record in conference play and a leg up against the rest of the SEC East.
Murray was criticized all week for shortcomings in the Bulldogs’ season opener, and many characterized this game as a must-win. He came up big when it mattered most and collected just his second career win against a Top 10 opponent (with the other coming against Florida last season).
If the added pressure was a factor in the game, it certainly didn’t show. Murray orchestrated two scoring drives in the first quarter that put the Bulldogs ahead, 10-3, before watching the lead dwindle away, as the teams headed into halftime with the score tied at 24.
The Dawgs started slowly in the second half before Murray extended several plays with his legs and helped put Georgia ahead by 10 heading into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs never relinquished the lead, and with the help of hard runs by Todd Gurley and key stops by a young defense, the Dawgs pulled away for an 11-point victory.
Undoubtedly, the victory over South Carolina was sweet for a senior quarterback on the verge of every major SEC passing record, but it was Murray’s teammates who were most impressed.
Michael Bennett said of Murray, per Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph, "He played the game of his life. I was telling him throughout the game. He really came up and played his butt off, and prepared all week, and it showed today."
Justin Scott-Wesley added, per Emerson:
People can always say what they wanna say. But we've got faith in our guys, we've got faith in our coaches. We're not worried about anybody. Coach Bobo tells us all the time: Ignore the noise. People gonna say what they wanna say, but they can't take that W off the board.
If doubts existed regarding the Bulldogs' SEC chances and bid for a BCS National Championship, they are now put on hold. The win over the Gamecocks puts Georgia in the driver’s seat to win the SEC East, although tough games against LSU and Florida remain.
In any event, Georgia’s improved defensive effort and lack of mistakes on offense went a long way in supporting the notion that last week’s loss to Clemson was a sign of early-season jitters and not prolonged deficiencies.