ATLANTA — Georgia is back in a first-place tie in the SEC East.
To be a factor in the second half of the season, the Bulldogs know they must be more consistent in the second halves of games, including Saturday night's game at Tennessee.
Georgia has won three straight games after an 0-2 start, including Saturday's 24-10 victory over Mississippi State.
Georgia led 21-3 at halftime and relied on its strong defense in the second half.
It was Georgia's second straight Southeastern Conference win, following a 27-13 victory at Ole Miss on Sept. 24. In each game, the Bulldogs were held to a second-half field goal after an impressive first half.
Georgia (3-2 overall, 2-1 SEC) is tied with Florida and South Carolina for first place in the SEC East.
"It certainly generated excitement as we watched South Carolina play and Florida play," coach Mark Richt said Sunday.
Georgia opened its season with losses to two ranked teams, Boise State and South Carolina. The 0-2 start generated dour projections for the remainder of the season and left Richt on the hot seat.
Suddenly, the Bulldogs have renewed reason for optimism, though they still need help to win the division. South Carolina would win a tiebreaker with Georgia if the teams finish with the same conference records.
"There's still an awful lot of football to be played," Richt said. "We know we don't control our own destiny, but we know there's a good chance that everybody is going to get knocked around. We'll see who ends up on top. We're closer than we were a week ago, so that's a good thing for us."
Added Richt: "The bottom line is we must focus on one game."
The Bulldogs also must concentrate on sustaining their momentum after halftime.
Georgia had 237 yards and 14 first downs while building the 21-3 halftime lead over Mississippi State. Georgia finished with 315 yards and 20 first downs. They were held to a 28-yard field goal by Blair Walsh in the second half.
"We definitely want to put the foot down and really put teams away," said quarterback Aaron Murray. "Last week and this week we didn't do that. That's something we need to do because you don't want to put our defense in a situation of having to continually stop teams over and over and over again. We really want to be able to put teams away when we have the opportunities and we didn't do that.
"I think we're still pumped up and ready to make the play. We're just not making the plays when they're there."
The strong starts have Georgia above .500 for the first time this season.
"We're feeling great right now," Murray said. "We've got the ball rolling. We're getting better every week and we've just got to keep working hard and not be happy with where we are right now. We still have a long way to go and a long way to go in winning the East."
Murray completed 13 of 25 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first quarter. He set a season high with three interceptions.
After the game, Richt called three interceptions "inexcusable."
After watching the film, Richt said on Sunday a receiver slowed down in his route on one of the interceptions.
Richt also gave credit to Mississippi State's defense.
"The second half offensively we didn't do much," Richt said. "I will give Mississippi State's defense credit. They are a very good defensive football team."