ATLANTA — Georgia rediscovered the knack for winning away from Athens just in time for an important trip to Jacksonville.
Coach Mark Richt’s teams were 33-6 in opponents’ home stadiums in his first nine seasons as Georgia’s coach. Then came losses in the Bulldogs’ first three road games this season at South Carolina, Mississippi State and Colorado.
Now the Bulldogs are on the comeback trail. Georgia’s first road win of the season — 44-31 at Kentucky on Saturday — moved the Bulldogs back to .500 at 4-4 overall and 3-3 in the Southeastern Conference.
Georgia now moves to a neutral site when it plays Florida in Jacksonville on Saturday.
“We did a good job of staying together through the adversity,” Richt said Sunday. “Our coaches and support staff did a very good job of staying unified and focused on what we could do to get better. The player-coach relationship was outstanding and the players’ relationships among themselves were outstanding.”
The offense has led Georgia’s surge. For the first time since 2007, the Bulldogs have scored more than 40 points in three straight wins.
Georgia fell to 1-4 with a 29-27 loss at Colorado on Oct. 2. Then came two lopsided home wins — 41-14 over Tennessee and 43-0 over Vanderbilt — before the important victory at Kentucky.
“We’re very, very excited about winning a game somewhere besides Athens,” Richt said after the game.
Washaun Ealey, who had key fumbles in the losses at Colorado and South Carolina, has helped lead the Bulldogs’ rally.
With Caleb King serving a two-game suspension, Ealey has re-emerged. The sophomore had 17 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt before setting a school record with five rushing touchdowns against Kentucky.
Robert Edwards is the only other Georgia player to score five touchdowns in a game. Edwards ran for four touchdowns and had a scoring catch against South Carolina in 1995.
“We have to look past this game,” Ealey said. “This game is over. We have to start getting prepared for Florida.”
Ealey said he “tweaked” his knee late in the game. Richt said Sunday he did not believe the injury is serious.
King will return from his suspension this week.
“I can’t think of any reason why he won’t get back in the mix,” Richt said of King.
“We’ll observe all the guys during practice this week. Once a young man carries out his discipline, he’s back in good standing with us.”
Freshman quarterback Aaron Murray had more than 200 yards passing in five straight games. Against Kentucky, Georgia emphasized its running game.
Ealey had 157 yards rushing. Murray was 9-of-12 passing for only 113 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips called Georgia “one of the most physical teams that we’ve played this year.”
“That’s music to my ears, quite frankly,” Richt said. “That’s one of the things we wanted people to feel about us. ... I want people to look at our film and say, ‘These guys played in a hard, physical nature.’ I thought we played hard and I thought we played physical.”
The three-game winning streak has kept Georgia in contention in the jumbled SEC East.
“We’re a better team than we were a month ago,” Richt said. “I’m just thankful we’re getting some wins to go with it.”