ATHENS — Georgia players said this week their bitter memories of last year’s loss at Mississippi State would be all the motivation they would need in the rematch.
More inspiration came in a pregame on-field skirmish that left Georgia players so upset they were throwing chairs around their locker room minutes later. Then they came back out on the field and threw at Mississippi State.
Aaron Murray threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter, Isaiah Crowell ran for 104 yards and Georgia took advantage of a strong start to beat Mississippi State 24-10 on Saturday.
The teams had to be separated at midfield at the end of pregame warmups. Georgia players accused the Mississippi State players of jumping on the big “G” logo which stretches almost 20 yards at midfield.
“They came jumping on the G and you just don’t do that,” said linebacker Christian Robinson. “The locker room was electric after that happened. There were chairs being thrown. I’ve just never seen this locker room like that. You just don’t do that in our house. You don’t jump on somebody’s symbol.”
An official was knocked down as he tried to escort the Mississippi State players off the field, but the pregame confrontation was mostly contained.
Georgia coach Mark Richt was seen having an animated discussion with the officials before he joined his players in the locker room.
“Somehow our players thought Mississippi State was disrespecting our G,” Richt said. “From what the officials told me, their players didn’t have any intent of doing that.”
No one convinced the Georgia players there was no insult intended.
“It was crazy,” said linebacker Jarvis Jones. “We were already up for the game but when another team comes in your house and steps on the G, they just totally disrespected us. That gave us more energy, more fuel to the fire. We just took it to another level.”
Robinson said Mississippi State players “were sticking their fingers in my face” in the exchange.
“I said ‘We’re going to come back out and they’re not going to know what hit them,’ “ Robinson said.
Georgia (3-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) led 21-3 at halftime before surviving a listless second half for its third straight win. Georgia plays at Tennessee next week.
Chris Relf passed for 157 yards and ran for 31 yards but couldn’t lead a touchdown drive, leaving Mississippi State (2-3, 0-3) still looking for its first SEC win.
Georgia took a 14-3 lead in the first quarter and led 21-3 at halftime.
Murray had what Richt called a “hot and cold” performance. He completed 13 of 25 passes for 160 yards with two touchdowns but had three interceptions to match his total for the first four games.
“We definitely have to work on finishing the games,” Murray said. “We can’t just play great in the first half and think the game is over.”
Crowell, the freshman tailback, did not score but topped 100 yards for the third time in three SEC games. One week after setting career highs with 30 carries for 147 yards in Georgia’s 27-13 win at Mississippi, Crowell again was the most consistent offensive threat for Georgia.
Mississippi State was held to a 42-yard field goal by Derek Depasquale before finally reaching the end zone when Darius Slay returned an interception 72 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
Relf completed 19 of 31 passes for 157 yards and two interceptions.
Mississippi State managed only 213 total yards, including 34 carries for 56 yards.
“Everybody just needs to execute better,” said running back Vick Ballard, who was held to 23 yards rushing on eight carries. “It’s the little things that we are not doing right now.
“We need to continue to work hard, because it isn’t going to get easier.”
Big plays on special teams set up Georgia’s first two touchdowns.
Brandon Boykin’s 30-yard punt return set up Georgia’s first possession at the Mississippi State 33. Three plays later, Murray found Orson Charles for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
A shanked 11-yard punt by Baker Swedenberg gave Georgia the ball at Mississippi State’s 22 later in the opening quarter. Murray’s 6-yard pass to Malcolm Mitchell gave Georgia a 14-3 lead.
“We made lift easy for Georgia, giving them a short field a few times and turning over the ball,” said Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen. “We have to execute at a high level every week, especially in a conference like the SEC.”
Murray’s second interception, by linebacker Cameron Lawrence, gave Mississippi State the ball at the Georgia 28 with 3:34 remaining in the half. Georgia’s defense answered when Relf’s pass bounced off receiver Chris Smith’s hands and was intercepted by cornerback Sanders Commings.
Georgia took the ball at its 19 and, with Crowell doing most of the work, moved 81 yards on eight plays. The drive ended with Carlton Thomas’ 7-yard scoring run.
Mullen alternated quarterbacks in the third quarter. Dylan Favre, the nephew of former longtime NFL quarterback Brett Favre, took over for Relf for the first series of the second half before Relf returned the following possession. The two then shared Mississippi’s third possession.
Favre threw two passes, both incomplete.