FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — In his third game as Matthew Stafford's successor, Joe Cox joined him in the Georgia record book.
Cox threw five touchdown passes, tying a school mark and leading the No. 23 Bulldogs to a wild 52-41 victory over Arkansas on Saturday night. Georgia turned the ball over three times in the first half but moved the ball pretty much at will after that.
Stafford, the No. 1 pick in this year's NFL draft, is one of three other Georgia players to throw five touchdown passes in a game.
"It's pretty cool," Cox said. "It's definitely not something I expected to happen. We didn't know it was going to be a shootout like that, but if a team wants to make it a shootout, we've got to find a way to answer."
Cox was 18 of 26 for 375 yards with an interception. It was the second straight high-scoring win for Georgia, which edged South Carolina 41-37 last weekend.
Ryan Mallett set two school records for Arkansas, throwing for 408 yards and five touchdowns. The Razorbacks (1-1, 0-1) led 35-34 in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs' struggling defense held Arkansas to two short field goals the rest of the way.
"Especially in games like that, when we know we're moving the ball and we can score points, when the defense holds them to a field goal that's a win for us," Cox said. "Those stops are huge."
The teams fell short of the Southeastern Conference record of 104 points in a non-overtime game, set when South Carolina beat Mississippi State 65-39 in 1995. The lead changed hands four times in the third quarter alone.
After Mallett's 2-yard touchdown toss to D.J. Williams put Arkansas up 35-34, Georgia needed only two plays to take the lead for good when Cox threw a 44-yard scoring pass to Orson Charles. After that, the Bulldogs (2-1, 2-0) lined up to go for 2. A penalty pushed the ball back, but with the Arkansas defense offering no resistance, Georgia went for 2 anyway from the 8-yard line.
Cox found A.J. Green open in the corner of the end zone for a 42-35 lead.
Green put the Bulldogs ahead 49-38 with a 28-yard touchdown catch with 10:46 left in the game. He finished with seven catches for 137 yards.
Georgia improved to 25-4 under coach Mark Richt in SEC opponents' stadiums, although the Bulldogs looked shaky early, losing two fumbles and an interception.
"We've got to do a lot of things better," Richt said. "We really need to stop turning the ball over and putting our defense in a bad spot."
Arkansas led 21-10 in the second quarter and had just intercepted Cox near midfield when the Razorbacks suddenly lost their discipline. Razorbacks linebacker Jerry Franklin was called for two personal fouls and ejected, and Arkansas was called for an illegal block on the next play that wiped out a big gain.
"It's a shootout," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "In a shootout, you have to make every play count."
As Georgia was starting its next drive, the Razorbacks were hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Bulldogs then backed themselves up with a penalty of their own, but Richard Samuel found a gaping hole for an 80-yard touchdown run that turned the game around.
The Bulldogs gained 201 yards in the quarter and took the lead on a 25-yard pass from Cox to Green one play after Georgia converted on fourth down. The Bulldogs led 27-21 at halftime.
Greg Childs opened the scoring in the third quarter with a 40-yard touchdown catch for Arkansas. Cox answered with a 50-yard scoring strike to Habersham Central High graduate Tavarres King to put Georgia ahead 34-28.
Mallett threw for 161 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter. His 18-yard TD pass to Joe Adams opened the scoring. After Cox answered with a 21-yard scoring pass to Aron White, the Razorbacks ran a reverse on the ensuing kickoff and Cobi Hamilton returned it to the Georgia 48. Mallett found Jarius Wright for a touchdown on the next play.
Childs made it 21-10 with the catch of the night, a full-extension dive to haul in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Mallett.
Childs caught five passes for 140 yards, and Wright added four receptions for 108 yards.
The teams committed 25 penalties for 193 yards.