ATHENS — The Georgia Bulldogs collected a trophy at midfield for another win over their state rival, then got some encouragement from the governor in their quest for a bigger reward.
Aaron Murray threw two touchdown passes, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall each ran for a pair of TDs, and third-ranked Georgia stayed right in the thick of the national championship race with a 42-10 rout of Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Gov. Nathan Deal presented the “Governor’s Cup” to the Bulldogs (11-1) after they beat the Yellow Jackets for the 11th time in 12 years. He congratulated both teams on a “great game” (a bit of a stretch, to say the least) before turning toward the jubilant Georgia players.
“Keep up the good work,” Deal said. “We’re looking for a national championship.”
Georgia is two wins away.
The Bulldogs will face No. 2 Alabama for the Southeastern Conference championship in Atlanta next Saturday. The winner of that contest will likely advance to play in the BCS title game on Jan. 7.
“All that matters is this game,” Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said, looking ahead to facing the defending national champion Crimson Tide. “This is everything. This is what you play for.”
Georgia Tech (6-6) didn’t put up much of a fight. This one was a laugher right from the start as the home team scored just over a minute into the game, built a 28-3 halftime lead and was up 42-3 before the Yellow Jackets scored a meaningless TD in the fourth quarter.
“It was a pretty good thumping,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “We could not slow them down at all, which has been a recurring theme the last few times we’ve played them, and we couldn’t finish drives offensively.”
Murray completed 14 of 17 for 215 yards, becoming the first quarterback in SEC history to pass from more than 3,000 yards in three straight seasons.
Gurley finished with 97 yards on 12 carries and now has 14 touchdowns on the season, one shy of Herschel Walker’s school freshman record set in 1980. Marshall, also a freshman, piled up 66 yards on just seven carries.
The Bulldogs certainly didn’t look like a team that was looking ahead to Alabama.
“You don’t do that when you’re playing Georgia Tech,” coach Mark Richt said. “This game means a lot for us. Our coaches prepared hard, they were diligent, and the players took to the coaching. I thought we played a superb game. I’m so proud of everybody. I could not have asked for a better today.”
Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree came up big for the Georgia defense. Rambo stripped the ball away at the Georgia 1 to stop the Yellow Jackets’ first possession, as well as grabbing his 16th career interception to tie Jake Scott’s school record. Ogletree had 15 tackles, several of which were downright brutal and the highest total by a Georgia defender this season.
For good measure, the Bulldogs ran their season total to 456 points, breaking the school scoring mark set by the 2002 SEC championship team.
“We put our foot on the pedal from the start didn’t let up the entire game,” said receiver Rhett McGowan, who hauled in one of Murray’s touchdown passes.
Georgia Tech, amazingly enough, still has a chance to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title next weekend and earn a BCS bowl bid. The Yellow Jackets clinched a spot in the championship game against No. 10 Florida State after Miami pulled out from postseason consideration, hoping to lessen the blow from a pending NCAA investigation.
The Yellow Jackets won’t have any chance of beating the Seminoles if they don’t turn in a much better effort
“Well, I look at it like another opportunity,” Johnson said. “We’ll see how they respond. You don’t get those opportunities very often, so you need to take advantage of them.”
Malcolm Mitchell returned the opening kickoff 47 yards to the Georgia Tech 44, and the rout was on. Murray completed an 11-yard pass to Gurley, Gurley broke off a 15-yard run, Murray hooked up with Arthur Lynch on a 15-yard pass, and Gurley ran 3 yards for the score. Four snaps, and it was 7-0. The game was 63 seconds old.
Georgia Tech appeared to be moving for a tying touchdown on its first possession. With nine straight runs, the Yellow Jackets ripped off five first downs and had the ball at the Georgia 20. Robert Godhigh tried to take it in from there, breaking tackles and staying on his feet all the way to the 1. But Rambo snatched the ball away before Godhigh got to the end zone, returning it 49 yards to midfield.
This time, the Bulldogs needed less than 3 minutes to put another touchdown on the board.
Gurley had runs of 15 and 10 yards, Murray passed to Mitchell for a 16-yard gain, and Gurley made it 14-0 with a 1-yard plunge.
Before the half was done, Georgia tacked on two more scores: Marshall’s 15-yard run and Murray’s 11-yard pass to McGowan. The Yellow Jackets ran for 220 yards in the first two quarters, but all they had to show for it was Chris Tanner’s 38-yard field goal.
Georgia Tech’s misery was epitomized by its final possession of the half. After another extended drive — 13 plays covering 56 yards — the Yellow Jackets had to settle for a field goal try on the last play. Tanner’s 36-yarder was wide right by a good 10 yards, the almost entirely red-clad crowd letting out a sarcastic cheer.
Georgia piled it on in the third quarter. Jay Rome hauled in a 24-yard touchdown from Murray and Marshall scored for the second time, sprinting around right end for a 17-yard TD.
The Yellow Jackets had another miserable defensive effort, giving up more than 40 points for the sixth time this season.
“We’ve got to stick together because some guys were fading apart during the last bit of the game,” linebacker Quayshawn Neely said. “We’ve got to stick together and hold tight because we’ve got something big coming up next week.”