ATHENS, Ga. — So much for Aaron Murray’s reputation as a quarterback who can’t win the big game. The senior took care of that with one of the best performances of his career.
Murray threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns, Georgia’s beleaguered defense finally came up with a stop and the 11th-ranked Bulldogs defeated No. 6 South Carolina 41-30 on Saturday for an early edge in the SEC East.
Coming off a 38-35 loss at Clemson, Georgia could not afford another defeat if it wanted to remain a serious contender for the national title.
Murray capped his stellar day for the Bulldogs (1-1, 1-0) by slipping away from South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney and connecting with Justin Scott-Wesley on an 85-yard touchdown pass with 13 minutes remaining.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Murray, who came in with a 1-6 record against top-10 opponents. “It’s definitely up there.”
The defense made sure it stood up, stuffing Mike Davis on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1. Murray and the offense took it from there, running off the remaining 8:28.
“That was by far my favorite part of the game,” coach Mark Richt said of the final possession.
Davis led the Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1) with 149 yards rushing. Connor Shaw passed for 228 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 75 yards but also lost a crucial fumble in the third quarter in Georgia territory.
That said, this loss was on the Clowney and the defense. They simply couldn’t stop Murray.
“Aaron played a pretty good game,” said Clowney, who had a lackluster opening game and was largely shut down again, held to three tackles and one sack. “He threw it quick and ran it away from me the whole game.”
Georgia snapped a three-year losing streak against the Gamecocks, seizing control of the SEC East. South Carolina still has a chance to get back in the race, thanks to a more favorable schedule. In fact, the Bulldogs won the division the last two years despite losing to their neighboring rival.
Todd Gurley had another huge day for the Bulldogs on the ground, rushing for 136 yards on 30 bruising carries and scoring two touchdowns. His first came on a 2-yard run in a wild first half, which ended with the teams tied at 24. Then, in the final seconds of the third quarter, he hauled in an 8-yard TD pass from Murray to give Georgia a 34-24 lead, running the wrong route but getting open when Murray motioned him where to go.
Davis ended the third with a 75-yard run down the sideline and scored on a 3-yard run early in the fourth to make it 34-30. South Carolina missed the extra point.
With Georgia facing third-and-13 from its own 15, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo sent in a play the team had not worked on all week.
“That wasn’t in the playbook,” Murray said. “I was like, ‘I hope everyone knows what this play is.’ ”
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