Playing without Jarvis Jones and two other defensive starters, Georgia (3-0) struggled in the first half to slow a Florida Atlantic team that scored a single touchdown against lower-division Wagner. The 44-point underdog Owls kept converting third downs and found themselves tied at 14 early in the second quarter.
But the Bulldogs simply had too many weapons for Florida Atlantic (1-2), piling up a school-record 713 yards. Murray completed 14 of 19 passes, including a 67-yard touchdown to Michael Bennett and a 36-yarder to Arthur Lynch. Murray scored himself on a pair of 1-yard sneaks.
The junior eclipsed his previous high passing game, a 326-yard effort last season against Vanderbilt. He now has 67 touchdown passes in his career, pulling even with former Marietta High School great Eric Zeier for second place in the school rankings and only five behind the leader, David Greene.
Both of Georgia’s freshmen running backs went over 100 yards on the ground. Todd Gurley ran for 111 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown early in the third quarter that finally turned the game into the expected rout. Keith Marshall had 104 yards and a TD.
Florida Atlantic matched Georgia score for score in the early going.
Damian Fortner broke off a 43-yard touchdown run and Nexon Dorvilus hauled in a 2-yard scoring pass from Graham Wilbert, tying the game for the final time early in the second period.
It was all Georgia from there.
Marshall carried it five times for 57 yards on a 67-yard drive that put the Bulldogs ahead to stay. He nearly scored his second TD, but was tripped up about a half-yard from the end zone. Murray finished it off with a sneak.
Getting it back against with 2 minutes left in the half, Georgia quickly struck for another score that provided some breathing room. Murray was sacked, but a slap to the face by Kayvon Sherrill resulted in a 15-yard penalty. After the Bulldogs were penalized for an illegal formation, Murray found Bennett streaking open down the middle of the field, hitting him in stride for the score that made it 28-14.
Georgia put the game away in the first 5 minutes of the second half.
After receiving the kickoff, the Bulldogs needed only six plays to go 85 yards, Lynch hauling in a touchdown pass that was initially ruled out of bounds at the 2. After looking at the replay, the video official ruled that Lynch’s knee didn’t go down until he stretched out to clip the pylon.
Florida Atlantic punted it away after three straight incompletions, and Murray quickly hooked up with Tavarres King on a 25-yard pass to get the Bulldogs rolling again. Gurley capped another lightning-quick drive with his long TD run.
The only blemish on Murray’s line was an interception in the end zone when he should have thrown the ball away. But, in the very next play, Amario Herrera stepped in front of Wilbert’s pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
Georgia also struggled in the opening half of its first two games, giving up 16 points to lowly Buffalo and trailing Missouri 10-9 at halftime. But the Bulldogs sure know how to finish, outscoring their opponents by a combined 81-23 over the final two quarters.
Jones, who had a brilliant game against Missouri, was in uniform and came out for the coin toss as one of Georgia’s captains. But that was his only action, the Bulldogs deciding to give him the night off to rest a nagging groin injury with a stretch of seven straight Southeastern Conference games beginning next week.
Defensive back Sanders Commings and linebacker Chase Vasser returned from suspensions, but All-American safety Bacarri Rambo and starting linebacker Alec Ogletree remained on the sideline. Coach Mark Richt hasn’t indicated when either will be cleared to play.
Before the game, Georgia introduced the newest in its line of famous canine mascots. Russ, an 8-year-old bulldog, rode on the field in red golf cart and was presented his collar by university president Michael Adams.
With that, the pooch became Uga IX.