When some Georgia Bulldogs fans talked this past week about wanting to see someone at quarterback other than Hutson Mason, they probably didn’t have in mind Todd Gurley.
But while backup QB Brice Ramsey getting to run a designed series as early as the first quarter of Saturday’s 44-7 Homecoming win over Vanderbilt was a bit of a surprise, the bigger eye-opener came in the second quarter when star tailback Gurley, who took quite a few direct snaps in the “Wild Dawg” formation, suddenly pulled up and launched a 50-yard pass to freshman tight end Jeb Blazevich that set up an eventual touchdown.
Sure, it wasn’t the prettiest pass you’ll ever see. Blazevich, who was wide open, had to slow down to catch the wounded duck. But it was, as Gurley noted, a completion. In fact, it was the Bulldogs’ longest pass completion of the season. And as Gurley joked after the game, he didn’t want to overthrow Blazevich because tight ends “ain’t that fast.”
Yeah, he’s a comedian as well as a dual-threat Heisman candidate.
Gurley showing off his arm was in addition, of course, to the the junior back continuing to power Georgia’s offense with his running, racking up 163 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns against the Commodores.
If Jeremy Pruitt could somehow figure out how to get them to also let him use Gurley in his secondary, the Dawgs might have this season all figured out.
Gurley is now one of only four Bulldogs to have 3,000-plus yards rushing in his career, with 3,147, joining Herschel Walker (5,259), Garrison Hearst (3,232) and Lars Tate (3,017).
Whenever he’s in the game, he’s the focus of the game, but freshman Nick Chubb, playing with his repaired thumb in a cast, showed again in the fourth quarter that Georgia has other options at tailback, contributing some tough running on 8 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown.
And Gurley wasn’t the Dogs’ only downfield passing threat this day. In the first half in particular, Georgia seemed to make a conscious effort to prove it can, too, throw deep, with Mason directing a one-play scoring drive that consisted of a very nicely thrown 44-yard scoring strike to Chris Conley, who caught two touchdowns Saturday.
As Richt said after the game, “On offense, we ran the ball well and we threw and caught better. We had more balance in the attack today. … Are we there yet? I don’t know. We hit the deep ball for a touchdown, which was nice, and we need to keep stretching the field. We need to make sure defenders know we can go deep if we need to and throw and catch if we need to.”
Still, Mason’s day as a passer wasn’t that spectacular (completing 11 of 17 for 121 yards and two TDs). He had an interception on a horrendously thrown ball that definitely floated on him (he still struggles to put zip on his passes) and he should have had another interception, with a Vandy defender dropping what looked like a sure pick-6.
Speaking of interceptions run back for a touchdown, Georgia had its own, and it actually deserves Play of the Day honors over Gurley’s surprise pass or even him hurdling another defender this week. Junior cornerback Devin Bowman, honoring medically disqualified teammate Rico Johnson by wearing his No. 19 jersey, stole a pass on a Vandy fourth-and-2 play in Georgia territory in the third quarter and returned it 63 yards to paydirt.
All in all, the Dogs’ defense played decently, especially against the run, though even Vandy’s awful offense had its moments, completing enough passes to show Georgia’s secondary is still very much a work in progress.
On the receivers front, Malcolm Mitchell finally returned to the field for the Bulldogs and caught one pass for 11 yards (with Mason missing him on another), but the other supposed returnee, Justin Scott-Wesley, stayed on the sidelines. Leading receiver of the day was young Blazevich, who snagged three for 86 yards. (As a footnote, Brendan Langley, who switched from defensive back to receiver in the off-season, moved back to the D, at least for this game, getting in some plays at the defensive back in the fourth quarter in response to the dwindling bench Pruitt has there.)
And special teams play was another mixed bag. Marshall Morgan generally kicked off well (at times aided by a stiff breeze) and coverage was excellent. But Georgia had a PAT blocked and Richt complained after the game about the punting (with Collin Barber averaging an anemic 34 yards and Adam Erickson getting 32 yards on his lone kick).
Bottom line: Georgia got a convincing win in a game it was supposed to win convincingly and did so with room to spare (even if not quite covering the ridiculous 33-point betting line). And, more than ever, it showed that, as Richt put it in his post-game press conference: “Good things happen when you give the ball to Todd.”
He added with a smile: “We should probably keep doing it.”
Feel free to share your own thoughts on the Dogs’ win over Vandy.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg