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No. 5 Georgia finally starts fast in rout of Vanderbilt

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Associated Press
9/23/2012 12:05:59 AM
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Vanderbilt won't have to lament another gut-wrenching loss in the Southeastern Conference.

This one was over by halftime.

Led by quarterback Aaron Murray and a stifling defence, No. 5 Georgia raced to a 27-0 lead in the first half and went on to a 48-3 rout Saturday night, handing the Commodores their worst loss in almost nine years.

"We're a much better team than how we played tonight," receiver Chris Boyd said. "We're just going to go back to the drawing board."

Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC) had made a habit of losing close games in the SEC, its past five conference defeats were by a total of 23 points. That included a 17-13 setback to No. 7 South Carolina in the season opener.

If the Commodores thought they were making progress, well, this was a major step backward.

Georgia (4-0, 2-0) doled out its most lopsided defeat since a 48-0 blowout by Tennessee on Nov. 22, 2003.

"The difference in the game was played up front, especially with their offensive line," Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. "They did a really good job of running the ball with power and forced us to load the box, which opened up the passing game on the outside. I didn't feel like we played with the confidence that we normally play with on the outside."

Inside and out, this was total domination.

Murray completed his first 12 passes and got plenty of help from the rest of the offence.

Georgia's freshmen backs had another outstanding game. Todd Gurley rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns, including a 29-yard score in which he broke at least four tackles, while Keith Marshall had a 52-yard TD among his two scoring runs.

Marlon Brown hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, finishing with five catches for 114 yards. Eight other players had at least one reception.

The defence wasn't too shabby, either. Star linebacker Jarvis Jones returned to the lineup after sitting out the previous week with a groin injury. He didn't feel 100 per cent, but he still managed three tackles behind the line, including a sack.

Murray also hooked up with Tavarres King for a touchdown pass, breaking a tie with Eric Zeier for second place in school history. The fourth-year junior has 69 career TDs, just three behind David Greene. For good measure, Murray scored one of his own on a 1-yard sneak.

"He's playing terrific," Brown said of his quarterback, who finished 18 of 24 for 250 yards. "He's like a field general, just sitting up there making all the reads."

The Bulldogs had struggled a bit in the opening half of their first three games, trailing Missouri at the break and allowing a total of 30 points to Buffalo and Florida Atlantic.

No such concerns this time.

Georgia has scored more than 40 points in its first four games for the first time in school history. Murray and most of the other starters went to the bench by the end of the third quarter, the Bulldogs even giving walk-on Parker Welch some time at quarterback. The home team rushed for 302 yards.

"We didn't stop the run tonight, and if you don't stop the run, you let the whole offence open up," Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler said.

Jordan Rodgers started at quarterback for Vanderbilt after watching from the bench the previous week while transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels guided the Commodores to a 58-0 blowout of lower-division Presbyterian.

Rodgers might be wishing he had stayed on the bench. He was sacked three times by Georgia, and even when it looked as if he had scored a meaningless touchdown in the fourth quarter, it didn't count.

The officials reviewed the play and ruled that Rodgers lost control of the ball just before he got to the pylon, giving Georgia the ball on a touchback.

"I didn't feel like we have had anyone who has really taken hold of the quarterback position," Franklin said. "We are going to look at who practices well throughout the week and let them play on Saturday until someone grabs hold of the position."

Rodgers was 13 of 23 for 218 yards. Zac Stacy gained 83 yards on 12 carries, but the Commodores got behind so quickly they didn't have much of an opportunity to establish the running game.

A year ago, Georgia barely hung on against the Commodores in Nashville, surviving two shots at the end zone after Vanderbilt blocked a punt in the closing seconds. Afterward, the bad blood from a chippy game spilled over to the coaches, with Franklin getting into a shouting match on the field with Bulldogs defensive co-ordinator Todd Grantham.

The officials lined the 50-yard line during pregame warmups, making sure the two teams stayed apart, but there was no carry-over from 2011.

"We've moved on," said Grantham, who had defiantly refused to apologize for what happened the previous year. "It's over with."

Already leading 7-0, Georgia caught a big break when Caleb Azubike was called for a personal foul after taking out the legs of punter Collin Barber. It appeared Azubike barely touched Barber after being blocked into the punter by a Georgia player, but the referee didn't see it that way.

Two plays later, Marshall took a handoff at his own 48, found a huge hole right up the middle and didn't stop running until he got to the end zone. The Bulldogs botched the extra point, settling for a 13-0 lead.

It didn't matter. Georgia covered 57 yards on its next possession, capped off by a 22-yard touchdown pass to King.

Late in the first half, the Commodores finally put something together offensively. But even that was a bit of a letdown, the eight-play, 64-yard drive stalling out deep in Georgia territory. Vanderbilt settled for Carey Spears' 29-yard field goal.

Todd Gurley  (Photo: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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