Murray Leads No. 18 Georgia to 63-16 Victory Over NMST
ATHENS, Ga. – Even without his top three tailbacks, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray still had plenty of weapons to help the Bulldogs score.
"We've been doing that all year," he said. "Our coaches are doing a great job of spreading the ball around and making sure defenses stay fair and conscious that anybody can catch the ball at any given time."
Murray threw five second-quarter touchdown passes, former walk-on receiver Brandon Harton ran for 98 yards and No. 18 Georgia won its seventh straight game by cruising past New Mexico State 63-16 on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (7-2) turned to Harton this week after Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas were suspended one game for failing a drug test. Georgia was also without top reserve tailback Richard Samuel, who will miss the next month after undergoing ankle surgery.
But with Murray running the offense, Georgia had little reason for concern against New Mexico State (3-6). Murray, who played only the first half, completed 18 of 23 passes for 238 yards, five TDs and no interceptions.
The Bulldogs hadn't scored 63 points since beating Northeast Louisiana in 1994, seven seasons before Mark Richt's first year as head coach.
Georgia's 627 yards of total offense was its most since the '93 game against Southern Mississippi. Nine Bulldogs scored a touchdown.
"It's gratifying to see that many guys who don't normally have an opportunity to get in the game," Richt said. "We got to spread it around, so some of them scored for the first time in their career, and that had to be a lot of fun for them."
Coming off a 24-20 win over Florida, the Bulldogs used the game as a tuneup for next week's home matchup with Southeastern Conference rival Auburn. After facing the Tigers next Saturday, Georgia will close the regular season by hosting Kentucky on Nov. 19 and visiting Georgia Tech on Nov. 26.
Victories over Auburn and Kentucky, combined with a conference loss by South Carolina, would give Georgia the SEC East title. The 10th-ranked Gamecocks were visiting No. 8 Arkansas Saturday night.
"They did what I asked them to do, what our coaches asked them to do," Richt said. "And now we get an opportunity to relax a little bit, enjoy the rest of the day and watch the big ballgame tonight and hope Arkansas wins."
Harton had not taken a snap since the Bulldogs' blowout win over Coastal Carolina on Sept. 17. He lost a fumble on his first carry, a 9-yard run to the Aggies' 3, before redeeming himself with a 4-yard TD run to make it 14-3 early in the second.
Cornerback Branden Smith, who occasionally plays offense, started at tailback and made it 7-0 with a 56-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter.
Kenny Turner scored New Mexico State's first touchdown on a 10-yard run early in the fourth quarter to make it 56-10. The Aggies (3-6),from the Western Athletic Conference, have lost three straight.
New Mexico State quarterback Matt Christian was knocked out of the game with an undisclosed injury as he tried to tackle Baccari Rambo on the Georgia safety's 51-yard interception return late in the second quarter.
"He made the wrong read, and they made a play," Aggies coach DeWayne Walker said. "He's a tough guy and he tried to get in there and make a play. He kind of got himself dinged up a little bit."
Walker declined to elaborate on the injury, and New Mexico State's locker room was closed to reporters after the game.
Aggies freshman Travaughan Colwell was 8 of 12 passing for 120 yards and one TD in the second half. Christian completed 12 of 24 passes for 156 yards and the pick.
"Against teams like this, you have to play perfect the whole game, and it still might not be good enough," Walker said. "But I just know we should've played a good football team better. We've got to lick our wounds and get ready for Fresno State."
Tyler Stampler's 24-yard field goal early in the second made it 7-3, but Georgia scored touchdowns on its next six possessions take a 49-3 halftime lead.
Aaron White had to jump over and around members of Georgia's Redcoat Marching Band after he scored with 9 seconds left in the first half from 6 yards out. Following the game, he was still holding a piece of Sanford Stadium's hedges he plucked after the TD, but was beaming mostly about how cornerbacks like Smith and Boykin gave the offense a big lift.
"Those guys are defensive guys first, but any way we can switch them in on some crazy packages and confuse the defense, it can help us out," White said. "I know they're not against it because they're getting more shine time."
In the second half, Hutson Mason, Georgia's No. 2 quarterback, was 8 of 10 passing for 131 yards and a TD pass to Rhett McGowan.
But Murray left the stadium feeling rested and excited, as if he had played in a scrimmage.
"I don't think I got touched one time by their defense," he said with a smile. "I had the QB sneak, but I just fell on that one. It was a great offensive performance today. Our guys took the opportunity to get better, and we definitely did that."