Athens, GA – Aaron Murray one-upped former roommate Zach Mettenberger by throwing four touchdown passes, the last a 25-yarder to Justin Scott-Wesley with 1:47 remaining that lifted Georgia to a thrilling 44-41 victory over LSU in an SEC showdown between top-10 teams.
Murray also ran for a touchdown in addition to completing 20-of-34 throws for 298 yards with an interception. The senior quarterback was at his best on a 6- play, 75-yard drive culminating in the deciding score that likely kept the ninth-ranked Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0 SEC) in the BCS title hunt.
Michael Bennett caught two of Murray's touchdown tosses, while Chris Conley racked up 112 receiving yards and a score on five catches for Georgia. Keith Marshall, taking over for an injured Todd Gurley in the second quarter, contributed 96 rushing yards on 20 carries to the Bulldogs' third straight win.
"People stepped up today and we finished," said Marshall. "It was a full team effort."
Mettenberger, who began his career at Georgia before being dismissed from the program in the spring of 2010 for an off-field arrest, had put No. 6 LSU (4-1, 1-1) ahead in the back-and-forth affair by leading a 75-yard touchdown march of his own, capped by a Jeremy Hill run with 4:14 to play. The Athens-area native finished with a personal-best 372 yards on 23-of-37 efficiency and put up three touchdown passes in a valiant, albeit losing, effort.
"It was just another game," said Mettenberger about his return. "We didn't put too much stock into it. It's just tough that we have to deal with this loss and go on the road to Mississippi State [next week]."
Jarvis Landry had a career day as well for the Tigers, who had a nation's best 29-game win streak in September halted, by amassing 156 yards on 10 receptions with a touchdown. Odell Beckham Jr. added 118 yards on six grabs, while Kadron Boone had two touchdown catches in the loss.
Mettenberger was flawless on the game's third-to-last series, hitting on all four of his throws and coming up with a critical 25-yard strike to Beckham in a 3rd-and-22 situation to keep the ball in LSU's hands while trailing 37-34. The pair later hooked up for a 27-yard gain in front of Hill's 8-yard scamper around left end that gave the Tigers a four-point lead.
Murray matched his counterpart's precision, however, going 4-for-4 on the eventual game-winning trek as Georgia got into scoring range. After a J.J. Green 18-yard run brought the Bulldogs to the LSU 25, Scott-Wesley got open down the right side as the Tigers blew a coverage and secured Murray's deep ball for the go-ahead points.
The Georgia defense clamped down thereafter, with Leonard Floyd sacking Mettenberger on the next play from scrimmage and later forcing four straight incompletions that turned it over on downs with 52 seconds left.
"That had to be fun for America to watch and for our fans to watch," Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt remarked. "You don't get many opportunities like that and have it come out the way it did. We knew it would take everything we had in this game."
Murray sent the Bulldogs into halftime with a 24-17 lead after expertly engineering a 9-play, 82-yard touchdown drive near the end of the second quarter. The senior captain hit on three straight throws -- a 10-yarder to Conley on third down, a strike to Conley down the left sideline for 28 yards and a 24-yarder to Reggie Davis -- to get Georgia inside the LSU 20, then later bulled across the goal line on a 1-yard sneak two plays after Tigers corner Jalen Mills was flagged for pass interference in the end zone.
LSU, which managed just 13 rushing yards over the first two quarters, churned out 44 on its opening march of the second half and pulled within 24-20 on Colby Delahoussaye's 39-yard field goal. The differential was back at seven just over three minutes later, however, when Marshall Morgan drilled a career- high 55-yard kick with 6:42 to go in the third quarter. Murray's perfectly thrown 33-yard pass to Conley on 3rd-and-9 put Georgia in position.
Mettenberger drove the Tigers down the field on the subsequent possession, making good on 4-of-5 attempts for 80 yards and delivering his third TD pass of the day when Landry split the Georgia defense and hauled in a 39-yard heave that knotted the score at 27-27 with 3:40 to play in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs went back in front by capitalizing on LSU's lone turnover of the afternoon, a fumbled punt by Beckham that Georgia's Connor Norman recovered at the opposing 20-yard line.
Three plays later, Murray found a wide-open Bennett for a 21-yard score that gave the Bulldogs a 34-27 advantage late in the third quarter.
"When you play a quality team on the road, you can't afford to give them anything like that," LSU head coach Les Miles said of Beckham's fumble.
LSU once again had a response, however, with Mettenberger directing an 11- play, 70-yard jaunt highlighted by Landry's leaping 25-yard grab on 3rd-and-10 that placed the ball at the UGA six. Kenny Hilliard took it in on a 2-yard run two snaps afterward to pull the Tigers back even with 12:17 left to play.
Georgia appeared headed towards another touchdown on its ensuing trip, with a fourth-down catch by Scott-Wesley combined with a Tigers' personal foul penalty bringing the Bulldogs to the enemy 14. LSU's defense stiffened in the red zone, though, and the Bulldogs settled for Morgan's 38-yard field goal and a 37-34 lead with 8:05 remaining.
Both quarterbacks were on target in leading their respective teams to touchdowns on the game's initial two possessions.
Four consecutive Murray completions, including a 21-yarder to Arthur Lynch, put the Bulldogs in the red zone on their first touch, with Murray capping the 8-play, 75-yard sequence with a 5-yard fade to Bennett 3:20 into the contest.
Mettenberger answered by finding Boone, who beat Damian Swann in single coverage, down the middle for a 48-yard touchdown less than three minutes after Bennett's score.
Tigers defensive tackle Anthony Johnson then dropped into coverage and intercepted Murray on the ensuing series, placing LSU at the Georgia 33. Soon afterward, Mettenberger and Boone teamed up again for a touchdown, this time a 4-yard hookup that put the Tigers up 14-7 with 2:51 left in the opening quarter.
The Bulldogs responded by moving 79 yards in just five plays, with Gurley ripping off two big runs and Murray firing a 25-yard dart to Conley in the back of the end zone to tie the game late in the first quarter.
Gurley turned his left ankle at the end of a 23-yard run to midfield with around 11 minutes remaining in the half. Marshall took over and gained 41 yards on four rushes, the last a 19-yard burst down the left side line that led to Morgan's 24-yard field goal and a 17-14 Georgia edge.
LSU drew even on the resulting drive when Delahoussaye knocked home a career- long 49-yard field goal 3:51 prior to the intermission. The kick was set up by a 17-yard pass from Mettenberger to Beckham on 3rd-and-4.
Gurley had 73 yards on eight rushes prior to exiting ... Georgia, which lost to Clemson in its opener and defeated South Carolina the next week, became the first team in the BCS era to take on three top 10 teams in its first four games and win at least two of those tests. North Carolina (2001, 1-2), Arizona (2011, 0-3) and Tulsa (2011, 0-3) were the only previous programs to face such a slate over that period ... LSU's last September loss was a 7-3 setback to Auburn in 2006 ... Landry, who had set his previous career high with 117 yards last week against Auburn, now has a touchdown catch in seven straight outings ... Georgia finished with a 195-78 advantage in rushing yards.