Georgia Bulldogs: Appalachian State Mountaineers

UGA looks toward Marshall matchup

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
7:14
PM ET


ATHENS, Ga. -- Once his Georgia team took control in the second half of its 45-6 win against Appalachian State on Saturday, coach Mark Richt admittedly had one eye on the score from the Auburn-Tennessee game.

The Bulldogs' next opponent, No. 9 Auburn -- led by former UGA cornerback Nick Marshall, now the Tigers' quarterback -- was thrashing the Volunteers for 444 rushing yards in a 55-23 win. Marshall accounted for 214 of those rushing yards, running for two touchdowns and passing for another.

[+] EnlargeRay Drew
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsRay Drew and Georgia's defense held Appalachian State to 32 yards rushing, but will get a stiffer test against Auburn next week.
“When you watch different people throughout the year [during game preparation], you'll see just about everybody's offense by this time of the year,” Richt said. “And they do like to run the ball and they run it well. I'm not shocked.”

That adds more intrigue to the matchup next weekend in Auburn, with the Tigers (9-1, 5-1 SEC) and Georgia (6-3, 4-2) both battling to stay alive in their respective division races -- and Marshall needing a win against his former teammates to keep his team's hopes alive.

“It's a little weird, but I knew whenever he was here that he was a player, and now someone that could have been helping, you're having to try to stop him,” said UGA defensive end Ray Drew, who was a member of Marshall's 2011 signing class at Georgia. “He's having a heck of a year over there, so hopefully he'll have a soft spot seeing that Georgia was the place he signed initially.”

Entering Saturday's games, Auburn led the SEC in rushing at 306.2 yards per game, with Marshall serving as the trigger man for an offense that has regained its bite with Gus Malzahn back on the Plains.

Marshall -- whom Richt dismissed after the 2011 season for breaking team rules -- elected to join Malzahn as a transfer from Garden City Community College.

Just like that, Auburn is once again among the nation's most productive offenses and should provide a major test for a Georgia defense that has made progress since a troubling start to the season.

“It's going to be a challenge, I don't know about fun. As coaches you always like challenges,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “They're believing and they're playing with confidence right now. Their personnel probably fits better what they do now relative to what they did last year. And I think that's a good example of how it's important to get the right people in your system.”

As for Saturday's win, Grantham's defense got off to a slow start, allowing Appalachian State to convert 4 of 6 third down opportunities and control the clock for over 11 minutes. The Mountaineers (2-8) were able to turn those early drives into just two field goals, however, before Grantham's defense awakened.

Georgia limited the Mountaineers to 3-of-12 on third down the rest of the way and 59 total yards (including minus-6 rushing on 18 attempts) in the second half.

Georgia has not allowed an opponent to drive from its own territory to score a touchdown since the second quarter of the Vanderbilt game, a streak that spans 159 minutes of game time.

“The bottom line is once we got through the script, so to speak, of those gadget [plays] and kind of got a feel for how they were running their routes relative to the formations, we pretty much shut them down -- and we didn't give up a touchdown before we did it,” Grantham said. “So anytime you hold a team out of the end zone, I'm going to be happy.”

Georgia led just 14-6 at halftime, with both touchdowns coming on Aaron Murray touchdown passes -- one to Rantavious Wooten, who had a career-high 104 receiving yards, and the other to Michael Bennett.

The second-quarter pass to Bennett gave Murray 115 career touchdown passes, breaking Florida great Danny Wuerffel's SEC career record.

“It definitely is a huge honor to be up there,” said Murray, who passed for 281 yards in his 50th career start. “I'm lucky enough to have played four years here. I think that's the biggest thing: you have to be able to go somewhere and play for a significant amount of time, and I've had that opportunity here to play for now my fourth straight year in a great offense that really allows me to throw the ball around and make plays.”

The Bulldogs poured it on with 31 second-half points -- Todd Gurley, J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas all scored on 2-yard runs and Hutson Mason hit Kenneth Towns for a 3-yard touchdown pass -- but it was the defense's play that is the bigger area of interest with Auburn's explosive offense on deck next week.

The glimmer of hope for Georgia's defense is that the Bulldogs might have struggled overall, but Auburn's strength -- running the ball -- is also the area where Grantham's defense has been the most stout. They came in ranked fourth in the SEC, allowing 137.8 rushing yards per game before limiting Appalachian State to 32 yards on 32 attempts.

Now they know their chances of victory likely hinge on containing a player that Grantham initially recruited to help his defense.

“He's big, he's physical. We thought he would be a good player and felt like he could contribute to us being an SEC competitive team defensively,” Grantham said of Marshall. “So we'll obviously get ready for him come Sunday.”

Five things: UGA-Appalachian State

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
7:00
AM ET

ATHENS, Ga. -- Might this finally be the game where Georgia gets a breather?

With slumping FCS opponent Appalachian State (2-7) visiting Athens today at 12:30 p.m., Georgia (5-3) is a favorite to win big -- something it hasn't done yet this season. But with a showdown with longtime rival Auburn on deck next week, the best thing the Bulldogs can do is get this one over early.

Let's take a look at five key factors entering today's game:

Get the reserves in, for crying out loud: Two snaps. That's all Hutson Mason has played this season. But that's what happens when every game your team plays is still in doubt in the third quarter -- and often deep into the fourth. If Georgia's backup quarterback is able to replace (a healthy) Aaron Murray sometime in the third quarter, this game probably has gone in the right direction for the Bulldogs. Injuries have been a major issue throughout the season -- Georgia probably will play without receiver Chris Conley and tight end Arthur Lynch today -- so the best thing the Bulldogs can do is put this thing away and preserve the starters for Auburn next Saturday.

Murray still chasing history: Murray still sits one touchdown pass away from Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel's SEC career record of 114 touchdown passes. Murray went 16-for-25 for 258 yards and a touchdown last week against Florida to pull within a touchdown of Wuerffel's mark. He already has set the conference's career records for total offense (12,591 yards) and passing yards (12,287).

Memories of Michigan: The only memory casual college football fans likely have of Appalachian State is the Mountaineers' 34-32 win over No. 5 Michigan to open the 2007 season. But that's actually one of seven wins Appalachian State has earned against FBS opposition since the Southern Conference reclassified to Division I-AA (now FCS) in 1982. We should point out here that the Mountaineers' other six wins against FBS teams all came against Wake Forest, most recently in 2000. Overall, Appalachian State is 7-32-1 against FBS teams since 1982.

The Gurley factor: Georgia tailback Todd Gurley did not appear to be at 100 percent last week against Florida -- nor did he appear to be at 100 percent this week in practice -- but he still accounted for 187 yards and two touchdowns against the Gators. It's extremely evident that Georgia's offense functions much more efficiently when he's in the lineup, however. Georgia is 4-1 in the games where Gurley has played and averaged 526 yards of total offense. It is 1-2 when he hasn't played (with the one win coming in overtime at Tennessee) and averaged 369.7 yards of offense in those games.

Defense coming around? In four of the first six games, Georgia's defense faced offenses that currently rank among the national top 40 in total offense, and the results were not pretty for the young Bulldogs. Four times, Georgia surrendered at least 400 yards of total offense. But in each of the last three games, Georgia has held its opponent below 400 yards. And here's the crazy part: Only one opponent all season, Tennessee, has accumulated more yards against UGA than its current season average. The Volunteers picked up 404 yards against Georgia and are averaging 359.1 yards per game this season. However, Georgia still ranks last in the SEC in scoring defense at 31.6 points allowed per game. With all of that in mind, Appalachian State comes in averaging 21.8 points per game and 414.2 yards per game.

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