ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray failed to make it to halftime in his final game at Sanford Stadium, but he played long enough to humble Kentucky.
Murray completed 18 of 23 passes for 183 yards and four touchdowns before suffering a left knee injury on a 29-yard carry, which was then enhanced on a hit by Wildcats defensive end Za'Darius Smith with two minutes remaining in the second quarter. He was helped to the locker room, but the outcome had long been decided and the Bulldogs went on to a 59-17 victory.
Before the game was over, Murray had been taken to St. Mary's Hospital for an MRI.
"I feel for Aaron on senior night to get hurt," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "As much as he's invested in this program and with everything he's done, he played great again while he was out there. It was another phenomenal night for him.
"It's just been an honor to really coach him and get to know him the last five years."
The Bulldogs improved to 7-4 overall and finished the Southeastern Conference portion of their schedule at 5-3. Kentucky dropped to 2-9 overall and 0-7 in league play.
"Senior day is a jinx," former Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier said at halftime. "The same thing happened to me, and it also happened to me in the second quarter."
Zeier tore his MCL in the 1994 home finale against Georgia Tech, but Bobo entered the game and helped the Bulldogs polish off the Yellow Jackets 48-10. Ten years later, David Greene was knocked out of his home finale against Tech with a thumb injury but came back late in the game to lead the Bulldogs to a 19-13 win.
Hutson Mason replaced Murray and guided the Bulldogs on a five-play, 57-yard drive that culminated with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Todd Gurley that gave the Bulldogs a 35-10 lead with 12 seconds left before intermission. Mason finished 13-of-19 for 189 yards and a touchdown as the Bulldogs racked up 602 yards of total offense.
"I thought Hutson did well," Bobo said. "He came out and did what he had to do. He led the offense and was productive on every drive. Did we punt any with him? It seemed like we got points every time he was in there."
Said Mason: "I thought I did good. The biggest crowd I had ever played is a spring-game crowd, and there were some jitters getting in there before that many people."
The Bulldogs carried no lingering disappointment from last week's heartbreaking loss at Auburn, using a 41-yard kickoff return by Sheldon Dawson and a 44-yard screen from Murray to Gurley to set up a 9-yard touchdown from Murray to Rhett McGowan to open the scoring. McGowan, a former walk-on from Calhoun High, was playing in his final home game as well and racked up a career-high seven catches for 90 yards.
"It was an emotional night," McGowan said. "I was happy our offense was clicking, and we're just praying for the best with Aaron. I know he'll bounce back from whatever it is."
Gurley capped Georgia's second possession by vaulting into the end zone to complete a 16-yard touchdown reception, and a fumble caused by Garrison Smith that was recovered by Jordan Jenkins at the Kentucky 17 set up a third score. In less than three quarters of action, Gurley rushed eight times for 77 yards.
Kentucky's lone highlight play was a 69-yard touchdown run down the middle of the field by Dyshawn Mobley, which pulled the Wildcats within 21-7 with 2:16 left in the first quarter. The Wildcats were held to 211 total yards.
"This was definitely our best game," Smith said. "We made a few mistakes, but we're getting better every game. We've got a lot of fight."
The 59 points scored by Georgia are the most in an SEC game since the Bulldogs rolled to a 62-17 win at Lexington in 2004. The Bulldogs will conclude their regular season this Saturday by playing at Georgia Tech, while the Wildcats will host Tennessee.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com at 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...