ATHENS, Ga. — With the rain picking up and No. 9 Georgia surprisingly in a tie game, Aaron Murray told his teammates to settle down.
"Hey, we're fine," the quarterback said in the huddle. "Just play ball and have fun."
Murray was right.
Everything worked out just fine for the Bulldogs.
Murray threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score while leading the Bulldogs to a 45-21 victory over pesky North Texas on a dreary Saturday between the hedges.
Along the way, he became only the second Southeastern Conference quarterback with 100 career scoring passes. The three TDs pushed his total to 102, trailing only 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel of Florida (114).
"Any time you have 100 touchdowns, you've obviously been very successful," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "I'm sure he's going to throw a few more for us this year."
Murray overcame an early interception in the end zone, hooking up with freshman Reggie Davis on a 98-yard TD — the longest pass play in school history. Arthur Lynch and Chris Conley also had touchdown catches for the Bulldogs (2-1).
The Mean Green (2-2) came in as a 33-point underdog, but big plays on special teams helped make a game of it. Brelan Chancellor returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, and Zac Whitfield fell on a blocked punt in the end zone early in the second half to even the score at 21.
Murray made sure the Bulldogs avoided the upset. He scored on a 1-yard sneak and went to Conley on a 4-yard TD.
Georgia outgained North Texas by a staggering margin in total yards, 641-245, the fourth-most in school history. Yet it was a more difficult game than most expected.
"We knew we would have a fight on our hands," Murray said. "We came out with the right mentality. No one was slacking. They just made some plays."
While there wasn't much time to reflect, not with an SEC showdown against No. 6 LSU looming next weekend, Murray conceded he didn't envision putting up such lofty numbers with the Bulldogs.
"That was never a goal of mine. I just wanted to win games and put myself in the best possible situation," he said. Then, he paused and smiled, before adding, "It has been fun."
Darnell Smith had North Texas' only non-special teams score, hauling in a 20-yard pass from Derek Thompson. Even so, the Mean Green made themselves proud in their first meeting with the SEC powerhouse, collecting a hefty payout ($975,000) and ruining any hopes Georgia had of resting its starters before facing LSU.
Thompson threw for 202 yards, but North Texas had no running game to balance things out. Brandin Byrd was the only player in positive numbers, with 11 carries for 23 yards, and the Mean Green finished with just 7 yards on the ground.
"We thought we had all the momentum, kind of took the air out of the stadium," Thompson said. "Unfortunately, though, on offense we weren't able to move the ball in the second half as well as we wanted to."
Murray got off to a rough start, trying to force a pass into heavy coverage on second-and-goal from the North Texas 3. It was picked off by linebacker Will Wright.
Murray bounced back on the next possession. He hooked up with Jay Rome on a 27-yard pass, North Texas cornerback James Jones was called for interference, and Todd Gurley powered over from 12 yards out to give Georgia a 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs made it 14-0 on the first play of the second quarter from their own 2-yard line. Davis beat his man, hauled in the first reception of his career, and pulled away to beat the previous school record of 93 yards, which had been done three times — including the famous touchdown pass from Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott against Florida during the 1980 national championship season.
"I'm speechless," Davis said. "It's an honor to get the 100th career TD from Aaron Murray."
The teams traded quick scores — Smith's TD was matched by Murray's 16-yarder to Lynch — before Chancellor stunned the crowd on the ensuing kickoff.
One of the nation's top returners, Chancellor found a hole through a wall of blockers, easily slipped past kicker Marshall Morgan, and took off right down the middle of the field for a touchdown that cut Georgia's lead to 21-14.
The Mean Green tied it less than a minute into the second half as the rain sent thousands of fans streaming for the exits. The snap was high, Marcus Trice broke through to block Collin Barber's punt, and Whitfield recovered for a tying TD.
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 ...