ATHENS. Ga. — Aaron Murray is improving his record in big games, and Justin Scott-Wesley is more than willing to help.
Murray's 25-yard touchdown pass to Scott-Wesley with 1:47 remaining catapulted ninth-ranked Georgia to a 44-41 victory over No. 6 LSU before a delirious sea of red at Sanford Stadium. It was the second victory over a top-10 win this season for the Bulldogs, who used an 86-yard connection from Murray to Scott-Wesley to put away visiting South Carolina 41-30 on Sept. 7.
"This means we can take on anybody, any time, anywhere," a smiling Scott-Wesley said afterward. "We're confident in the guys we have in here, and we put in the hard work."
The Bulldogs, who opened with a lost at Clemson in a top-10 showdown, have defeated two top-10 teams in the same regular season for the first time since 1976, when they dumped Alabama and Florida on their way to a Sugar Bowl date with Pittsburgh. This is the first time Georgia (3-1, 2-0 SEC) has defeated two top-10 teams inside Sanford Stadium in the same year.
Saturday's game had all the makings of a shootout with Murray and LSU counterpart Zach Mettenberger, and the two delivered. Murray completed 20 of 34 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns, while Mettenberger racked up 372 yards and three scores on 23-of-37 passing.
"I thought Aaron was unreal tonight," Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "I thought he had a calm about him the whole game and did an outstanding job all night. He did a nice job of recognizing coverage and going to the right guy."
Mettenberger, who began his career at Georgia, helped the Tigers complete a staggering 10 of 15 third-down conversions. They were 10-of-14 until his third- and fourth-down passes from LSU's 35-yard line with just under a minute remaining fell incomplete.
His 372 yards were the most by an LSU quarterback since Rohan Davey had 444 in a Sugar Bowl victory over Illinois after the 2001 season.
"I felt like Zach performed great, and that is exactly what we wanted him to do," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We did not get the rushing yards that we would have liked."
Mettenberger completed a third-and-22 pass to Odell Beckham for 25 yards midway through the fourth quarter to help the Tigers (4-1, 1-1) stake a 41-37 lead on a 4-yard run by Jeremy Hill with 4:14 remaining. When LSU got the ball back with 1:42 left, he completed a second-and-17 pass for 18 yards to Beckham out to LSU's 35-yard line, but that would be as far as the Tigers advanced.
That was the only time Georgia stopped LSU in the second half.
"We had to keep playing," Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "We were close to making some plays on the ball, and we didn't make the plays. He threw us a couple and we dropped them, and when we're in man coverage with split safeties, you've got to be on guys and make a play on the ball.
"Obviously we've got work to do, but they couldn't run the ball. We were pretty effective in the running game, but we've just got to make plays on the ball. The difference was our offense got a two-minute touchdown, and they got nothing."
Both offenses were sharp to open the game, with Murray throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Michael Bennett to cap a 75-yard march and LSU answering with a 48-yard touchdown strike from Mettenberger to Kadron Boone. Murray was intercepted by defensive tackle Anthony Johnson on Georgia's second possession, and the Tigers traveled 33 yards and took a 14-7 lead on a 4-yard pass from Mettenberger to Boone.
Georgia tied the game in the final minute of the first quarter on a 25-yard pass from Murray to Chris Conley, who finished with five catches for 112 yards. The teams traded field goals in the second quarter before the Bulldogs took a 24-17 with 20 seconds left before halftime on a 1-yard Murray sneak.
The Bulldogs racked up 143 first-half rushing yards compared to just 13 for the Tigers, and Georgia finished with an edge of 196 to 77.
"They say we can't win the big games," Georgia defensive lineman Garrison Smith said. "Well, we won one."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 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 ...