Georgia players, from left, Aaron Murray, Brandon Boykin and Orson Charles celebrate their 31-17 win against Georgia Tech, which improved the Bulldogs’ record to 10-2 and dropped the Yellow Jackets to 8-4.
ATLANTA — The celebration didn’t last long. Georgia had not even finished off another win over its state rival when the fans in red and black began to chant, “LSU! LSU! LSU!”
Time for an even bigger game.
Aaron Murray threw four touchdown passes and No. 13 Georgia extended its domination over No. 25 Georgia Tech, pulling away for a 31-17 victory Saturday that sent the Bulldogs into the Southeastern Conference championship game on quite a roll.
Next weekend, they’ll be back in Atlanta to face the top-ranked Tigers riding a 10-game winning streak.
“This game is over with,” Georgia’s Branden Smith said. “I’m thinking about LSU right now. This is a good win, but we’ve got another mission.”
The Bulldogs (10-2) have bounced back from losing their first two games and will take plenty of confidence into the title game, even though they’ll be a heavy underdog against the unbeaten Tigers, who wrapped up the SEC West with a 41-17 rout of No. 3 Arkansas on Friday.
LSU will be trying to lock up a spot in the national championship game. But the Bulldogs might prove to be pesky, putting together their longest winning streak within a season since 1982.
“We just have to play the way we’ve been playing,” linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “If we don’t give away points, there’s no way they can beat us.”
Murray extended his school record for touchdown passes in a season to 32, hooking up with Michael Bennett and Chris Conley in the first half, and Tavarres King and Aron White in the third quarter as Georgia cruised to its 10th win over the Yellow Jackets in 11 years.
Georgia Tech (8-4) rushed for 243 yards out of the triple-option against the nation’s second-ranked run defense, but just 79 came after halftime. Tevin Washington threw a pair of interceptions. The result was all too familiar to the Yellow Jackets: another loss to the Bulldogs.
“I don’t like losing to nobody, but when it’s in-state, when it’s your rival,” linebacker Julian Burnett said, his voice trailing off. “We’re tired of being the little brothers in the state.”
Georgia didn’t have much trouble in this one even without freshman star Isaiah Crowell, who was in uniform but didn’t play because of an ankle injury.
With its top two tailbacks hurt, the Bulldogs improvised. Defensive backs Smith and Brandon Boykin both lined up in the backfield, with Smith getting five carries. Alexander Ogletree broke off a key 21-yard gain on the first carry by a Georgia fullback this season. Receiver Malcolm Mitchell had a 20-yard run on a reverse.
“I’m here to help the team win,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter what position I play. If they need me to play center, I’m ready.”
The Bulldogs didn’t need much of a ground game, not the way Murray carved up the Georgia Tech secondary. The third-year sophomore overcame an early interception — when he was hit on the elbow as he threw — to complete 19 of 29 passes for 252 yards. He’s thrown 14 touchdown passes in the last four games, breezing past the old school record of 25 TDs in a season set by Matthew Stafford, who went on to be the top pick in the NFL draft.
“The offensive line has been lights out. Our receivers have been making great catches,” Murray said. “It’s easy being a quarterback when you can sit back in the pocket with plenty of time and just hit open receivers.”
Murray got off to an ominous start. On Georgia’s first possession, he was hammered as he threw by linebacker Steve Sylvester, the ball fluttering into the arms of Louis Young for the interception.
That was about the only miscue.
Murray connected with Bennett on a 15-yard touchdown that gave Georgia an early lead. After Georgia Tech responded by driving nearly the length of the field to set up a short field goal than made it 7-3, the Bulldogs took it right back the other way. Murray completed five of six attempts to account for all but 3 yards on an eight-play, 80-yard drive, the last of his completions a 14-yarder to Conley in the corner of the end zone.
Georgia Tech’s last gasp was an 80-yard drive of its own. David Sims finished it off with a 5-yard run, breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage and diving into the end zone.
Georgia tacked on a field goal with just 3 seconds left in the half, getting a second chance when Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson called a timeout just before the snap trying to mess up the Bulldogs. If only he had known they would make a bad snap, leading to an ugly miss by a Blair Walsh. On the do-over, Walsh knocked through a 41-yarder.
The Bulldogs didn’t have to punt until their sixth possession, with nearly 5 minutes gone in the third quarter.
“That’s deflating. That’s deflates the whole team,” Johnson said. “The other thing that’s deflating is when they score right before halftime.”
The Yellow Jackets had done some of their best work in the third quarter, but that period belonged to the Bulldogs on this day. Boykin got it started with a 60-yard kickoff return, and three plays later Murray went to King for a 3-yard touchdown and a 24-10 lead.
The Georgia Tech defense finally stiffened, forcing a couple of punts even after Washington threw the first of his interceptions. But the Yellow Jackets couldn’t overcome a second pick, this one snatched away by Shawn Williams at the Georgia Tech 23. Even though Williams was penalized 15 yards for spiking the ball, the Bulldogs punched it in.
Ogletree had the biggest play, a third-and-2 carry all the way to Georgia Tech 9. Then it was Murray to White for the TD that put it away.
Georgia Tech yanked Washington and scored a meaningless touchdown on Orwin Smith’s 16-yard run with 6 1-2 minutes to go. That wasn’t much of a salve for this familiar wound.
“We definitely don’t like losing to these guys,” Washington said.