Georgia coach Mark Richt scowls while walking the sidelines as time ticks down Saturday vs. Boise St.
ATLANTA -- The Georgia Bulldogs talked hopefully of turning things around after their first losing season since 1996.
They looked forward to seeing how they matched up with one of the nation's best programs.
Well, there's still a lot of work to do.
In a game sure to turn up the heat on embattled coach Mark Richt, Kellen Moore threw for three touchdowns and those BCS-busting Broncos from Boise State got off to another winning start against a marquee opponent, romping past Georgia 35-21 on Saturday night.
"They were better than we were," Richt said. "I understand that and the players understand that. We've got a lot of work to do."
There's not much time. Next week, the Bulldogs open Southeastern Conference play with another crucial game against No. 12 South Carolina, the defending East champion.
"This loss is disappointing, but our goal is still to get to the SEC championship, and that starts next week vs. South Carolina," said Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who threw a pair of touchdown passes but was sacked six times. "We have to put this behind us, watch film and get ready for the rest of the season."
Brandon Boykin provided an early, unexpected boost for the Bulldogs (0-1), scoring on an 80-yard run with the first carry of his career. The junior is normally a cornerback and return specialist.
But Moore took control from there. The nation's top-rated passer last season and expected to be a leading Heisman contender, Moore carved up Georgia's 3-4 defense after a sluggish start. The fifth-year senior completed 28 of 34 for 261 yards, with his first scoring pass -- a 17-yarder to freshman Matt Miller -- giving him 100 for his brilliant career.
He had two more before the night was done to get the Broncos off to another good start.
In the last three seasons, they have opened with victories against Oregon, Virginia Tech and now Georgia.
"We've got some good players who have played a lot of football," Broncos coach Chris Petersen said. "They like to play on these stages. In some ways, that helps us. They don't get to play on this stage every day. They appreciate playing against a program like Georgia. They really do."
No one enjoyed himself more than Moore.
After a 12-yard scoring pass to Kyle Efaw gave Boise a 14-7 lead at halftime, Moore got the ball back on the first possession of the second half and directed a drive that broke Georgia's back. Completing seven straight passes covering 69 yards, he set up Doug Martin's 7-yard touchdown run that put the Broncos up 21-7.
Then, late in the third quarter, a big punt return helped finish off the Bulldogs. Chris Potter brought it back 49 yards to the Georgia 28, a facemask penalty gave Boise State another first down and Moore threaded a 3-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Tyler Shoemaker for a three-touchdown lead.
The red-clad Bulldog fans began heading for the exits, leaving the celebration to a small contingent of blue-clad fans who made the long trip from Idaho.
Boise State (1-0) had never beaten at team from the mighty SEC, and its 0-4 record included an ugly 48-13 loss at Georgia's Sanford Stadium back in 2005.
"Growing up watching football, I have a ton of respect for the SEC," Moore said. "I'm aware of all the success they've had. I watched Georgia play a lot of big games growing up. To play a game like this was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. We were fortunate to come out on top."
These programs have gone in dramatically opposite directions since the '05 season, when the Bulldogs went on to claim their second SEC title in Richt's first five years. They haven't won another, dropping all the way to 6-7 a year ago. If the 11th-year coach can't turn things around quickly -- and this wasn't a good start -- his job could be in jeopardy.
"SEC play hasn't even started," Richt said. "It's a long season. We've got to get our minds right. A game like this, no question, we know more about our football team than if we played someone and beaten them by 40. Hopefully that translates into us learning how to play better in these type of games and better see where our weaknesses are."
The Broncos, meanwhile, have outgrown being America's Cinderella team, qualifying for major bowls two of the last five years even while playing in the lightly regarded Western Athletic Conference. They joined the Mountain West this season, but know they still have no room for error if they want to be playing with the big boys in January.
No problem in this one.
Murray put up a couple of long touchdown passes in the second half -- one after a punt was nullified by an offsides penalty. But it wasn't nearly enough against Moore and his seasoned team, even with the Broncos missing a couple of foreign-born starters who didn't make the trip because the NCAA was reviewing their eligibility.
Both teams got off to sloppy starts, slipping and sliding on a field with which neither was familiar.
Georgia was called for three penalties on its first possession, then went three-and-out on its second. Finally, the Bulldogs broke loose with a play that Boise State couldn't have seen coming.
Boykin checked in for the offense, took a handoff coming around right end, got a couple of good blocks and was gone -- 80 yards to the end zone.
That huge play roused a red-clad crowd that left little doubt this was no neutral-site game.
The Broncos traveled across the country for the second year in a row to play in an NFL stadium not far from the campus of their opponent. Last season, they opened with a victory over Virginia Tech in Landover, Md., home of the Washington Redskins. This time, they agreed to play at the Georgia Dome, normally the home of the Atlanta Falcons but only 75 miles from the Bulldogs' campus.
Used to bucking the odds, the Broncos took a little time to get going, then seemed to figure out a defense that was expected to carry Georgia in the early going while the offense breaks in a new group of receivers -- A.J. Green is now in the NFL -- and touted freshman Isaiah Crowell at running back.
Crowell showed a few flashes of his potential but wasn't much of a factor, finishing with 60 yards on 15 carries.
"It was tough to find holes," Crowell said. "Boise did a good job making it to the ball. Overall, it was a good experience, but we made some mistakes."
Murray took quite a beating. Appropriately enough, he was sacked on Georgia's final offensive play, an inglorious end to a night in which he went 16 of 29 for 236 yards, including touchdowns of 36 yards to Orson Charles and 51 yards to another freshman, Malcolm Mitchell.
"It was more than I expected," Mitchell said. "I knew it would be intense, but the atmosphere out there was crazy."