Georgia WR Marion Brown (15) quarterback Aaron Murray (11) celebrate a TD on Saturday.
ATHENS — When Aaron Murray steps to the line, he feels a sense of calm that comes from experience.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have weapons all around.
Murray completed his first 12 passes and got plenty of help from the rest of the offense, leading No. 5 Georgia to its most complete performance of the season in a 48-3 rout of Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
“He’s playing terrific,” receiver Marlon Brown said. “He’s like a field general, just sitting up there making all the reads.”
Murray hooked up with Brown and Tavarres King on touchdown throws, breaking a tie with Eric Zeier for second place in school history. The fourth-year junior has 69 career TDs, just three behind David Greene.
Murray also scored on a 1-yard sneak as the Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) raced to a 27-0 lead in the first half. He finished 18 of 24 for 250 yards.
“I’ve gotten a lot of reps the last three years,” Murray said. “The more plays you see, the more the game slows down.”
But there was more to this offensive performance than another big night for the quarterback.
A lot more.
Georgia’s freshmen backs had another outstanding game. Todd Gurley rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns, including a 29-yard score in which he broke at least four tackles. Keith Marshall had a 52-yard TD among his two scoring runs.
“I’m just trying not to let one man bring me down,” Gurley said.
Brown hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, finishing with five catches for 114 yards. Eight other players had at least one reception.
The defense wasn’t too shabby, either. Star linebacker Jarvis Jones returned to the lineup after sitting out the previous week with a groin injury. He didn’t feel 100 percent, but he still managed three tackles behind the line, including a sack.
Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2) took its worst defeat since a 48-0 loss to Tennessee in 2003. The Commodores were outgained in total yards 567-337.
The Bulldogs had struggled a bit in the opening half of their first three games, trailing Missouri at the break and allowing a total of 30 points to Buffalo and Florida Atlantic.
No such concerns this time.
This one was over by halftime.
Georgia has scored more than 40 points in its first four games for the first time in school history. Murray and most of the other starters went to the bench by the end of the third quarter, the Bulldogs even giving walk-on Parker Welch some time at quarterback. The home team rushed for 302 yards.
“We didn’t stop the run tonight, and if you don’t stop the run, you let the whole offense open up,” Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler said.
Jordan Rodgers started at quarterback for Vanderbilt after watching from the bench the previous week while transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels guided the Commodores to a 58-0 blowout of lower-division Presbyterian.
Rodgers might be wishing he had stayed on the bench. He was sacked three times by Georgia, and even when it looked as if he had scored a meaningless touchdown in the fourth quarter, it didn’t count.
The officials reviewed the play and ruled that Rodgers lost control of the ball just before he got to the pylon, giving Georgia the ball on a touchback.
“I didn’t feel like we have had anyone who has really taken hold of the quarterback position,” coach James Franklin said. “We are going to look at who practices well throughout the week and let them play on Saturday until someone grabs hold of the position.”
A year ago, Georgia barely hung on against the Commodores in Nashville, surviving two shots at the end zone after Vanderbilt blocked a punt in the closing seconds.
Afterward, the bad blood from a chippy game spilled over to the coaches, with Franklin getting into a shouting match on the field with Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
The officials lined the 50-yard line during pregame warmups, making sure the two teams stayed apart. There was no chance for any carry-over once the game started. Georgia was in control all the way, ending a streak of close SEC losses for the Commodores. Their past five conference defeats were by a total of 23 points.
“We’ve moved on. It’s over with,” said Grantham, who had defiantly refused to apologize for what happened the previous year. “To hold any team to no TDs in this league, that’s a big statement.”
The Bulldogs scored on their opening possession, starting in Vanderbilt territory after Malcolm Mitchell’s 22-yard punt return. Murray went to King on a 16-yard completion and Gurley finished the drive with a 4-yard TD.
Georgia had more work to do on its next possession, starting at its own 12, but the Bulldogs also caught a big break when Caleb Azubike was called for a personal foul after taking out the legs of punter Collin Barber. It appeared Azubike barely touched Barber after being blocked into the punter by a Georgia player, but the referee didn’t see it that way.
Two plays later, Marshall took a handoff at his own 48, found a huge hole right up the middle and didn’t stop running until he got to the end zone. The Bulldogs botched the extra point, settling for a 13-0 lead.
It didn’t matter. Georgia covered 57 yards in seven plays on its next possession for another TD, keeping the drive going with Murray’s 7-yard pass to Michael Bennett on third-and-6. On the next play, Murray went to King for a 22-yard touchdown.
Vandy stalled again offensively, and Georgia went right down the field again. Murray completed a 22-yard pass to Brown and Ken Malcome broke off a 30-yard run down the sideline right in front of the Georgia bench. Murray finished it off by ducking his head and powering into the end zone on the sneak.
Finally, the Commodores put something together offensively. But even that was a bit of a letdown, the eight-play, 64-yard drive stalling out deep in Georgia territory. Vanderbilt settled for Carey Spears’ 29-yard field goal.
Rodgers was 13 of 23 for 218 yards. Zac Stacy gained 83 yards on 12 carries, but the Commodores got behind so quickly they didn’t have much of an opportunity to establish the running game.