By Tim Gardner
ATHENS, Ga.-Before a sell-out crowd of 92,746, Appalachian State played traditional FBS-Major Level and Southeastern Conference power Georgia gritty for two-and-a-half quarters last Saturday, Nov. 9. But Georgia used its decisive talent and depth advantage to dominate the rest of the game enroute to a 45-6 homecoming and runaway win at Sanford Stadium.
Appalachian State fell to 2-8 over-all, while Georgia improved to 6-3 for the season. It marks the first time since 1979 that the Mountaineers have had eight losses in a season. Appalachian State, in its last season as a FCS team, is moving to the Sun Belt Conference and FBS play in 2014.
Todd Gurley, J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas ran for touchdowns in the last half as the Bulldogs outscored Appalachian State 31-0 during the span after leading only 14-6 at halftime.
Georgia held Appalachian State to only 32 rushing yards and kept the Mountaineers from scoring a touchdown. The Bulldogs defense did not allow a sack, while also making seven tackles for lost yardage and having five pass break-ups. Georgia safety Tray Matthews and linebacker Leonard Floyd each forced a fumble.
Appalachian State compiled just 253 offensive yards, with nearly half (122) coming on its first two drives of the game. The Mountaineers got their only scores on field goals of 33, and a career-long 49 yards from Drew Stewart.
The Bulldogs finished with 568 offensive yards, with a whopping 441 coming through the air.
“It was the tale of two halves,” Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield said. “We started out strong and didn’t shy away. Our guys played with great effort to start the game. We certainly had some opportunities to put some more points on the (score) board in the first half. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times in the red zone, got a couple of penalties that backed us up.”
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray became the Southeastern Conference’s all-time career touchdown passing leader after first-half touchdown passes of 35 yards to Rantavious Wooten and 23 yards to Michael Bennett, moving one past Florida’s Danny Wuerrfel. Murray now has 115. Murray, making his 50th consecutive start, had already set SEC career records for yards passing and total offense this season.
He completed 19-of-26 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception.
Wooten’s touchdown reception put Georgia ahead for good. He compiled 104 receiving yards.
Hutson Mason took over at quarterback for Georgia in the fourth quarter. Making his first pass attempts of the season, Mason completed 11-of-16 passes for 160 yards with a 3-yard touchdown toss to Kenneth Towns. Mason also threw an interception.
“Appalachian State played well, in the first half especially,” said Georgia head coach Mark Richt. They (Mountaineers) had a great plan, but our defense did a good job of forcing field goal attempts. That was the best thing we did (in the opening half). In the second half, we played a whole lot better. We created turnovers and played so many young guys, so that was great. Anytime you win by such a wide margin, you had a good game.”
Quarterback Kameron Bryant completed 22 of 39 passes for 221 yards to lead Appalachian State’s offense. He tossed an interception and was sacked three times. However, he was on fire early, completing 12 of his first 13 passes, getting little resistance from the Georgia defense.
“Appalachian State did a beautiful job of throwing their short to intermediate passes early in the game,” Richt noted. “They (Mountaineers) just kind of methodically moved the ball down the field for a couple of really good drives early.”
Bryant was 8-for-8 passing for 73 yards to set up Stewart’s 33-yard field goal on the Mountaineers’ opening drive and a 3-0 lead.
Andrew Peacock caught five passes on the drive and had 12 receptions for 90 yards in the game. Tony Washington hauled in five catches for 78 yards during the game for the Mountaineers.
Marcus Cox led the Appalachian State running game with 23 carries for 59 yards.
The Mountaineers kept the ball for nearly 18 minutes in the first half and converted 4-of-9 third down conversions.
Appalachian State also had a good effort in return yardage for the game, with 121 on kickoffs and 38 on a long punt return by Doug Middleton.
Stewart had a chance to put the Mountaineers ahead again, but another 49-yard field goal attempt was blocked by outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins early in the second quarter. Stewart was also wide left from 46 yards in the same period.
Georgia’s Marshall Morgan kicked a 42-yard field goal early in the third quarter before the Bulldogs launched a string of four consecutive touchdown drives in just over thirteen minutes to turn the game into a rout.
Morgan also kicked six PAT’s.
Murray had a 23-yard run and a 20-yard pass to Bennett on back-to-back plays before having a touchdown pass to Reggie Davis wiped away because he threw the ball past the line of scrimmage.
Murray came right back with a 12-yard pass to Bennett before Gurley scored untouched from the 2.
Gurley had 13 carries for 75 yards to lead Georgia’s running game.
Matthews’ hit caused a fumble by Cox early in the fourth quarter, which Jenkins scooped up at the Appalachian State 42 to set up Georgia’s drive and Mason’s touchdown pass.
Georgia strong safety Corey Moore was ejected in the second quarter when called for targeting on his hit on receiver Tony Washington. Replays indicated Moore led with his shoulder when he hit Washington’s helmet on the incompletion.
Satterfield added the following comments about the loss: “We were moving the ball well in the first half. It seemed like when we got off the sticks, we stopped moving the ball as well. We had some penalties and lost yardage plays in the end zone that put us behind the sticks, and it’s hard to overcome that against a team of this caliber. You have to stay in rhythm.
“Georgia does a great job offensively. They (Bulldogs) run the ball really well and so as a defense, you are trying to get a lot of hats (helmets) around the ball. If you don’t do that, then they will just kill you at running the ball. When they have their ground game going, they do a really good job at play action, and their guys are able to get open in the intermediate level. They also got the time to have their receivers run double moves, which they were really successful at.”
Appalachian State returns to Southern Conference play next Saturday against Wofford in Spartanburg, SC, with a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
For further game information, log onto: www.appstatesports.com/fls/21500/StatsHTML/football/2013/app1109.htm
*Thanks to Appalachian State’s Sports Information Director Mike Flynn and his staff and Georgia Sports Communications Director Claude Felton and his staff for their kindness and help in covering this game.