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UGA passes first option test

ATHENS, Ga. -- The triple-option portion of Georgia's 2012 schedule is now halfway complete.

Todd Gurley scored an early touchdown Saturday and passed 1,000 rushing yards for the season.

After some early hiccups, the fifth-ranked Bulldogs broke free of Georgia Southern on Saturday, winning 45-14 at Sanford Stadium behind four touchdown passes by quarterback Aaron Murray.

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Murray finished with 330 yards on 18-of-28 passing as the Bulldogs scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to turn a close game early into a bench-clearing rout late.

The 20th 10-win season in school history now assured for Georgia (10-1), the Bulldogs will host Georgia Tech next weekend before getting another crack at the SEC championship game.

That likely date with Alabama still looms prominently on the horizon, but first, Georgia knew it had to deal with the triple option -- and a lot of it. The first pesky, run-based non-conference opponent was Georgia Southern, which put a brief scare into the Bulldogs' faithful in the first half.

"It was hard-fought," UGA coach Mark Richt said. "Georgia Southern has an outstanding football team. They run their offense well. ... They have a plan for everything, and they execute it well."

The Eagles (8-3), ranked sixth in the NCAA's FCS, reached the Bulldogs' 7-yard line trailing 10-7 late in the second quarter. But a chop block penalty on a successful fourth down play forced a field goal that was missed. Georgia then drove to make it 17-7 at halftime on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Malcolm Mitchell.

With momentum, Georgia scored three more times in the third quarter, extending the lead to 38-7 while Georgia Southern couldn't keep up offensively with an attack based almost entirely on the run.

The Eagles finished with only 16 passing yards but gained 302 yards on the ground, the most rushing yards the Bulldogs have allowed in a game this season.

"I think that we could have played better," Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones said. "We did win, and overall I think that we played well. But when we go back and look at the tape we'll see things that we need to fix."

On the other side, Georgia tailback Todd Gurley accumulated 68 rushing yards to pass 1,000 yards for his freshman season.

Receiver Chris Conley led the Bulldogs with four catches, two of them for touchdowns, and linebacker Alec Ogletree had a game-high 12 tackles.

UGA backup quarterback Parker Welch came on in the final minutes and fired a 13-yard scoring pass to receiver Justin Scott-Wesley, the first UGA touchdown for each player.

"The second half of the season has been pretty impressive," Richt said. "We're happy with the results. I think the guys are focused, and they think we've a chance to do something special. All of our goals are still ahead of us, and we're happy about that."

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