ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — With the rain falling and the score tied, North Texas seemed to have all the momentum.
Unfortunately for the Mean Green, they couldn’t finish it off.
Surprisingly tied with No. 9 Georgia early in the second half, North Texas was stifled the rest of the way. Aaron Murray threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns, also scored on a sneak, and led the Bulldogs to a 45-21 victory on a dreary Saturday between the hedges.
The Mean Green (2-2) scored twice on special teams, tying the game at 21 on a blocked punt in the opening minute of the second half.
The Bulldogs dominated from there, finishing with a staggering edge in total yards (641-245) though they didn’t seal the victory until a short field goal with just under 4 minutes remaining.
“We did a lot of positive things,” North Texas coach Dan McCarney said. “But in the end, it was too much Georgia and not enough of us.”
The Mean Green, off to its best start since 1994, came in as a 33-point underdog. They certainly didn’t embarrass themselves, forcing Georgia to go with its starters most of the way while collecting a hefty payout ($975,000).
“I never got the sense of David vs. Goliath with this game,” McCarney said. “We are moving in the right direction and Georgia has been there.”
Murray became only the second Southeastern Conference quarterback with 100 career scoring passes. The three TDs pushed his total to 102, trailing only 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel of Florida (114).
“I’m sure he’s going to throw a few more for us this year,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
Murray overcame an early interception in the end zone, hooking up with freshman Reggie Davis on a 98-yard TD — the longest play from scrimmage in school history. Arthur Lynch and Chris Conley also had touchdown catches for the Bulldogs (2-1).
North Texas’ Brelan Chancellor returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, and Zac Whitfield fell on a blocked punt in the end zone to tie it up.
“We thought we had all the momentum, kind of took the air out of the stadium,” North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson said. “We weren’t able to move the ball in the second half as well as we wanted to.”
Murray made sure the Bulldogs avoided the upset. He scored on a 1-yard dive to put Georgia ahead to stay, then went to Conley on a 4-yard TD, the receiver showing great concentration after the ball was slightly tipped by a defender.
“We knew we would have a fight on our hands,” Murray said. “We came out with the right mentality. No one was slacking. They just made some plays.”
Darnell Smith had North Texas’ only non-special teams score, hauling in Thompson’s 20-yard pass.
Thompson threw for 202 yards, but North Texas had no running game to balance things out. Brandin Byrd was the only player in positive numbers, with 11 carries for 23 yards, and the Mean Green finished with just 7 yards on the ground.
Linebacker Will Wright made a big play for the Mean Green early on. When Murray tied to force a pass into heavy coverage on second-and-goal from the North Texas 3, Wright reached up to pick it off.
Murray bounced back on the next possession. He hooked up with Jay Rome on a 27-yard pass, North Texas cornerback James Jones was called for interference, and Todd Gurley powered over from 12 yards out to give Georgia a 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs made it 14-0 on the first play of the second quarter from their own 2-yard line. Davis beat his man, hauled in the first reception of his career, and pulled away to beat the previous school record of 93 yards, which had been done three times — including the famous touchdown pass from Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott against Florida during the 1980 national championship season.
The teams traded quick scores — Smith’s TD was matched by Murray’s 16-yarder to Lynch — before Chancellor stunned the crowd on the ensuing kickoff.
One of the nation’s top returners, Chancellor found a hole through a wall of blockers, easily slipped past kicker Marshall Morgan, and took off right down the middle of the field for a touchdown that cut Georgia’s lead to 21-14.
The Mean Green made it 21-all as the rain sent thousands of fans streaming for the exits. After a high snap, Marcus Trice broke through to block Collin Barber’s punt, and Whitfield recovered for a tying TD.
“We were pathetic on special teams last year,” McCarney said. “We are making up a lot of ground in that area.”