The No. 13 Bulldogs ground out 376 yards and held off Oklahoma State and its ballyhooed offense 35-14 on Saturday night in Sanford Stadium.
Georgia (1-0) enters Southeastern Conference play next weekend when it welcomes South Carolina (1-0) to Sanford Stadium.
Under first-year offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, the Bulldogs relied heavily on their running game and a large dose of screen passes. Redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno, who took all the mop-up carries, led the ground game with 70 yards on 20 carries, and starter Thomas Brown added 47 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
Georgia threw the ball effectively enough that sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford had a career-high tying two touchdowns on 18-of-25 passing for 237 yards and no interceptions. Senior wide receiver Sean Bailey set a career mark with 87 yards on five catches.
The Cowboys (0-1), who were saddled with the “world’s most powerful offense” label by a marketing director trying to sell tickets, finished with 266, its lowest since last year’s game against Texas and more than 100 below its 2006 average.
All-Big 12 wide receiver Adarius Bowman finished with four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Bobby Reid was 16-of-30 for 191 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Georgia’s defense was led by an impressive effort from its line, particularly starting defensive ends Marcus Howard and Rod Battle, who chased Reid through the backfield most of the night. The Bulldogs finished with five sacks, its highest total since the 2005 LSU game.
Oklahoma State was playing catch up from the beginning. It started the game with the ball but was forced to punt four plays in, and long snapper Zach Allen sailed the ball over the head of punter Matt Fodge, who was tackled on the Bulldog 14-yard line by Mohamed Massaquoi.
On Georgia’s first offensive play of the year, Brown covered all 14 of those yards and the Bulldogs led 7-0 with 14:01 left.
Oklahoma State tied the game later in the first quarter when Bowman caught a 20-yard pass from Reid with 8:45 left, but Georgia went ahead for good on a 2-yard run by Brannan Southerland with 19 seconds left in the quarter. Georgia maintained its distance from there, adding another score by Brown (3-yard run) and one true freshman tight end Bruce Figgins (6 yards on his first career reception). Figgins’ grab put the Bulldogs ahead 28-14 with 9:43 left in the third quarter.
Senior Mikey Henderson capped an all-around team effort with a winding 63-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter that drifted as far back as the Georgia 5-yard line before ending at the Oklahoma State 24. Stafford finished off Oklahoma State four plays later with a 6-yard pass to Michael Moore, the first touchdown of Moore’s career, with 11:11 left in the game. Georgia led 35-14 at that point and the game was firmly in hand.
It was a pleasingly methodical start for a Bulldog team that came into the game with concerns about youth in key places. The Bulldogs played five true freshmen – Figgins, left tackle Trinton Sturdivant, backup guard Clint Boling, second-team linebacker Rennie Curran and reserve cornerback Vance Cuff – and got solid play from all of them.