The No. 10 Bulldogs made sure that didn’t matter by giving the ball to Knowshon Moreno on offense and finally creating turnovers on defense, and that was enough to beat back Troy 44-34.
“It was not the prettiest of games really on either side of the ball, but there were a lot of great plays made,” head coach Mark Richt said.
A homecoming crowd of 92,746 had as hard a time as its team getting over last week’s 42-30 win over Florida and watched mostly quietly as the Bulldogs and Trojans combined to gain 953 yards.
Moreno had 196 of those and three touchdowns on 26 carries, establishing a career high in yardage for the third consecutive week and becoming the first Bulldog since Musa Smith in 2002 to put together three consecutive 100-plus yard rushing games. He also became the 12th Georgia back and just the second freshman to rush for 1,000 yards in a season (1,003 yards).
“Number 24, Knowshon, man,” said Troy coach Larry Blakeney, who has faced Florida and Arkansas this year. “He’s a great back. Not quite a (Darren) McFadden, but definitely a Felix Jones.”
Moreno scored the day’s first touchdown on an 80-yard run, becoming the first Bulldog since Robert Edwards in 1997 to cover such a distance on the ground.
“I was shocked when he had that many yards,” Richt said. “I know he had the 80-yarder, but I wouldn’t have thought another 100 yards after that. It was a great day for him.”
Moreno boosted Georgia (7-2) to 465 yards (240 on the ground, 225 through the air) of total offense, its second-highest total of the season, which offset three turnovers and a huge day by the Trojans, who had 488 yards.
The Georgia defense was feast or famine, giving up plays of more than 20 yards to five different Trojans but creating four turnovers, half as many as it created in the first eight games of the year combined.
“It’s good that your guys are making plays, but it’s bad to allow so much yardage,” linebacker Marcus Washington said. “They were moving the ball well, but they are a very good offensive football team so it’s nothing to hang our heads too much about.”
Cornerback Asher Allen and safety Reshad Jones each had an interception to double Georgia’s total in that category for the year, and defensive end Marcus Howard caused and recovered a fumble to set up the offense at Troy’s 1-yard line in the third quarter.
Trojans quarterback Omar Haugabook answered questions about the health of his hamstring by amassing 310 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-45 passing.
“I don’t feel all that bad (about the defense) to be honest with you,” Richt said. “(The Trojans) tend to do that to just about everybody they play. It’s a difficult offense to deal with.”
The Sun Belt Conference-leading Trojans (6-3) became the first team to score more than seven points against Georgia in the first quarter and were tied 10-10 with less than a minute left in the first half.
“I don’t think that the best team won today,” Troy wide receiver Kennard Burton said. “We were a few plays away that could have shocked this place. I don’t think that they’ll invite us back again.”
The Bulldogs built a 24-10 halftime margin by scoring twice in the final 45 seconds of the second quarter. Tight end Tripp Chandler caught a 22-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds remaining, and Georgia followed that up with a short pooch kickoff that was fumbled by Trinidy Thomas and recovered by Akeem Dent at Troy’s 43-yard line. Five plays and 35 seconds later, Matthew Stafford threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Sean Bailey. Stafford was 17-of-29 for 217 yards on the day.
“It’s not like we didn’t earn those two touchdowns,” Richt said, “but I didn’t think we were playing two touchdowns better than them.”
Troy closed the gap to four points at 24-20 on its second drive of the second half but got no closer. Georgia finally extended its lead to 10 on a 26-yard Brandon Coutu field goal with 8:53 left in the game.
Now, the Bulldogs turn their attention back to the SEC race. They will host No. 19 Auburn at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We beat Auburn pretty good last year, so we know they’re going to be fired up and want to come down here and beat us just as bad if not worse,” Washington said. “It’s going to be a battle.”