With a showdown against the No .6 ranked LSU Tigers looming next weekend in Athens, the Georgia Bulldogs expected to just walk into Sanford Stadium and pick up the victory over the North Texas Mean Green. However, the Bulldogs did not anticipate the Mean Green to challenge them on both sides of the ball and force the Bulldogs to work for a 45-21 victory in Athens.
Georgia opened up a 21-7 second-quarter lead on a touchdown run by running back Todd Gurley and two Aaron Murray touchdown passes. However, the Mean Green answered the Bulldogs with big plays on special teams. North Texas kickoff returner Brelan Chancellor exploded for a 99-yard kickoff return to cut the Bulldogs lead at the half to 21-14. In the third quarter, the game became interesting with the Mean Green tying the score at 21 -21 on a blocked punt and touchdown recovery by Zac Whitfield.
Georgia would regroup and behind quarterback Aaron Murray, the Bulldogs would score the last 24 points of the game. Murray completed 22 of 30 passes for 408 yards with four (three passing, one rushing) touchdowns and one interception. For the game, the Bulldogs racked up 641 total yards of offense on a North Texas defense that was surrendering only 20 points per game.
North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson completed 21 of 26 for 202 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Mean Green finished with 12 players catching at least one pass and were not intimidated by their SEC opponent. They proved to the 92, 746 fans in Sanford Stadium that they came to challenge the Bulldogs. Defensively, the Mean Green held the Bulldogs to under 50 percent in 3rd down conversions (6 of 13) and forced two Bulldog turnovers.
North Texas deserves credit for their valiant effort on Saturday. Their stellar special teams play on Saturday will almost certainly have Bulldog head coach Mark Richt working on the special teams unit this coming week in preparation for the Bulldogs weekend showdown with the “Mad Hatter” and the Tigers. Lapses in the kicking game can be game changers and with the Bulldogs fighting for an opportunity to get back into the national championship hunt, they must be able to solve the special team woes that haunted them against the Mean Green.
North Texas heads back to the road to face Tulane this coming weekend. Game time is set for 3:30 pm.