Murray threw two touchdown passes to set the Southeastern Conference career record, and Georgia broke open a close game with a dominant second half to beat Appalachian State 45-6 Saturday.
Todd Gurley, J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas ran for touchdowns as Georgia (6-3) outscored the Mountaineers 31-0 in the second half after leading only 14-6 at halftime.
Georgia, still clinging to hopes of catching Missouri in the SEC East, plays at No. 7 Auburn next week. Murray said the Bulldogs will need to play against Auburn the way they did in the second half against Appalachian State.
“There were plenty of plays to be made in the first half that we weren’t making,” said Murray, who gave his teammates a pep talk before the second half.
“We’ve just got to be able to focus on every play,” Murray said, adding the Bulldogs “definitely weren’t looking ahead to next week at all.”
Appalachian State (2-8) reached eight losses for the first time since a 3-8 finish in 1979. The Mountaineers, in their last season as a FCS team, are moving to the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
Coach Scott Satterfield called the game “the tale of two halves” for his Mountaineers.
“We had a really good game plan,” Satterfield said. “We started out strong and didn’t shy away from this game. Our guys played with great effort to start the game. We certainly had some opportunities to put some more points on the board in the first half. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times in the red zone, got a couple of penalties that backed us up.
“If we could have punched it in during the first half, maybe taken the lead, it might have been a different game.”
Instead, it became a lopsided game which provided Georgia the chance to play quarterback Hutson Mason — the former Lassiter High School star — and other backups in the fourth quarter.
Murray completed 19 of 26 passes for 281 yards with touchdown passes to Rantavious Wooten and Michael Bennett. He threw one interception. Mason threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Kenneth Towns.
Murray began the day one touchdown pass behind Danny Wuerffel’s Southeastern Conference record of 114 at Florida from 1993-96.
Murray matched Wuerffel’s mark with his 35-yard scoring pass to Wooten in the first quarter. Murray, making his 50th consecutive start, threw over the middle to Bennett for a 23-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to set the record. He already set SEC career records for yards passing and total offense this season.
“I’m more glad that it’s over and we can move on and I don’t have to worry about that question anymore,” Murray said.
Murray’s scoring passes were rare highlights in a listless first half for Georgia.
Appalachian State quarterback Kameron Bryant was effective with quick, short throws early in the game. Bryant was 8-for-8 passing for 73 yards to set up Drew Stewart’s 33-yard field goal on the Mountaineers’ opening drive.
Andrew Peacock caught five passes on the drive and had 12 receptions for 90 yards in the game.
Stewart added a 49-yard field goal, the longest of his career, late in the first quarter. He had another 49-yarder blocked at the line by Jordan Jenkins and was wide left from 46 yards in the second quarter.
Bryant completed 22 of 39 passes for 221 yards with one interception. Marcus Cox led the Mountaineers with 23 carries for 59 yards.
Appalachian State was held to 253 total yards, including only 59 in the second half.
“Anytime the other team doesn’t score a touchdown, it’s a good thing,” said Georgia defensive end Ray Drew, who had two tackles for losses, including one of Georgia’s three sacks. “If my team is scoring touchdowns and they’re kicking field goals, we’re going to win 10 times out of 10.”
Mason completed 11 of 16 attempts for 160 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Georgia’s Marshall Morgan kicked a 42-yard field goal early in the third quarter before the Bulldogs launched their string of four touchdown drives.
Murray had a 23-yard run and a 20-yard pass to Bennett on back-to-back plays before having an apparent touchdown pass to Reggie Davis wiped away because he threw the ball past the line of scrimmage.
Murray recovered with a 12-yard pass to Bennett before Gurley scored untouched from the 2.
Tray Matthews’ hit caused a fumble by Cox early in the fourth quarter. Jenkins recovered the fumble at the Appalachian State 42 to set up Georgia’s drive capped by Mason’s touchdown pass.
Gurley had 13 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Georgia strong safety Corey Moore was ejected in the second quarter when called for targeting on his hit on receiver Tony Washington. Replays indicated Moore led with his shoulder when he hit Washington’s helmet on the incompletion.
It marked the second time this season a Bulldogs player was removed from a game by officials for targeting. Drew was tossed in Georgia’s 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt. Linebacker Ramik Wilson also drew a personal foul penalty for targeting in the Vanderbilt game but was allowed to remain in the game following a review of the play.