ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Jeb Blazevich succinctly summarized Todd Gurley’s latest entry in his Heisman Trophy campaign.
“And he can pass,” Blazevich said.
Gurley ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns and his 50-yard pass was the biggest surprise in No. 13 Georgia’s 44-17 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Gurley had scoring runs of 4 and 14 yards in the first quarter as Georgia (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) built an early 21-0 lead.
Vanderbilt (1-4, 0-4) remained winless in the SEC.
Hutson Mason threw two touchdown passes to Chris Conley, but Gurley now owns the Bulldogs’ longest completion of the season.
Gurley’s pass wobbled before reaching Blazevich, but a relieved coach Mark Richt said it was a thing of beauty when compared with some of the star tailback’s throws during practice this week.
“I wasn’t like ‘Man, I can’t wait to call that play,'” Richt said, smiling. “I just didn’t know.”
Gurley’s 5-yard scoring run was out of the wildcat formation (called wild dog in Georgia’s playbook).
Another direct snap to Gurley in the second quarter produced the unexpected twist. Instead of keeping the ball for a run as Vanderbilt’s defense expected, Gurley stopped and launched the wobbly left-handed pass to Blazevich, the tight end who was wide open for the big gain.
“We have a saying at Georgia, spirals are optional — if you hit your target,” Richt said with a smile.
The Commodores were caught off-guard.
“On the wildcat we were mostly expecting him to run, but they kind of just threw us off,” said Vanderbilt linebacker Nigel Bowden. “Everybody was coming downhill, so they got us off-balance and got their tight end to go downhill.”
Georgia began the day leading the SEC in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yards, and he had made his mark on special teams with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Clemson. His first career pass attempt was a special thrill.
“I was hoping,” Gurley said. “We worked on that a little this week. … We kept running a little power play. Eventually, it opened up room for the pass.”
Gurley, who also was a standout hurdler at Tarboro (North Carolina) High School, used his track background in a big run for the second straight week. He soared over Vanderbilt cornerback Taurean Ferguson on a 26-yard run to close the third quarter.
Georgia freshman Nick Chubb had 78 yards rushing, including a 33-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds remaining.
The Commodores, trailing 27-10, still had comeback hopes as they drove in Georgia territory in the third quarter. Those hopes were crushed when Devin Bowman intercepted Stephen Rivers’ fourth-down pass from the Georgia 29 and returned the ball 63 yards for a touchdown.
“We had a little bit of momentum and the wrong play was called and you look up and the ball is going the other way,” said Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason. “It was a bad play all the way around for us. I thought we were just starting to get our feet going and get some momentum.”
Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb ran for 77 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run. Steven Scheu had five catches for 74 yards.
Brice Ramsey took over for Mason on Georgia’s third series and completed two of three passes for 31 yards to set up Gurley’s 14-yard scoring run.
Mason completed 11 of 17 passes for 121 yards and one interception with scoring passes of 44 and 5 yards to Conley.
Thanks in part to Gurley, Blazevich had a game-high 86 yards receiving on three catches.
Rivers replaced Wade Freebeck at quarterback to lead a second-quarter touchdown drive that included a 36-yard sideline pass to Chandler Dorrell. Webb scored from the 1.
Freebeck led a fourth-quarter drive capped by Dallas Rivers’ 6-yard scoring run.
Freebeck completed 9 of 18 passes for 100 yards. Stephen Rivers completed 7 of 13 passes for 88 yards with one interception.
Malcolm Mitchell made his season debut for Georgia and caught an 11-yard pass. Mitchell’s 2013 season ended when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the opener at Clemson. He needed arthroscopic surgery after re-injuring the knee in August.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.