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Georgia's productive ground game could lead to continued run-first philosophy against Vols

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ATHENS, Georgia — Georgia relied on its productive running game to get well in a lopsided win over Troy.

There may be more run-first games ahead for No. 12 Georgia, which plays Tennessee this week. The Bulldogs will try to even their Southeastern Conference record following a loss to South Carolina on Sept. 13.

Georgia (2-1) was dominant in compiling 547 total yards, including 367 on the ground, in Saturday's 66-0 win over Troy.

That's an unusual run-heavy ratio for coach Mark Richt, who has had strong passing games through the years with such quarterbacks as David Greene, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray.

Clearly, Georgia's strength in 2014 is its depth of talented running backs. Richt said Sunday he could see the Bulldogs continue to emphasize that strength.

"Yeah it's possible," Richt said. "There's no doubt they're a talented bunch of backs and we're run-blocking pretty darn good and it's not a bad way to play a ballgame. It helps play-action pass and we like doing that, we always have."

The big numbers on the ground against Troy came even as star tailback Todd Gurley was pulled after only six carries as Georgia quickly built a big lead. Nick Chubb, who had been the second-leading rusher, had only four carries less than a week after surgery to repair his broken left thumb.

Freshman Sony Michel took the lead with 155 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

The running game produced big plays. Michel had a 75-yard run, Gurley broke free for a 48-yard gain and Isaiah McKenzie added a 49-yarder.

PHOTO: Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) runs for a first down in the in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Troy, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 66-0. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) runs for a first down in the in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Troy, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 66-0. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Gurley's short day wasn't the best way to boost his Heisman Trophy chances, but Richt said it is more important to keep the junior fresh for Tennessee and other SEC games ahead.

"Hopefully he'll have more energy next week because we're going to need it," Richt said.

Keith Marshall had five carries for 14 yards before being helped from the field following a hit to his surgically repaired right knee. Richt said Sunday he was told Marshall does not have another anterior cruciate ligament injury.

The running attack overshadowed another efficient performance by quarterback Hutson Mason, who completed 8 of 11 passes for 97 yards with two touchdowns. For the season, he has completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 419 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Mason said the focus was on "just taking care of business" following a tough 38-35 loss to South Carolina.

"We wanted to come out and move on from last week and just execute," Mason said. "The maturity of this team was really great all around. There were no lasting emotions from the South Carolina game. It was good to play our best and move on."

Richt said he expected Troy to gear its defense to stop the run. Instead, the Trojans didn't stack the box so Richt said there was no reason to stop calling run plays.

Georgia's first four plays of the game were runs by Gurley for 5, 48, 10 and 7 yards. Michel then took over with two runs, including his first of two touchdowns.

"We could have said 'Let's throw it 50 times and see what kind of success we can have' but we felt like it's more important to basically take what they give us," Richt said. "They really didn't pack the box.

"There were times we had passes called that we checked out of the pass into the run because we felt like they were vulnerable to the run game. A lot of it was how they lined up against us. It was a little bit of a surprise."

NOTES: Richt said CB Damian Swann, held out against Troy as a precaution after a hit to his head in practice, should play against Tennessee. Richt said Swann did not suffer a concussion. ... S Quincy Mauger left the game in the first quarter with what was described by Richt on Saturday as a "stinger" to his shoulder. Richt said Sunday "my guess is he'll be fine" for the Tennessee game.

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