ATHENS, Ga. — Todd Gurley felt strong and healthy.
Boy, did it show.
In a performance that will surely cast him as an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy, Gurley scored four touchdowns and set a school record with 293 all-purpose yards, leading No. 12 Georgia to a 45-21 victory over No. 16 Clemson on Saturday night.
"I think he's the best player in America," Georgia coach Mark Richt said, "or at least one of them."
Gurley ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns. He returned a kickoff 100 yards for another score. He made the most of his limited touches on a sweltering night between the hedges, averaging 17.2 yards every time he got his hands on the ball and breaking Rodney Hampton's mark of 290 all-purpose yards, set in 1987.
"Hopefully I can get better," Gurley said. "I don't want to stay the same every week. That's not a good thing."
The junior running back is looking to shine after an injury-plagued sophomore campaign. He sustained a quadriceps injury that limited his carries in a season-opening loss to Clemson; later in the year, a sprained ankle caused him to miss three games and left him just shy of 1,000 yards rushing.
There was nothing to fret about at the start of 2014.
"Having those nagging leg injuries, man, that holds you back," Gurley said. "I didn't have those tonight. It's always good to start the season off healthy."
Georgia broke open a game that was tied 21-all at halftime, shutting down Clemson and a fast-break offense that didn't look nearly as effective without two of its departed stars, record-setting quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins. The Tigers were held to one first down and 15 yards in the second half.
"We've got to prepare harder and get better," said Cole Stoudt, Clemson's new quarterback. "I've got to keep improving myself and get better."
Hutson Mason turned in a nondescript performance in the first game of his only full season as Georgia's starting quarterback. The fifth-year senior, an understudy to Aaron Murray throughout his career, completed 18-of-26 for 131 yards and didn't do much damage downfield without speedy receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley.
It didn't really matter. Gurley pretty much finished off Clemson by himself.
He got rolling with a 23-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Then he electrified the crowd of more than 92,000 by taking a kickoff at the goal line, bursting through a gap straight up the middle of the field, and leaving everyone in his wake with a stunning display of speed.
Mindful of Gurley's injuries last season and not wanting to tire him out in the humid conditions, Georgia limited him to four carries, one pass reception (for a 5-yard loss) and that dynamic kickoff return in the first half.
The strategy paid off over the final two quarters.
Gurley just kept right on running like he wasn't even tired, while Clemson found it increasingly difficult to bring him down. In the final period, he pushed Georgia to a 31-21 lead with an 18-yard touchdown run, breaking a tackle at the line and cutting to his left to reach the end zone without being touched again.
Then, picking his way through a hole with a hand on the back of a lineman, Gurley suddenly broke free down the right sideline on his 15th, and final, carry of the night for 51-yard touchdown that turned a game that was close most of the way into a blowout.
|Tampa Bay - WP: J. McGee||6||FINAL|
|Toronto - LP: B. Morrow||5|
|Cleveland - LP: B. Shaw||4||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: P. Coke||6|
|Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann||3||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: J. Niese||0|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner||3||FINAL|
|Pittsburgh - WP: E. Volquez||7|
|Miami - WP: A. DeSclafani||5||FINAL|
|Philadelphia - LP: J. Papelbon||4|
|Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake||2||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - WP: M. Garza||9|
|Boston - WP: J. Kelly||8||FINAL|
|Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas||4|
|Minnesota - WP: T. May||6||FINAL|
|Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi||4|
|Colorado - LP: J. Lyles||1||FINAL|
|St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales||4|
|Atlanta - LP: M. Minor||3||FINAL|
|Texas - WP: C. Lewis||10|
|Houston - WP: D. Keuchel||6||FINAL|
|LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago||1|
|Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw||4||FINAL|
|San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit||2|
|San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne||6||FINAL|
|Arizona - WP: Z. Spruill||8|
|Oakland - WP: J. Lester||4||FINAL|
|Seattle - LP: C. Young||0|
|NY Yankees - LP: D. Robertson||2||FINAL|
|Baltimore - WP: D. O`Day||3|
|Tampa Bay||9/18/14 7:25 PM|
|(23) Ohio State||66|
|(14) So Carolina||38|
|(10) Ole Miss||56|
|(25) Oklahoma State||43|
|(9) Notre Dame||30|
|New Mexico St||24||FINAL|
|(6) Texas A&M||38|
|(15) Arizona State||38||FINAL|
|(5) Auburn||9/18/14 6:30 PM|
|(20) Kansas State|
|Connecticut||9/19/14 7:00 PM|
|Old Dominion||9/20/14 11:00 AM|
|Troy||9/20/14 11:00 AM|
|Georgia Tech||9/20/14 11:00 AM|
|Eastern Mich||9/20/14 11:00 AM|
|(11) Michigan State|
|Iowa||9/20/14 11:00 AM|
|Bowling Green||9/20/14 11:00 AM|
|Maryland||9/20/14 11:30 AM|
|Tulane||9/20/14 11:30 AM|
|Hawaii||9/20/14 1:00 PM|
|Marshall||9/20/14 1:00 PM|
|North Carolina||9/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Army||9/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Virginia||9/20/14 2:30 PM|
|(6) Texas A&M||9/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Rutgers||9/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Central Mich||9/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Utah||9/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Florida||9/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Louisville||9/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||9/20/14 3:00 PM|
|Indiana||9/20/14 3:00 PM|
|San Jose St||9/20/14 3:00 PM|
|Texas State||9/20/14 3:00 PM|
|Massachusetts||9/20/14 3:00 PM|
|Georgia State||9/20/14 5:00 PM|
|Appalachian St||9/20/14 6:00 PM|
|Miss State||9/20/14 6:00 PM|
|Northern Ill||9/20/14 6:00 PM|
|Middle Tennessee||9/20/14 6:00 PM|
|Utah State||9/20/14 6:00 PM|
|Miami-Ohio||9/20/14 6:00 PM|
|Idaho||9/20/14 6:00 PM|
|Ball State||9/20/14 6:00 PM|
|(14) So Carolina||9/20/14 6:30 PM|
|(4) Oklahoma||9/20/14 6:30 PM|
|Ga Southern||9/20/14 6:30 PM|
|UNLV||9/20/14 7:00 PM|
|(22) Clemson||9/20/14 7:00 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|Miami-Florida||9/20/14 7:00 PM|
|New Mexico||9/20/14 7:00 PM|
|New Mexico St|
|California||9/20/14 9:00 PM|
|Louisiana||9/20/14 9:30 PM|
|(2) Oregon||9/20/14 9:30 PM|
|San Diego St||9/20/14 9:30 PM|
|Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois||6 pm||X||42-20|
|Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St.||2:30 pm||X||35-24|
|Sep 13 - at TCU||3 pm||X||30-7|
|Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St.||3 p.m.|
|Sep 27 - at Michigan||TBA|
|Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern||TBA|
|Oct 18 - vs. Purdue||11 am|
|Oct 25 - at Illinois||11 am|
|Nov 8 - vs. Iowa||TBA|
|Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State||TBA|
|Nov 22 - at Nebraska||TBA|
|Nov 29 - at Wisconsin||TBA|