In his first game, Gurley ran for 100 yards and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. His first season saw the freshman phenom be named First-Team All-SEC. The first game of his 2014 season saw Gurley torch Clemson for 293 total yards and four touchdowns. Sadly, Gurley’s first game after a NCAA-mandated suspension was his last wearing UGA’s red and black thanks to a torn ACL.
But before the star running back became the St. Louis Rams’ first-round pick (10th overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft, his first completed pass made the Vanderbilt Commodores look like… well, the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Georgia vs. Vanderbilt: 2014
The Commodores entered this SEC East division matchup riding the coattails of a 31-27 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs the year prior; That home win in Nashville, Tennessee, was the fourth time in 28 years Vandy beat Georgia.
The Dawgs weren’t going to let it happen again at Sanford Stadium.
Georgia scored on three of its first four possessions in the first quarter — Two touchdown runs by Gurley, plus a 44-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Hutson Mason to Chris Conley jettisoned UGA out to a 21-0 lead. Vanderbilt got one back on a Ralph Webb touchdown run, but the celebration was short-lived.
With under three minutes to play in the second quarter, Georgia took possession at its own 20-yard line. I knew what the plan was; You knew what the plan was; Vanderbilt knew what the plan was: Feed Todd Gurley.
That’s the opposite of what long-time offensive coordinator Mike Bobo dialed up.
Todd Gurley’s 50-Yard Pass to Jeb Blazevich
Lined up in the wildcat (Wild-Dawg, perhaps?), Gurley faked a jet sweep and uncorked a left-handed spiral to find his big tight end rumbling free behind Vanderbilt’s defense. Blazevich fought off a Commodore defender before being brought down deep in Vandy territory. The 50-yard pass was Todd Gurley’s first and only career attempt.
1-of-1 for 50 yards. Not a quarterback rating, huh, Joe Burrow?
Mason finished the drive by finding Conley again for their second touchdown, extending UGA’s lead to 27-7 at halftime. Marshall Morgan’s extra point getting blocked was one of the rare miscues as Georgia beat Vanderbilt at home in Athens, 44-17. Gurley finished with 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Nick Chubb chipped in 78 yards on eight carries and a score of his own.
Gurley’s pass wasn’t his only highlight that day, though. He went full Aries Merritt and hurdled Vanderbilt’s Taurean Ferguson on a 26-yard run to close the third quarter.
Five days later, Gurley was suspended four games after it was determined the star running back >accepted $3,000 over two years for signing autographs and memorabilia. We know what happened when he returned to the college football field.
Georgia blanked Missouri the following week without Gurley, 34-0. As it turned out, losses to South Carolina and Florida kept UGA out of the SEC Championship Game, in which Alabama crushed Mizzou by 29 points. The Dawgs used mid-season wins over Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky to reach the Belk Bowl versus Bobby Petrino’s Louisville Cardinals.
The Dawgs closed the season with 37-14 beatdown of Louisville, capping a 10-3 campaign with a No. 9 ranking in the final AP Poll.
Head coach Derek Mason, who took over in 2014 after James Franklin’s departure to Penn State, is still trying to right Vanderbilt’s ship in a loaded Southeastern Conference. As for Georgia, Kirby Smart took over for Mark Richt in 2016, and the gang is rolling right along.
Gurley became 2015’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and made three All-Pro teams and three Pro Bowls with the now-Los Angeles Rams. Battling arthritis in his surgically-repaired left knee, Gurley signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons ahead of the 2020 season.
Former Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley flashed brilliance during his college days. Hopefully he remains healthy entering his age-26 season and beyond, and we’ll have plenty more “firsts” to look forward to.