By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
ATHENS, Ga. — Two out of three ain’t bad.
Georgia is certainly not complaining.
Aaron Murray threw four touchdown passes, including a 25-yarder to Justin Scott-Wesley with 1:47 remaining, and the No. 9 Bulldogs rallied to beat No. 6 LSU 44-41 in a thrilling game between Southeastern Conference powerhouses Saturday.
The Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0 SEC) completed their opening-month run through a gauntlet of top teams with a victory that propelled them back into the thick of the national championship race.
“We’ve played some hard teams,” Scott-Wesley said. “It just shows we’re a great team. We can handle anything anybody throws at us.”
Georgia was only the fourth team since the BCS began in 1998 to face three top 10 teams in the first four games of a season. The Bulldogs opened with a 38-35 non-conference loss to Clemson, but came back to beat South Carolina 41-30 and now the Tigers.
“We’ve grown up a lot this past month,” Murray said. “I think everyone in the nation knows what Georgia football is about now. We’re a tough group of guys. We’re fighters.”
About 10 minutes after the game, the team ran back on the field to celebrate with their fans along the famed hedges at Sanford Stadium. Coach Mark Richt gave his wife a big kiss and hug.
“I’m just honored to be a part of something like that,” Richt said.
Now, the Bulldogs are well-positioned to make a run for their third straight SEC East title and trip to the conference championship game.
“We’re definitely happy,” Murray said. “If had to lose one of these games, obviously Clemson was the one, just because they’re in the ACC. Not saying we wanted to lose. Don’t get me wrong. But this is huge.”
LSU (4-1, 1-1) got a career-best 372 yards passing from former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger in his return to Athens, and the Tigers went ahead 41-37 on Jeremy Hill’s 8-yard touchdown run with 4:14 to go.
But that was plenty of time for Murray and the high-powered Bulldogs on a day when neither defense had much success. He completed three straight passes to quickly move the Bulldogs into LSU territory, and freshman J.J. Green broke off an 18-yard run to the Tigers’ 25. Then it was Scott-Wesley, breaking wide open behind the secondary to haul in a pass and tiptoe just inside the pylon for the winning score.
“We have a long road ahead of us to get back to the top,” Mettenberger said. “We have to win out.”
Murray ran for Georgia’s other touchdown on a sneak and finished with 298 yards passing.
“We all know your quarterback has to play well to win a game like this,” Richt said. “Aaron was phenomenal, gutsy, tremendous.”
Murray and Mettenberger were in the same recruiting class at Georgia, contending for the starting job in the spring of 2010. Mettenberger, a native of nearby Watkinsville, grew up cheering for the Bulldogs and dreaming of the day he could wear the red and black.
But his actions off the field cost him his chance.
Mettenberger pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery charges after an incident in a bar and was kicked off the team. But his ties to Georgia run deep — most notably, his mother, Tammy, still works in football operations for the Bulldogs. Richt gave her the week off because of all the attention surrounding her son.
The former teammates did all that could be expected of them.
Mettenberger had three touchdowns on 23-of-37 passing, continually burning the Bulldogs on third down. He completed a 25-yard pass on Odell Beckham on third-and-22 to improbably extend an LSU drive that led to Hill’s go-ahead touchdown.
But Murray delivered the final blow.
“They are both great players,” Richt said. “It was incredible how well they played.”Georgia finished with 494 yards, though the bulk of those came in a back-and-forth first half that ended with Georgia on top 24-17.
Georgia’s schedule gets easier the rest of the way, with only one more regular-season game against a team currently in the Top 25 — injury-plagued Florida.
LSU has a much tougher road, with games still remaining against top-ranked Alabama and No. 10 Texas A&M,
NO. 1 ALABAMA 25
NO. 21 MISSISSIPPI 0
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — T.J. Yeldon rushed for 121 yards, Kenyan Drake gained 99 and a dominating defense powered Alabama past Mississippi.
Yeldon scored on a 68-yard run and Drake added a 50-yard scamper to revive a struggling running game for the Crimson Tide (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference), which outgained the Rebels 434-205.
Ole Miss (3-1, 1-1) was seeking its first 4-0 start in 43 years but instead was shut out for the first time since Arkansas did it in November 1998.
AJ McCarron completed 25 of 32 passes for 180 yards with an interception for Alabama, which came in ranked last in the league in rushing. Alabama was held to 36 rushing yards in building a 9-0 halftime lead but gained another 218 on the ground in the second half.
Bo Wallace was 17-of-30 passing for 159 yards for the Rebels.
NO. 3 CLEMSON 56
WAKE FOREST 7
CLEMSON, S.C. — Tajh Boyd became the second Atlantic Coast Conference quarterback to account for 100 career touchdowns, leading Clemson to the easy win.
Boyd threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another score. He stands at 102 TDs, joining former North Carolina State star Phillip Rivers in the ACC’s century club. Boyd passed for 311 yards and ran for 69 to surpass Charlie Whitehurst as Clemson’s total offense leader.
The Tigers (4-0, 2-0) have won their first four games for the second time in Boyd’s three seasons as starter. He had touchdown throws of 64 yards to Sammy Watkins, 75 yards to D.J. Howard and 14 yards to Mike Williams as Clemson built a 35-7 halftime lead.
Tanner Price had a TD pass for Wake Forest (2-3, 0-2).
NO. 8 FLORIDA STATE 48
BOSTON COLLEGE 34
BOSTON — Jameis Winston threw for four touchdowns for Florida State, including a 55-yard Hail Mary as time expired in the first half.
Winston had first-half touchdown passes of 56 and 10 yards to tie the game after BC, coming off a 28-point loss to Southern California, opened a 17-3 lead. The desperation heave to Kenny Shaw made it 24-17, and then Winston added a fourth TD pass in the second half as the Seminoles (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) pulled away.
In all, the Florida State freshman completed 17 of 28 passes for 330 yards and ran 14 times for 67 more.
Chase Rettig completed 19 of 29 passes for 197 yards and a career-high four touchdowns for BC (2-2, 1-1).
NO. 10 TEXAS A&M 45
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Johnny Manziel accounted for 320 total yards of offense and threw two touchdown passes to Mike Evans to help Texas A&M pull away.
Manziel, who totaled 557 yards of offense in a win over the Razorbacks last season, was 23-of-30 passing for 261 yards and he rushed for 59 yards for the Aggies (4-1, 1-1 SEC).
Trey Williams had 83 yards rushing to lead Texas A&M, which finished with 262 yards rushing on 44 carries. Deshazor Everett had a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The win was the Aggies’ ninth straight on the road.
Quarterback Brandon Allen returned from a shoulder injury for Arkansas (3-2, 0-1), finishing 17-of-36 passing for 282 yards and two touchdowns.
WEST VIRGINIA 30
NO. 11 OKLA. ST. 21
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Clint Trickett threw a touchdown pass in his first start at West Virginia, and Ishmael Banks returned an interception for a touchdown.
Josh Lambert kicked three field goals for West Virginia (3-2, 1-1 Big 12), which rebounded from its first shutout loss in 11 years.
Trickett, a transfer from Florida State, became West Virginia’s third starting quarterback after Ford Childress was injured last week. Trickett finished 24 of 50 for 309 yards in his first start since subbing for EJ Manuel for the Seminoles in October 2011.
J.W. Walsh tossed three touchdown passes for Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1), but was intercepted twice.
NO. 12 SO. CAROLINA 28
CENTRAL FLORIDA 25
ORLANDO, Fla. — Mike Davis rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns as South Carolina overcame an injury to its starting quarterback, four turnovers and a halftime deficit to get the win.
Davis picked up the slack after starting QB Connor Shaw left with a sprained right shoulder following a hard tackle during South Carolina’s first offensive series.
Knights quarterback Blake Bortles threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns, but had two interceptions and a fumble.
South Carolina (3-1) also lost second-string tailback Brandon Wilds in the third quarter with a left elbow strain, but Davis remained steady as the primary ball carrier.
UCF (3-1) had all the early momentum, leading 10-0 at halftime, the first time the Gamecocks had been shut out in a half since 2010.
NO. 14 OKLAHOMA 35
NO. 22 NOTRE DAME 21
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Blake Bell threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard in the fourth quarter, and Oklahoma jumped to a two-touchdown lead in the opening three minutes.
It was the Sooners’ second win over the Fighting Irish in 11 meetings.
The Sooners (4-0) had three interceptions that led to TDs, including a 24-yard score by linebacker Corey Nelson. Damien Williams, suspended the previous game against Tulsa for violating team rules, added an 11-yard TD run after an interception by linebacker Frank Shannon.
The Irish (3-2) cut the lead to 27-21 in the fourth quarter, but the Sooners answered with Shepard’s TD.
Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees struggled for a second straight game. After three straight games of passing for more than 300 yards, he was 9-of-24 passing for a season-low 104 yards.
NO. 15 MIAMI 49
SOUTH FLORIDA 21
TAMPA, Fla. — Stephen Morris threw for two touchdowns before limping off with an ankle injury and Duke Johnson scored a TD in his eighth consecutive game, helping Miami roll to the win.
Miami (4-0) is off to its best start in nine years heading into next weekend’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener at home against Georgia Tech. At 0-4 under first-year coach Willie Taggart, USF is off to the worst start in school history and has dropped 13 of 14 dating to last season.
Morris threw for 222 yards, moving ahead of Steve Walsh and into ninth place on Miami’s career passing list. He tossed TD passes of 19 yards to Herb Waters and 34 yards to Stacy Coley as the Hurricanes scored on their first three possessions and amassed 251 yards of offense in the first quarter alone.
NO. 16 WASHINGTON 31
SEATTLE — Bishop Sankey carried a school-record 40 times for 161 yards and a touchdown and Keith Price threw for two touchdowns to lead Washington.
Sankey outperformed Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, the NCAA’s leading rusher in 2012. Sankey surpassed the school record of 38 carries set by Corey Dillon in 1996 against Washington State as stormy conditions forced both teams to limit their passing games.
Meanwhile, Sankey, who entered as the country’s No. 2 leading rusher at 148.7 yards per game, continued to be brilliant for the Huskies (4-0, 1-0 Pac 12). He carried for 101 yards on 23 carries in the first half alone as Washington built a 11-6 lead.
B.J. Denker struggled to cope with the wet conditions, finishing 14 of 35 for 119 yards and two interceptions for Arizona (3-2, 0-2).
NO. 20 FLORIDA 24
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Matt Jones rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown and Tyler Murphy threw for 156 yards and a score as Florida beat Kentucky for the 27th straight time.
Murphy also rushed for a 3-yard TD in his first career start for the Gators (3-1, 2-0 SEC), who closed a difficult week on a high note after losing starting quarterback Jeff Driskel and defensive tackle Dominique Easley to season-ending injuries.
Jones outgained Kentucky by himself while he and Murphy provided all of the Gators’ touchdowns in the first half to extend the longest active winning streak over a major opponent. Florida gave Gator wide receivers coach Joker Phillips a happy return after his firing last fall as Wildcats coach.
Joe Mansour’s 25-yard run on a fake field goal was the only TD for Kentucky (1-3, 0-1), which was outgained 402-173.