ATHENS, Ga. --- The day began with Georgia's rookie mascot, Uga VII, the star of the show.
By the time top-ranked Georgia's 45-21 victory over Georgia Southern was over Saturday, another No. 7, junior quarterback Matthew Stafford, had finished up a career-day at Sanford Stadium.
"What did he have, about 300 yards?" said wide receiver Kris Durham, who led Georgia with three catches for 74 yards and his first career touchdown. "I was trying to keep up with it."
Stafford, the third-year starting quarterback who trimmed down this off-season and is in the best condition of his life, completed 12 of 21 passes for a career-high 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns with no interceptions in three quarters of work.
Opening the season No. 1 in the nation for the first time in the program's 116-year history, Georgia ran out to a 38-0 lead.
The luster, however, was taken off the win after Georgia Southern scored three second-half touchdowns and, more significantly, with news that starting defensive tackle Jeff Owens could be lost for the season with a right knee injury.
Stafford completed passes to eight different receivers and the Bulldogs fed off the big play all day. But there were some chances he wished he could get back.
"I missed some guys and missed some opportunities to make some plays, but for the most part we completed a lot of balls," Stafford said
Stafford at least got a consolation prize: a visit from Uga VII.
"I petted him there at the end," Stafford said.
Uga VII is the latest in a long line of pure white English Bulldogs to become Georgia's top dog after the death of Uga VI of heart failure in June. In a midfield ceremony, the transfer of power was made with university president Michael Adams slipping a red collar on the dog.
When the game began, four of Stafford's completions were for 36 or more yards, the first to freshman A.J. Green.
The wide receiver from South Carolina didn't waste any time living up to all of the hype, snagging a 36-yard catch on a post play on his first collegiate play to set up a 3-yard Knowshon Moreno touchdown run. Green caught his first touchdown on a 4-yard fade from Joe Cox with 7:46 remaining.
Stafford completed 11 of his first 15 passes, including a 61-yard scoring strike to a wide-open Durham, who outraced the secondary the last 35 yards.
The Bulldogs looked sloppy at times with seven penalties for 35 yards in the first half -- six on offsides or false starts. They finished with 11 for 70 yards.
Moreno rushed for 59 yards on eight carries with three touchdowns and had two catches for 53 yards. He provided a scare when he left the game with cramps after a 24-yard third quarter touchdown run. He said he just needed more fluids.
Combined with Stafford, Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher said Georgia has "two legitimate Heisman candidates."
Redshirt freshman Caleb King led Bulldogs rushers with 95 yards on 12 carries.
Georgia Southern was shut out for the game's first 40-plus minutes when it missed on a 36-yard field goal and had a pass picked off in the end zone by Dannell Ellerbe.
"In the second half, it got a little bit sloppy," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We did begin to substitute people and guys are out there learning what to do."
The Eagles scored with 4:27 left in the third quarter when quarterback Lee Chapple scored on a one-yard keeper to trim the Bulldogs' lead to 38-7.
"I would have liked to keep the score down to like seven points," defensive tackle Geno Atkins said. "I'm a little bit disappointed."
Behind an offensive line that fielded four first-time starters, the Bulldogs allowed one sack and put up 535 yards of total offense.
"This performance today was something to build on," center Chris Davis said. "It's nothing to be happy about, by no means."
Reach Marc Weiszer at firstname.lastname@example.org.