Todd Gurley with another Heisman-like performance

Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) tries to break free from Tennessee defensive back Brian Randolph (37) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 35-32. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Todd Gurley wasn't in the mood to discuss the Heisman Trophy.

He never is.

So we'll let a Georgia teammate speak for him.

''He's been my Heisman choice since the season started,'' Bulldogs cornerback Damian Swann said. ''I'm pretty sure he's about to put one heck of a campaign together.''

Actually, Gurley's campaign is already up and running.

Big time.

The junior running back added to his resume Saturday with a career-best 208 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a 35-32 victory over Tennessee, a performance that included one of those signature moments that figures to stick with Heisman voters throughout the season.

Midway through the fourth quarter, with Georgia clinging to a 28-25 lead, Gurley took a handoff from quarterback Hutson Mason, shook off two would-be tacklers in the backfield, and got loose down the sideline. Tennessee safety Brian Randolph raced over and dove at Gurley's legs, a familiar tactic for bringing down someone with his speed and power.

But the running back channeled his inner Edwin Moses - Gurley was, after all, a champion hurdler in high school - and leaped over Randolph. While Gurley lost his balance a bit on his landing, he still managed to sprawl forward for an extra 10 yards.

No doubt, that's a play you'll see over and over again this season, any time there's a discussion of the leading Heisman contenders.

''What he's doing, I've seen it. I've seen it in practice,'' Swann said. ''I mean, he ran track. He ran the hurdles. Jumping over a safety is like him jumping over a hurdle. So whatever he does, a lot of people might be amazed by it, but I just sit back and shake my head like, `He did it again.'''

Gurley set a school record with 293 all-purpose yards in a season-opening victory over Clemson, a performance that included 198 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, plus a 100-yard kickoff return. Against Tennessee, he put up the most rushing yards by a Georgia back since Garrison Hearst went for 246 in a 1992 game.

Gurley was at his best in the fourth quarter, when the teams kept trading touchdowns and the Volunteers had a chance to pull off a major upset. First, he broke off a 51-yard touchdown run right down the middle of the field, barely touched at all. Then, showing off his hurdling chops, he helped set up a Bulldogs punt that pinned Tennessee against its own end zone, followed by a fumble that Georgia recovered for a touchdown. Finally, after the Vols scored with just over 2 minutes remaining but failed to recover an onside kick, Gurley carried six straight times for a pair of first downs to run out the clock.

''Just a big freak out there running around with a lot of athletic ability,'' Mason said.

As usual, Gurley deferred when someone asked about his Heisman chances.

''I just worry about winning, dude,'' Gurley said in the locker room after the game, his pants covered in grass stains. ''If you win every game, that's going to come.''

The No. 13 Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) got off to a winning start as they began a stretch of seven straight league games, and regained control of their own destiny in the Eastern Division when South Carolina - which handed Georgia its lone loss - was upset at home by Missouri.

But this was hardly an impressive performance against a team that was blown out two weeks earlier by No. 4 Oklahoma, costing Georgia one spot in the latest Associated Press poll.

While Gurley and his freshmen backups, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, have led an impressive running game that is averaging 300 yards per game, Mason and the passing attack have yet to show they can beat teams through the air.

Mason, a fifth-year senior finally getting a chance to start after backing up Aaron Murray his entire career, still hasn't thrown for even 200 yards in a game this season. He was picked off twice by the Vols, helping Tennessee stay in the game.

In the end, Gurley's Heisman chances could largely rest on how well his team does - and that's still a work in progress.

''The Heisman really, in my opinion, is a team award in a lot of ways,'' said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who worked with a pair of Heisman winners, Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke, as an assistant at Florida State. ''You're not going to win unless your team is winning. You're really not.''

Richt paused and reconsidered that stance just a bit.

''Every once in a while, there's a guy that might be on an 8-4 team, an 8-5 team, that might be in the mix,'' he said. ''Todd is the kind of guy, I think everyone sees the talent. He can probably be on a team that's 6-6 and still be in the running with how impressive a player he is.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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