On the 1 a.m. bus ride back to Georgia on Sunday, Aaron Murray sat and watched a replay of his team’s loss at Clemson. Then he watched it a second time. Then he watched twice more Sunday. Then once Monday and a sixth time Tuesday.
“My parents get upset because even after home games I come back to (Butts-Mehre) Hall and watch the game before I go hang out with them,” the Georgia quarterback said Tuesday. “I like to watch it when it’s fresh in my mind. That way I can see everything right away, see what I did, see why I made certain decisions and what the outcome was.”
The outcome following the vast majority of Murray’s decisions at Clemson was positive. He completed 20 of 29 passes and threw for 323 yards, despite being sacked four times and bent into several unrecognizable shapes while playing a beleaguered offensive line. But he committed two turnovers, and both were significant: A fumble following a blind-side sack at the Bulldogs’ 16 set up a Clemson touchdown that tied the score 21-21 in the second quarter; an interception by a lineman who had surprisingly dropped into coverage ended a potential scoring drive from the Clemson 30.
Georgia lost 38-35. The offense scored five touchdowns and accumulated 545 yards of offense, on the road, in a loud stadium, against one of the nation’s better teams. But the noise that has followed, emanating from the beer-infused yutzes on message boards, blogs and sports-talk radio, has mostly focused on Murray or offensive play-calling by Mike Bobo.
I guess it would be too easy to pin blame on mistackles or blown coverages by a defense that allowed 38 points and four scoring drives in six possessions after Georgia took a 21-14 lead. That would be too, I dunno, logical. Besides, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham just looks like a great coach, doesn’t he? He screams and stuff.
“It’s just the nature of the position,” Murray said of quarterbacks getting the blame. “You just have to roll with it.”
If he wants to stop the noise, this would be a good week to win.
The Dogs open SEC play against South Carolina. A win would diminish the significance of the Clemson loss. A loss, and the village will spontaneously combust.
Murray is unique among Georgia quarterbacks in history in at least one respect: He can’t beat South Carolina, but he can beat Florida. He’s 0-3 against the Gamecocks, 2-1 against the Gators.
Murray has no explanation for this anomaly, nor would he take the bait when asked if he would’ve expected something so bizarre when he signed with Georgia.
“When I was at Plant (High School in Tampa, Fla.) being recruited, I really didn’t pay attention to who was good and who wasn’t,” he said.
Wow, what a bad liar.
When Murray was a freshman in 2010, Georgia lost at South Carolina 17-6. He was sacked three times, and the offense didn’t produce a touchdown. In the 2011 meeting, the Bulldogs lost at home 45-42. Murray threw four touchdown passes, but was sacked twice by Jadeveon Clowney and committed two turnovers. Last season in Columbia, the roof caved in: a 35-7 loss in which Murray went 11-for-31 for 109 yards, an interception and two sacks.
His three-game totals: 44-for-81, 549 yards, four touchdowns (all in one game), two interceptions, one fumble and seven sacks.
“This is a big game, especially for the senior class,” he said. “But it’s a brand new team, a new season. We have to put what happened the last three years behind us.”
When Murray decided to come back to Athens for one last season, it was for games like this and a chance to win an SEC title. For him to succeed now, he will have to do so without the team’s best wide receiver, Malcolm Mitchell (season-ending knee injury).
But Murray is no less confident now than he was last week. The Dogs are deep in receivers and still have one of the nation’s better running games. The defense could, should, get better. But everything in football starts and ends with the quarterback.
Coach Mark Richt said Murray “overall played a pretty good game,” but faulted him for the fumble, even though it came on a blind-side sack. “When you step up in the pocket you have to be firm with the ball in your hand. You’re going to get hit, but you can’t spit the ball up,” he said.
After his six DVD game reviews, Murray picked at his flaws.
“There were a couple of balls here or there that were just off,” he said. “Instead of a 10-to-15-yard play, they could’ve been a 25-to-30-yard play. I have to make sure the guys can not only catch the ball, but also give them a chance to make plays after the catch (by leading them).”
When the South Carolina game ends, Murray will find a quiet place and watch the game again. He’ll find flaws to pick at. But if Georgia wins, the noise will diminish, at least until the next big game. It’s what he signed up for.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.