UGA's Murray out to make amends against Gators

ATHENS -- No matter how many times Aaron Murray watches it –- and he figures it has been 15 or 20 -– last year's Georgia-Florida game is a horror film for the UGA quarterback.

Playing a college game in his home state for the first time, the Tampa native threw three interceptions, including one on Georgia's first offensive play and another on its last, as the Bulldogs lost to the Gators 34-31 in overtime.

A year later, Murray prepares for his second Georgia-Florida game on Saturday in Jacksonville, hoping to finally rid himself of last season's nightmare.

"I want to get that taste out of my mouth," he said, "and I want to be able to go home and not have all my friends ragging on me about losing to the Gators."

Murray concedes he had runaway emotions in last year's game, which he had eagerly awaited since deciding to sign with the Bulldogs over the Gators.

"I was a little too anxious ...  too juiced up," he said. "Hopefully I got that out of my system last year and can just go in there relaxed and play."

Murray's first-half turnovers –- two interceptions and a fumble -– led to 14 Florida points as the Gators built a 21-7 halftime lead. Murray steadied himself in the second half and directed a Georgia comeback that eventually sent the game into overtime tied at 31. But his third interception came in OT and was returned to the UGA 4-yard line, enabling Florida to win the game on a field goal.

"I think it was a learning experience for [Murray] and one of those that sometimes you have to go through to get better," said Mike Bobo, Georgia offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. "I know it ate at him for a long time, even this offseason. So I know he's going to prepare very hard, and I expect him to have a very good game [this] week."

It has been a while since Georgia received stellar quarterback play against the Gators.

In each of the past three Georgia-Florida games, UGA's starting quarterback has thrown three interceptions each –- Matthew Stafford in a 49-10 Georgia loss in 2008, Joe Cox in a 41-17 Georgia loss in 2009 and Murray last year. In those games, Georgia committed 12 turnovers to Florida's one.

Murray's fluctuations within last year's game -- the horrid start followed by a superb second half, and then the overtime interception -- underscored an inconsistency in his play that he has worked to smooth over.

"That's something we've been watching all year; we want him to be more consistent to start games," Bobo said. "There has been some improvement, but he needs to continue getting better in that area."

As Murray watched video of last year's performance against the Gators -- about eight times during the week following the game, another seven to 12 in the offseason -- he hardly saw the good things he did: 313 yards passing, three touchdown passes, the two-point conversion run that tied the game at 24;  he saw the mistakes, over and over.

Bobo worried for a while that Murray was obsessing over the game.

"Usually kids bounce back pretty easy," Bobo said. "They're ready to go, ready to get out there and play again, while coaches sometimes dwell on the past and think, ‘We could have done this, could have done that.'

"But he couldn't let that game go. He kept watching and kept watching. I was saying, ‘Hey, you got to let it go.' He was, ‘I just want to learn so I don't make those same mistakes again.'"

Such diligence is good to a point, Bobo said.

"He can't let last year haunt him," Bobo said. "He can't worry that he's got to be perfect. He's got to go out and play and react to what happens in the game."

After stipulating that each week's game is big, Murray said, "There's definitely a little bit more added to this one. It's Georgia-Florida. ... It's going to be guys flying around, trying to kill each other."

Murray did not grow up a Gators fan. He preferred Miami as a kid because his mother grew up in that city, and he later developed a brief allegiance to Texas for reasons unclear to him. Yet by the time he was a highly recruited quarterback prospect with dozens of scholarship offers, he had a strong desire to play in the SEC; his choice came down to Florida and Georgia.

"I enjoyed Georgia; I loved the coaching staff," he said. "I just felt comfortable coming here."

From the moment he made that decision, he knew the annual game in Jacksonville would be a stirring experience for him and his family. He attended the game for the first time in 2009, his redshirt season, and marveled at a stadium split down the middle between fans of the opposing teams.

"It's a fun atmosphere to be a part of," Murray said. "I love this game."

He has seen quite enough of last year's episode, though.