Murray explains, shakes off poor showing

semerson@macon.comOctober 30, 2012 

ATHENS -- Aaron Murray practically lives in the film room, but he was dreading going in this past Sunday.

“I tried not to get out of my bed,” he said.

It was easier for Georgia’s starting quarterback because he know how the film ended. His team won. And it’s also easier for Murray because he knows his job is safe.

There are a number of reasons for that. Top backup Hutson Mason is redshirting, and the other backups don’t have the confidence of the coaches yet.

More importantly, Murray is a third-year starter who has set school records and will set more.

Even at halftime of Saturday’s game against Florida, after Murray had been intercepted three times, there was no thought of benching him.

Head coach Mark Richt wouldn’t even entertain a question Tuesday as to when Murray could be replaced because of effectiveness.

“Aaron is the guy, period,” head coach Mark Richt said on Tuesday. “Aaron is the guy.”

Georgia survived the rough first half from Murray, and then he turned it around late. His touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell proved decisive in the 17-9 victory that vaulted the Bulldogs back into being the SEC East favorites.

Going over the game with reporters Tuesday, Murray didn’t make any excuses. He blamed poor mechanics -- not the wind -- for the interceptions. Specifically he mentioned his footwork, saying he “might have taken a slight step backwards in that category.”

On one interception, on third down in the red zone, Murray threw on the run and across his body. The pass, intended for receiver Rantavious Wooten, was tipped and picked off. On another interception, intended for tight end Jay Rome over the middle, Murray said he should have checked down, and he didn’t realize the Florida safety was sitting on the route.

All three interceptions resulted from Murray trying to throw over the middle, so the general agreement is that he needed to check down to a screen pass.

“I should have changed down to my fullback and gotten a nice three, four-yard completion,” Murray said.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo added that Florida mixed its coverages well, which caused Murray to be hesitant on his reads.

“But I was pleased with the way he finished the game,” Bobo said. “Going back and looking at it, before our last drive, when we were trying to eat out the clock with a first down running it, I think I called 12 out of 13 passes there. And he did a nice job there, going to the right spot and throwing with authority.”

On a lot of teams, three interceptions in one half would call for the hook or going run-heavy. But not the Bulldogs.

“It was a point where you can’t be one-dimensional against that team,” Bobo said. “Even though I thought we were run-blocking well, we still had to keep them honest and throw the ball, and it was gonna be in (Murray’s) hands. And I thought he responded well.”

In battling through the rough half, Murray was able to lean on two strengths: Experience and his always upbeat demeanor.

It would have been harder for a quarterback to come back and play well in that second half if he were younger or had a tenuous hold on his job.

“Oh, it would’ve been rough,” Murray said. “I’ve played in a lot of big games, and it’s just great that our defense was playing so well. We still had the lead, and that definitely gave us a lot of confidence.”

Murray also said his in-game conversations with Bobo were also positive.

“He doesn’t get on me too much (during games). He saves that for during the week during practice,” Murray said with a laugh. “He tells me to calm down and relax. And the locker room was all positive, from teammates and coaches. I wasn’t stressing or anything like that, or freaking out. I just knew I had to clean things up. It was great that our defense was playing so well. We were still up 7-6 at halftime. So I just knew I had to settle down.”

But to hear teammates tell it, Murray didn’t have to settle down too much, because he wasn’t in panic mode anyway.

“He doesn’t do that,” senior receiver Tavarres King said. “That’s a great attribute of a quarterback is not to push the red button. Stay focused, and stay as poised as possible.”

“I think his career here just speaks (for itself),” sophomore center David Andrews said. “He’s won some games, and I think our relationship off the field has a lot to do with that as a team. We’re all really close off the field. It’s frustrating, no doubt. But it’s frustrating for him when he’s getting hit by other teams when we’re messing up (as a line). So it’s just that bond between everyone, not losing faith in everyone.”

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