Bulldogs need Murray to continue to be great

dshirley@macon.comOctober 11, 2013 

Georgia Tennessee Football

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (11) looks for a receiver in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

WADE PAYNE — AP

Many Georgia fans, and others around the SEC, are counting out the Bulldogs for the rest of their season.

Despite a 4-1 start, including a 3-0 record in SEC play, the feelings are that Georgia just can’t overcome the staggering rash of injuries that has hit the offense and a defense that has struggled throughout this season.

But there is one factor that keeps Georgia in the conversation for the SEC and national titles: quarterback Aaron Murray.

In short, Murray has been great this season since the team’s season-opening loss to Clemson. Not just good. Great.

The Bulldogs, however, will need him to continue to play at that high level if they’re going to have the season they want to have.

The offensive weapons around Murray who made the Bulldogs so dangerous to start this season are now mostly gone: Malcolm Mitchell, Keith Marshall and Justin Scott-Wesley all have been lost for the season. Todd Gurley is banged up with an ankle injury, and there is no telling when that kind of injury will allow him to play at his previous level. It has been a stunning rash of injuries for this team to overcome, but the Bulldogs just keep winning, mainly because of Murray. Wide receiver Michael Bennett is out at least two games as the team eyes the Florida game for his return.

While Georgia’s offensive players continue to go down with injuries, the Bulldogs’ defense has struggled throughout the season. Georgia ranks 95th in the nation, allowing 32.2 points per game, and it will be hard for Georgia to be a championship team with those kinds of numbers. All the offensive injuries make things even more difficult.

But Murray has been the leader the Bulldogs have needed this season. He has thrown for 1,534 yards and 14 touchdowns while completing 64.9 percent of his passes with just three interceptions. Those are Heisman Trophy hopeful numbers, for sure, but the numbers alone don’t tell the whole story, not with all the injuries Murray and the Bulldogs have had to endure so far.

Georgia’s season continues Saturday against an undefeated Missouri team. That contest looks much tougher now than it did just a couple of weeks ago, but the Tigers really haven’t beaten anyone of note, so Murray should be able to pull the Bulldogs through that one.

The same could be said for next week’s game against Vanderbilt, along with games against Appalachian State, Kentucky and maybe even Georgia Tech.

But the annual trip to Jacksonville, Fla., to face Florida and a road trip against an improved Auburn team are going to be much more difficult. In those games, Murray is going to have to be great. With limited offensive weapons and a struggling defense, he’s going to have to continue to play at a very high level.

That might be difficult, but Murray’s play this season is proof he is up to that task.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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