TAMPA -- The homecoming game turned out to be kind of a bust for Georgia’s high-profile Tampa natives.
Quarterback Aaron Murray had a mixed performance, while tight end Orson Charles was a non-factor.
The only time Charles touched the ball was for a two-yard catch, on a shovel pass from Murray. It was a startling lack of action for Charles, who came in leading the team with 44 catches.
“There’s a lot of plays called that could have gone to Orson,” head coach Mark Richt said. “They ran a little bit more one-high-safety stuff that caused the ball to go outside a little bit more. Because of what they did defensively the ball ended up going to other spots.”
Murray echoed that, saying Michigan State put a lot of safeties near Charles, and the linebackers kept Charles bunched up, too.
As for Murray, the sophomore had 288 passing yards and a couple touchdowns. But he also had three turnovers, including an interception that was returned for a touchdown. And he couldn’t lead the team to scores in overtime.
“A little inconsistent. I missed a couple here and there,” Murray said, before turning it back to saying he was mainly disappointed because of the loss. “It stinks.”
Charles, who is considering whether to turn pro, was not among the players made available to the media. Junior safety Bacarri Rambo adopted a no-comment philosophy.
The defense has several players considering their options, including Rambo, outside linebacker Cornelius Washington and cornerback Branden Smith. The defensive star, Jarvis Jones, reiterated that he’s staying.
“That’s up to them. They’re all good players, and they’ve all got to make decisions best for them and their future,” said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who has 11 years of recent experience as an NFL assistant coach. “Obviously I’ll talk to them and lay it out for them for what I feel is best. But at the end of the day, they have to make decisions best for their individual success.”
A beleaguered record holder
Place-kicker Blair Walsh became the SEC’s all-time points leader, with 412, with his second-overtime field goal passing Billy Bennett, the former Georgia kicker. It was a positive sidelight in an otherwise dreary overtime for Walsh, who finished the season 21-for-35.
“You could say it wasn’t my year in a lot of respects, and that’s OK,” Walsh said. “And I work hard, I think that’s the most frustrating thing about it, is my work ethic and the will to succeed doesn’t really match the results this year. But hopefully I’ll get a chance at the next level to prove that.”
Head coach Mark Richt maintained confidence in his kicker.
“Walsh is a very talented guy. He’s a guy that I still have a lot of faith in,” Richt said. “I think he’ll end up being a good pro. I’m just sad that it ended the way it did.”
Georgia’s second-leading tackler this season, inside linebacker Mike Gilliard, didn’t play because of an ankle injury. Starting defensive end DeAngelo Tyson, also dealing with a bad ankle, was ruled out earlier in the week.
Then nose tackle John Jenkins got hurt near the end of regulation, injuring his arm when he picked off a pass that teammate Alec Ogletree batted.
Grantham said the injuries caught up to Georgia at the end.
“We kind of ran out of gas there,” Grantham said. “Really at the end of the game our rushers we’re really down to a couple guys. The guys that were in there they kept fighting, they played hard.”
A slow end for Crowell
Georgia tailback Isaiah Crowell, the SEC freshman of the year according to the AP vote, couldn’t finish the game because of an ankle injury. Richt said the Columbus native was hobbled with the same ankle that had bothered him near the end of the season.
“You work like mad, you rehab, to the point where you can go again,” Richt said. “But when you stress it with two or three defensive bodies at the same time and you get torqued in a direction that’s not natural, that’s what happens sometimes.”
Crowell finished with 850 yards. But he had 821 through nine games.
“He’s had some bumps and bruises and that’s part of it,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “Ken (Malcome) came in and he couldn’t go anymore (because of injury). We’ve gotta become more consistent with that position. I do feel there’s some talent there. And we’ve just gotta do a better job in that area.”