Football notebook: QB Murray starts hot, stays hot

Junior quarterback Aaron Murray got off to a sizzling start as the Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead against Vanderbilt.

Unfortunately for the Commodores, he didn’t cool off.

The Tampa, Fla., native completed his first 12 passes, good for third on Georgia’s all-time list for consecutive completions to start a game. The record of 15 was set by Eric Zeier against Georgia Tech in 1993 and by Quincy Carter against LSU in 1998.

“Aaron prepares like no one we’ve had,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “We’ve had guys that work hard. All our guys work hard in preparing. Aaron really takes it to another level in how he prepares for the game, and because of that, we have a high comfort level to let him check out of any play.”

At one point, Murray, who wears No. 11, completed 11 passes for 111 yards and one passing touchdown. The signal caller also had a rushing touchdown in the second quarter, giving him three rushing touchdowns in the last two games.

“My goal this year is to be consistent and focus on each play individually,” said Murray. “I break it down play by play by play. I give a lot of credit to my offensive line and the weapons I have when I’m in make it a lot easier for me.”

In just three quarters of play, the junior finished with 18-of-24 for 250 yards and two touchdowns through the air, in addition to his scoring run.

Georgia tailback Ken Malcome summed up Georgia’s offensive threats after Saturday’s game quite well.

“You can stop our passing one day, but you can’t stop the run,” Malcome said. “You can stop the run, but you can’t stop the passing.”

Against Vanderbilt, Georgia used a bevy of receivers and numerous tailbacks en route to the blowout victory. Senior Marlon Brown caught five passes for 114 yards and a score, and senior Tavarres King racked up four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.

“Whoever gets the ball is going to make a play,” said Brown, who was one of nine Georgia players to catch passes Saturday night. “We’re happy for each other. Since I’ve been here, I feel like the wideouts are so much closer this year than they have been in the past.”

On Georgia’s 12 play, 96-yard drive in the second quarter, junior Rhett McGowan caught an 11-yard pass from Murray in the second quarter to convert on a third-and-2 from Georgia’s 35-yard line.

“That’s what I prepare for every day—when my number is called to go in and make that play,” McGowan said. “Murray threw a great ball. The offensive line protected. It was a great play.

McGowan’s head coach agreed.

“He played well today,” Richt said. “He had a big third-down catch. He had man coverage and got off the jam beautifully and made a tough catch. I thought it was close to pass interference, but he snagged it anyway.”

One play later, Malcome scampered 30 yards to cross into Vanderbilt’s half of the field, and the redshirt sophomore added another first-down run later in the drive.

“Ken had some huge runs today,” Murray said.

McGowan finished with two catches for 26 yards and had a 19-yard punt return in the fourth quarter.

Malcome finished with six carries for 41 yards.

“It was good to see Ken break out too,” Richt said. “He’s been running well. We stack the pecking order (or running backs) the way we feel comfortable. We really feel like those three guys are going to get carries every ball game.”

Richt said he likes the number of weapons his team has on offense, and Murray’s maturation makes the engine go.

“We have a quarterback who can handle that,”  Richt said of his offense. The Bulldogs employ a system that leaves play-calling on the shoulders of Murray at the line of scrimmage, allowing the signal caller to check out of plays. “Because of it, you really don’t know where the ball is going to go. When we call certain plays, we don’t know who is going to get (the ball). We just assume get everybody out there, read the coverage and get the ball to who it needs to be thrown to.

“That’s why the ball gets thrown around to a lot of different guys. We really don’t know who is going to have a big day.”

Special teams struggles don’t harm Dogs

Georgia looked nearly flawless for the first half of its game against Vanderbilt Saturday night.

Only a few special teams mistakes prevented Georgia from a seemingly perfect first half. However, as much of the first half went right for Georgia, the mistakes did not directly cost Georgia, which entered the locker room at halftime with a 27-3 lead over the Commodores.

Following Georgia’s second touchdown of the night, kicker Marshall Morgan entered to attempt the point-after kick, but  Ty Frix’s snap went awry, leaving Georgia with a 13-0 lead.

In the second quarter, punt returner Malcolm Mitchell misplayed a punt near the Vanderbilt end zone, leaving Georgia in poor field position. His mistake was soon erased by a 96-yard touchdown drive that put Georgia 27-0.

“It had been like that all game,” Mitchell said. “It sounds bad, but every time I made a mistake, the whole team had my back. All the mistakes I made, (Vanderbilt) never capitalized on it.”

There were some bright spots for Georgia’s special teams. Mitchell’s first punt return of the night was returned 22 yards, setting up Georgia’s first scoring drive at the Vanderbilt 47.

The sophomore return man felt he just missed taking the punt back for a touchdown.

“I saw a couple of my blockers outside, and I probably should have stretched it a little bit more,” Mitchell said. “It was just a great job by the return team. Next time, it will have a different result.”

Georgia’s punt and kick coverage units enjoyed a first half similar to that of the whole team, pinning Vanderbilt inside the 20-yard line three times and allowing an average starting field position of the Vanderbilt 18.

In the second half, McGowan returned a punt 19 yards but was one defender away from a touchdown.

“There was great blocking by the punt return team,” McGowan said. “I’m hearing the turf monster was what got me. I’m hoping someone’s hand hit me, but I’ll have to look at the film and see.”

Vanderbilt racks up early penalties

A raucous Saturday night crowd made Vanderbilt’s first possession—and several thereafter—very difficult.
The Commodores were flagged for two false starts and a substitution infraction on its first possession.
The yellow flags continued to fly the rest of the half, as Vanderbilt was penalized nine times for 53 yards in the first half.

Quick hits

Captains for Saturday’s game were Murray, sophomore safety Corey Moore, junior guard Chris Burnette and senior defensive end Abry Jones…After being limited in practice this week, left guard Dallas Lee (sprained ankle) started Saturday against the Commodores. Backup Mark Beard played some snaps in the first half at left tackle, with starting left tackle Kenarious Gates sliding to left guard to spell Lee…Inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera led the Bulldogs with eight tackles. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones added seven tackles and a sack. True freshman Jordan Jenkins finished with two sacks… Defensive end Abry Jones left Saturday’s game with an injury, but Richt said after the game that he did not think the injury was “super serious.” … After allowing 40 combined points in the first half against Buffalo, Missouri and Florida Atlantic, Georgia allowed only three points the entire game Saturday.

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On further review, Richt actually said Todd Gurley is “about 90, 95 percent,” healthy. Now needs to get in top condition.

7 hours ago