Quarterback Aaron Murray had a shaky first half Saturday night against the No. 3 Florida Gators, but as the redshirt junior signal caller has said all season, all that matters is winning.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was 12-of-24 passing for 150 yards and a lone touchdown. Murray threw three interceptions against the Gators.
“Stats don’t mean anything to me,” Murray said. “At the end of the day, a win is a win, and that’s what I’m happy about right now.
For Murray, the statline wasn’t pretty, but watching Malcolm Mitchell jaunt 45 yards to the end zone midway through the fourth quarter made all Murray’s troubles go away.
“Malcolm made an unbelievable play on man coverage,” Murray said. “They pretty much brought the house from the weakside, and I liked my matchup. He made the catch, and it was just Malcolm being Malcolm after that.”
His only touchdown pass of the night capped a grueling game for the Tampa, Fla., native. He finished 12-of-24 passing for 150 yards and the lone touchdown, but his three interceptions kept the game within the Gators’ reach in the first half.
“It was a sloppy first half,” Murray said. “It was a struggle. It always is.”
At the half, with the Bulldogs leading 7-6 despite Murray’s turnovers, Georgia coaches (and former quarterbacks) reinforced their confidence in their third-year starting quarterback.
“I said, ‘Hey son, we’re winning the ballgame. You’re going to have to win this ballgame,’” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He seemed very confident to me. I said, ‘Be convicted when you throw the ball. Don’t be timid.’”
Coach Mark Richt added, “The only thing I told him is, ‘You have a timer in your brain. … Don’t just stand there, pump it six times then throw it under duress. Don’t do that.”
In the second half, Murray responded, going 8-for-16 for 116 yards. In the Bulldogs only touchdown drive of the second half, Murray completed four passes on seven attempts for 80 yards.
“I was a little disappointed (after the first half),” Murray said. “I just needed to be more respectful with the football. I told myself it was a new half.”
Saturday’s victory marks Murray’s first career win over a top 10 team. The fact that the win was over Georgia’s biggest rival made it even sweeter for the Florida native.
“I’m going to go home tonight and sleep well,” Murray said. “It’s a great victory for the University of Georgia.”
Jenkins thrives against Gators
When Abry Jones went down last week against Kentucky, Georgia coaches were forced to move outside linebacker Cornelius Washington back to defensive end. Luckily for Georgia, the move opened the door for freshman Jordan Jenkins to receive his third start.
The Hamilton native finished with a pair of tackles, a half tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry, and he served as a compliment to fellow outside linebacker Jarvis Jones in the Bulldogs’ relentless pass-rush.
“Jordan played well,” said Richt. “He did a good job, and he played hard.”
Jenkins said he entered Saturday’s matchup against Florida with a chip on his shoulder.
“I love it when people doubt us or are talking trash,” Jenkins said. “It fuels me inside to play even better and shut them up.
Jenkins said his mentality was shared by his defensive teammates.
“We know what we’re doing, and we’re not soft,” Jenkins said. “I feel like across the board everyone had that same mindset. That’s what brought us together.”
Jenkins’ proclaimed mentor, Jarvis Jones, had a big game, but Jones was impressed by his protégé.
“I think (Jordan) made a lot of plays tonight,” said Jones. “Jordan’s ceiling can be high. I think he might be better than me some day.”
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham added, “I think Jordan is a guy that’s going to be a really good player. He’s just young. He’s got to continue to develop, and when he does, he’s going to make plays like you saw tonight.”
Gurley shines in Jacksonville outing
After limited outputs against South Carolina and Kentucky, freshman Todd Gurley returned to form Saturday against Florida.
“(Todd) is a horse. We tried to ride the horse a little bit tonight,” Richt said. “He’s a very physical kid that usually gets yards after carries. He definitely secured the ball extremely well with 27 carries and no fumbles. That was big.”
Gurley gashed Gurley finished with 124 yards on a career-high 27 carries. He broke through against Florida’s vaunted defense on a 10-yard touchdown run on Georgia’s first possession of the game.
“We started off with the run,” said Gurley, who rushed for 51 yards on 8 carries in the first quarter alone. “We were doing a pretty good job with it, so coaches kept running with it. We were pretty successful with it tonight.”
Gurley also was an effective weapon for Murray in the passing game, catching two passes for 23 yards.
Swann comes up big with turnovers
Georgia cornerback Damian Swann was all business after the Bulldogs 17-9 victory over Florida.
“It was big for us,” said Swann. “We were challenged this week. We felt we had to step up to that challenge.”
Swann wasted no time making his presence felt against the Gators. Florida’s first possession ended abruptly when Swann forced a fumble by Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, and Jarvis Jones recovered, giving Georgia the ball inside the redzone.
Swann came up big for the Bulldogs on Florida’s first possession of the second half, as well. Swann was on the receiving end of an errant pass by Driskell, and after a 15-yard return, Georgia took over at the 25-yard line before kicking a field goal to take a 10-6 lead.
Swann said a physical week of practice helped prepare Georgia for the emotional game in Jacksonville.
“We had to get back to physical Georgia, the way we know how to play football,” said Swann. “We hadn’t played to our best the whole season, and we had a good day today.”
Swann also said the defense received a boost from Jarvis Jones’ return to the lineup. Jones has been hampered by injuries since the Missouri game and sat out last week at Kentucky.
“We know a lot of things start with Jarvis,” said Swann. “Jarvis is a tremendous player. We feed off Jarvis. What he does motivates us. Jarvis makes a play, and we feel we gotta make a play. And we did that today.”
Starting fullback Merritt Hall left the game with an ankle injury on Georgia’s second offensive play and did not return. With backup Quayvon Hicks already sidelined with a concussion, Zander Ogletree made his second appearance of the season and caught two pass for 13 yards. After playing regularly in 2011, Ogletree made his first appearance of the season at Kentucky a week ago. Bobo said Ogletree “hadn’t had a lot of reps, but for him to come in and play like he did, I thought he did a nice job.”
Jarvis Jones’ three sacks against the Gators give him 22 in his two-year career, which ranks seventh in school history. Bacarri Rambo’s second quarter interception moved him into a tie for second in Georgia history with 14 career interceptions.
Georgia has now won two straight over the Gators for the first time since a three-year stretch from 1987-89. The Bulldogs improve to 49-40-2 in the series.
Captains for Saturday’s game were Murray, Washington, redshirt sophomore Connor Norman and junior Chris Burnette.