Aaron Murray has enjoyed some fine games at Georgia, but in Saturday night’s 56-20 victory over Florida Atlantic, the Bulldogs quarterback turned in the most prolific performance of his remarkable career.
The junior completed 14 of 19 passes for a career-high 342 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed three times for 20 yards and two scores. Murray’s previous best outing — yardage-wise — came last season against Vanderbilt, when he completed 22 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns.
“Aaron was very accurate and his stats are pretty sporty,” said coach Mark Richt, whose No. 7 Bulldogs (3-0) host Vanderbilt at 7:45 p.m. Saturday. “It was a group effort with protection and with route-running, but Aaron really delivered the mail tonight.”
“He threw the ball well and got us in the right play every time,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “It was just an awesome night for him … He threw the ball great and was on the money every time.”
It was quite an efficient performance as Murray averaged more than 24 yards per completion before taking the fourth quarter off. Two of his biggest passes also helped teammates Michael Bennett and Arthur Lynch achieve record-setting performances.
Murray – who threw completions to six different receivers — connected with Bennett on a 67-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, which was Bennett’s longest collegiate catch and led to a personal-best 110 receiving yards.
“It was a double move and the safety bit on it and Aaron got jacked up when he threw it, but it was right on the money,” Bennett said of his touchdown reception. “It just shows his toughness and it was a really great throw.”
“That one to Bennett was really nice,” Bobo added. “He ran a double move on their safety and Aaron got a little pressure and stood in there and hit the wide-open guy and took the lick.”
In the third quarter, Lynch collected his first career touchdown on a 36-yard strike from Murray.
“Bennett’s catch was great, but it was great for Artie to get his first catch, making a great move and diving out for the touchdown,” Murray said. “I’m very happy for him, but Bennett made a heck of a move on his guy to split the corner and the safety and separated after that for the touchdown.”
“Any sort of success Aaron has in football doesn’t surprise me in the least because of the level of preparation he puts into his game,” said Lynch, who finished with three receptions for 73 yards. “I guarantee you by this time tomorrow, he will have watched every Vandy game from this year and last year — that’s how he is in everything, including his schoolwork … I’m never surprised by him — I didn’t even know it was a record-breaking night.”
Murray is now tied for second all-time in Georgia history with 67 touchdown passes (tied with Eric Zeier).
It was a record-breaking night — the Bulldogs also set a new school mark with 713 offensive yards — but it wasn’t a perfect night for Murray. On his last pass attempt of the night, Murray was intercepted in the Florida Atlantic end zone by free safety Jeremy McKnight.
“He had the one bonehead interception — he’s trying to throw a back-shoulder ball to (fullback) Merritt Hall down there and they covered it,” Bobo said. “Sometimes when they cover it, you’ve got to eat it or throw it away.”
“I was pretty upset about the interception because I felt I’d had one of my most complete games I’ve ever had since I’ve been here and that kind of stunk to finish the game like that,” Murray said. “That was a silly mistake by me trying to force it in at the end of the game. I know better than that and it’s something I can’t do, but it was a great night for the whole offense, so I’m happy with the win and happy with the way we played.”
What may be even more daunting for Southeastern Conference opponents still on Georgia’s schedule is that Murray and the Bulldogs offense have the potential to get even better.
“Aaron’s already at a high level — a Heisman level, really,” Bennett said. “He’s doing great, but there’s always room for improvement. Everybody on this team has to keep that in mind. He’s got to prove himself again and he will.”