For all the focus from others directed on that pass from Aaron Murray that Alabama tipped in the Southeastern Conference championship game, the Georgia quarterback’s offseason has focused more on making the kind of plays Murray did a month later in the bowl game.
His feet, as well as his right arm, turned nothing special into something wanted: a 24-yard touchdown pass to Keith Marshall coming out of the backfield.
“The pocket was broken down, no one was open,” Murray said. “Escape, get out of the pocket and keep my eyes downfield. Boom. Make a pass. Touchdown.”
As Georgia opened preseason practices on Thursday, a major emphasis for Murray and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo in taking the fifth-year senior’s game to another level is in having him extend plays.
Like that score early in the fourth quarter in the Capital One Bowl, a 45-31 victory over Nebraska that left Georgia with a better taste than falling five yards short of the national title game in the Georgia Dome.
Murray scrambled right to avoid trouble and lofted a pass that gave Marshall a chance to make a play on the ball inside the 5-yard line.
“Plays like that where it seems like nothing’s there, everyone’s covered, the pocket might have broken down, escape and make a play,” Murray said.
“That’s just part of his game, one of the parts of his game he’s trying to expand on,” Marshall said. “He’s a great quarterback, he saw a little pressure and got out and made a play.”
It’s back to the future sort of for Murray, who has made his mark the last two years as a pocket passer.
“Earlier in his career, that’s really all he did is look to extend a play and run around,” Bobo said. “We worked hard at becoming a complete quarterback of progressing and working the pocket and going from your first progression to your second. Knowing when to throw the ball away and not forcing it, those things.”
The result: Murray’s 95 touchdown passes lead all active FBS quarterbacks and his 10,091 passing yards rank second. He was behind only Alabama’s A.J. McCarron last season in passing efficiency and set Georgia single-season records for touchdown passes (36) and passing yards (3,893).
Murray’s completion percentage jumped from 59.1 in 2011 to 64.5 in 2012 while his interceptions dropped from 14 to 10.
But, Bobo said, “sometimes when we go 1-2-3 (on progressions) we’re maybe just getting down and protecting the ball. There’s times when we’ve got to extend plays. College football’s so much now is you see guys that can extend a play with their legs. I’m not talking you’ve got to be RG3 (Washington Redskin Robert Griffin III) or (Colin) Kaepernick at San Francisco, those type of things but it’s a slide to the pocket, it’s a move to the right, it’s making a throw on the run.”
Murray should be able to make those moves and slide better since he’s in the best shape as a Bulldog.
“By far,” he said.
The 6-foot-1 Murray is now at about 203 pounds, he said, down some 10 pounds from last season. He feels learner and faster.
“I’m definitely feeling more agile than I was last year, more flexibile,” he said.
He’s done it in part by banishing watermelon sour patches as a go-to snack.
“I used to have those all the time. And Reese’s Pieces,” said Murray, who worked with Georgia’s nutritional staff on a plan. “I haven’t had junk food in like two months.”
Giving up some sweets in hopes of the sweet taste of finding the end zone even more.
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