Mike Bobo quickly pushed back this week when someone brought up the fact that Aaron Murray is 0-3 against South Carolina in his career.
“He ain’t the only one that hasn’t beaten South Carolina,” the Bulldogs offensive coordinator said. “Ain’t nobody (at Georgia) in the last three years has beaten South Carolina. It’s not just Aaron Murray. Everybody’s got to do their part. We’ve got to block for him. Guys have got to make plays. We’ve just got to go play our game.”
As the quarterback for No. 11 Georgia, it’s Murray, the fifth-year senior, who gets his share of the blame for how the Bulldogs have fared against the best opponents on their schedule in recent years.
Murray was asked again this week — including on a national radio show — about his record against ranked opponents. He’s 1-9 against top-15 teams and 1-6 against top 10 foes heading into Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. game against No. 6 South Carolina in Athens.
“I’m not worried,” Murray said. “I don’t. Everyone’s going to focus on Aaron’s record versus top opponents, but we know it’s a team game and that’s all that matters.”
Murray completed 20 of 29 passes for 323 yards with an interception and no touchdowns in a 38-35 loss to then No. 8 Clemson last Saturday night.
“It was a high completion percentage, but our accuracy in the pocket was a little bit off,” Bobo said. “There were a couple of throws that if we had been accurate could have turned into big plays. There were some big opportunities lost.”
Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti had some pointed comments about Murray after watching video of the Clemson game.
“I still have some concerns about Aaron Murray,” Bellotti, now an ESPN analyst, said on air. “He’s not a tall quarterback (listed at 6-foot-1). They want him to throw from the pocket. His pocket presence this time, his feel for the pocket, is not what I would expect for a guy with his experience and he still can’t see.”
That’s what he said happened on a second-quarter interception when Clemson defensive end Corey Crawford dropped into coverage.
“Some of the things that he has to try to do, the interception occurred because of the zone blitz, he couldn’t see that defender dropping,” Bellotti said. “You have to be able to see him. If you’re going to force a quarterback to throw from the pocket, you have to give him a chance. Either spread the field, do some things to get him outside a little bit, but that’s not their M.O. on offense.”
Murray said a couple of 10- to 15-yard gains could have gone for up to 30 if he hit his receiver and gave him a chance to get yards after the catch.
Murray was effective when he moved out of the pocket. He hit Rantavious Wooten for a 33-yard gain and scrambled to find Michael Bennett over the middle for 11.
“Bennett made an unbelievable catch,” Bobo said. “He did a good job stepping up and making a throw; we’d like to make a better throw like he did hitting Wooten on the run. Overall, I thought he did a good job moving out of the pocket and we’ve got to be a little more accurate in the pocket.”
Murray didn’t waste any time critiquing his own play.
He watched the game six times, including twice on the bus ride back from Clemson — the second time with Bennett.
Murray was sacked four times, including once when he fumbled after a blindside hit.
Georgia coach Mark Richt, who said Murray overall “played a pretty good game,” said of the fumble that “when you work up in the pocket, you have to be firm with the ball in your hand.”
Said Murray: “When I feel pressure, I’ve just got to secure it a little bit better.”
Murray said Georgia actually had “a heck of a ballgame offensively” against Clemson mentioning the 545 yards of total offense–323 passing and 222 rushing.
In the end, though, Georgia and Murray lost another game against a ranked opponent and talk of his inability to win the big game — which wasn’t voiced by many after Georgia gained respect for going toe-to-toe in the SEC title game with Alabama — returned.
“It’s just the nature of the position,” Murray said. “The head coach and the QB are going to get the blame for the loss and probably too much praise for wins. … You’ve just got to roll with it and do what you need to do to get prepared each week.”