Fan talk: Is Aaron Murray’s sophomore slump perception or reality?

Aaron Murray throwing interceptions has skewed the perception of how well he's playing. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Aaron Murray throwing interceptions has skewed the perception of how well he's playing. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

If having the other Bulldogs jump on the “G” could get our Dawgs that riled up, imagine what a week of having to listen to “Rocky Top” in practice could do. I know I’d be ready to tear someone’s head off and I’m hoping the Georgia D feels the same way come Saturday. Anyway, time to check in with the Junkyard Mail and see what’s on your minds as the trip to Knoxville approaches ….

Lamar Westbrook writes: I know Aaron Murray is a good QB, last year he proved it, but this year he is a liability to us. I hear Hutson Mason is playing as good or better than him in practice but he does not see the field any. I think Murray would start playing better if he felt threatened by somebody taking over his job. I think he knows the job is his no matter what and this makes him wreckless with the ball. If he doesn’t clean up the picks, it’s going to cost Georgia against a better team (remember the S.C. game)? I think Richt should start Mason one game, even if he only plays 4 minutes or 1 series of the game. This might be a wake up call to Murray because he is better than what he is showing lately. We all know this. Your take please. Thanks and GO DAWGS!

It’s obvious that the three picks Aaron Murray threw last week are responsible for most of the fan grumbling about him this week and talk of giving more playing time to backup Hutson Mason. But while Murray certainly has been responsible for some costly turnovers, he’s still a much better than average SEC quarterback, currently ranking third in the conference and 17th nationally in pass efficiency and ranking near the top of the SEC stats in passing yards and touchdown passes. The perception has been skewed, however, by the interceptions he’s thrown. But benching him for that just makes no sense at all. As for giving Mason more playing time, that’s problematic. He doesn’t have much experience against major opposition, and while I’m all for getting your backup some meaningful playing time (just in case), you generally don’t want to do that until the game has been safely put away. And the Dawgs’ second-half slumber has meant that’s not happening. Everyone points to the guaranteed playing time that D.J. Shockley got when David Greene was the starter, and while that experience no doubt helped Shockley once he became the starter, I clearly remember fans at the time lamenting how pulling Greene and sending in Shockley disrupted the rhythm of the offense. Remember when Shockley was inserted into the game and threw that pick against Florida in 2002? When it comes to Murray, I think former Georgia QB Buck Belue was on the money when he said: “Murray needs to pull his foot off the accelerator a little. … It’s time for him to understand what he can’t get away with. Protect the ball. Make some better decisions. Throw it away, if the play isn’t there.”

HollywoodDawg writes: Blair Walsh? Any thoughts or comments on why he has the “yipes” right now? New snapper? We know he has the same holder. Has the new off-season program affected his kicking? Any injuries to speak of?

It’s the same snapper and holder, and I don’t think they are the problem. It’s strictly between Walsh’s ears, a classic placekicker’s slump. I do think perhaps Walsh ought to listen to kicking great Kevin Butler, who thinks he might be a bit kicked out right now and should cut back on the overall number of kicks he’s making in practice and pregame.

Pete Cornish writes: Your article ignored perhaps a better [SEC expansion] alternative than FSU: Virginia Tech — always a top rate team, a national name, the Virginia/DC TV market and geographical balance to the conference. Like FSU, they would make the SEC East a little more competitive with the stronger SEC West. Also, you didn’t note that while FSU voted for the $20 million ACC exit fee, they and a few others kept it from being $35 million, which is the exit fee the ACC diehards wanted.

You must have missed my earlier pieces on SEC expansion. Virginia Tech has always been my No. 1 choice, for exactly the reasons you cited. But Virginia Tech officials have been pretty adamant that they’re not interested in leaving the ACC, and there’s been a lot of talk that legislators in that state like having VT and Virginia in the same conference. So FSU would be my first choice after Virginia Tech. There’s certainly reasons for possibly taking Missouri as the 14th team, but I still think either of the ACC teams would be a much better addition to the conference.

Mark Whitlock writes: I love your blog. I am taking my son to his first Georgia game. It’s my first since leaving Athens in 1991. His first NCAA game ever. What are the Dawg traditions at away games? I’d love to participate in all of them in Knoxville. Thank you.

Thanks, Mark. There isn’t a formal Dawg Walk for away games usually, but you should find plenty of UGA fans tailgating before the game in Knoxville that you and your son can share a few woofs with. Just look for the red tents! And my friend Steve, who follows the team on the road quite a bit, advises that if you’re around when the Redcoat Band arrives at the stadium, a lot of fans like to gather around them, sort of like a mini Dawg Walk. But the best away game tradition probably is after a Georgia win, when the players run over to the UGA fan section to celebrate. Let’s hope your son gets to experience that this Saturday!

Mike M. writes: Bill, I have noticed a couple of things and wanted to see if you have noticed them, as well. After Isaiah “stepped out of bounds” during his called back “TD” run in the 1st half, he seemed to sulk about it the rest of the game. There were a few close camera shots of his face and it’s almost like he was pouting that it got called back. Being the father of an 18 year old, I know maturity may be an issue. Also, we are not utilizing our obvious advantage of having 270 lb. Bruce Figgins at FB. With his size we have, in essence, another offensive lineman in the backfield getting a head start. Why wouldn’t we go for some of these 4th and short situations handing him the ball like we used to? Mark Richt-coached teams just seem to lack the killer instinct that he showed as an offensive coordinator at FSU. He seems more content with protecting a lead rather than play the psychological game of basically demoralizing the opponent when we get them down. Is he doing or saying something at halftime to cause the team to take their foot off the proverbial throat of our opponents? Are we trying to conserve energy for the next game to avoid a “letdown”? I hate to bring up negatives when we’re winning, but now that our defense is playing so well, it would be nice to have the offense do their part to give the “D” a breather or two.

I was at Saturday’s game and didn’t see the TV coverage, but if Crowell was pouting about anything, it was probably Richt deciding not to go for it on fourth-and-short a couple of times. As for not using the fullback in short-yardage situations, all I can conclude is that the coaches aren’t satisfied with Figgins as a ball carrier yet. Hopefully that will change the more playing time he gets at the position. And I agree that the Dogs need to keep their foot on the pedal in the second half. I hate watching a team sit on a lead.

Chad writes: Do you think all the SEC East teams can win is a division? There was a story on the CBS App that said basically all East teams will be is Miss Congeniality!

Frankly, I think the SEC East team will be the underdog in the championship game, no matter who it is, and rightfully so. A few years back we used to joke about how weak the SEC West was, but that certainly hasn’t been the case the past couple of seasons.

Hairy Dawg with the old UGA fireplug. (Patrick Garbin)

Hairy Dawg with the old UGA fireplug. (Patrick Garbin)

Greg Poole, aka ecdawg, writes: Hey Bill, enjoyed seeing your mention of the fireplug. We have been trying to get a grassroots movement going to bring back the hydrant.

I’m all for it! And courtesy of Bulldogs historian Patrick Garbin, Greg supplied the photo of Hairy Dawg with the plug and a video of the cheerleaders bringing it onto the field ahead of the team in 1980 that you can see here. It’s a grand old tradition that definitely ought to be revived.

Finally, Patrick Brooks writes: Bill, I have a theory that I think provides a good answer to what on the surface appears to be waning student support for the football team. Prior to 2009 students received a ticket book of physical tickets just like every other season ticket holder. Because these physical tickets were distributed before the season started 2 things were true: 1) there was a healthy secondary market whereby students who had a ticket but did not go to a game could sell the ticket to another student and 2) even if the ticket went unused the University had no way to recall the ticket to sell to the general public. Beginning with the 2009 season the University moved to a student ID ticket system where the tickets students ordered were automatically loaded on their student ID cards. This move had many positives, but one big negative was that it destroyed the secondary market. UGA also began a system where if a student was not going to a game they could elect to “donate” their ticket to an online pool before Wednesday on the week of the game and it would be transferred to a student who, again by Wednesday, requested a ticket if one became available. However, because there were no repercussions for choosing not to donate an unused ticket most students chose not to donate. Students desiring tickets quickly learned that their chances of receiving a donated ticket were small so they quit putting in ticket requests. Today the student ticket system is substantially the same, with 2 changes: 1) there is a penalty for not donating tickets (if you fail to donate 3 unused tickets you will not be eligible for tickets next year) and 2) you can donate a ticket to a specific student instead of just to a pool of tickets. The first change is meant to encourage higher attendance (and this is different from a sellout) at games by getting the tickets in the hands of those that want them; the second change has the potential to revive the secondary market. Because there is now a penalty for not donating unused tickets there has been a huge influx of donated tickets, but there has not been a commensurate influx of ticket requests. Because these tickets are electronic and not physical, the University now has the ability to recall these donated and unclaimed tickets and attempt to sell them to the general public. This gives the appearance of a sudden lack of student interest and support in the football team, but really all that has changed is the ticket system students operate under. I believe that as the University continues to improve its system and students learn that there are many tickets available to be claimed the number of tickets that become available on the Wednesday before every home to the general public will decrease. This new system will prevent sellouts the way they used to happen, particularly for our yearly “Coastal Carolina” game, but should end up producing higher attendance.

Whew. I think you’ve pretty well summed it it all up there. Frankly, I never understood why the university really cared about students reselling unused tickets to nonstudents. Seems sort of miserly on the school’s part.

Got a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

Find me on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

410 comments Add your comment

YourDelusional

October 6th, 2011
12:19 pm

Is it really true that there are no girls at tech? wow, no wonder techies spend their time on Georgia blogs, poor guys

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:19 pm

swimdawg, yes, UNC was #25 in the coaches poll. you know, the poll that is 1/3 of the BCS formula?

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:19 pm

Man I called it.

Reference Florida.

You’re reaching and you’re out of your league.

YourDelusional

October 6th, 2011
12:20 pm

Riding floridas coat tail to discourage uga fans, it must be a sad life to be a techie

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:21 pm

Post it expert. Then post those wins for UGA this year. Just post the FBS wins, Coastal doesn’t count.

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:22 pm

funny and sad at the same time: UGA fans riding history to help their self-esteem.

Next comment about stadium size in 3, 2, 1….

YourDelusional

October 6th, 2011
12:23 pm

Dang, UGA has to play tech in Atlanta this year, and here were the players thinking that they would never play in a high school stadium again, sheesh

Expert Opinion

October 6th, 2011
12:23 pm

@GT Joe

Regarding the Coaches Poll; there is the Top 10, and then there are the 15 other also rans.

At any rate, poll position means practically nothing until the end of the season.

YourDelusional

October 6th, 2011
12:24 pm

Whoa! you called it, you really are smart! wow

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:25 pm

We all know the records, who cares.

Tech has already lost to a team QB’d by Aaron Murray.

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:26 pm

Expert: 15 also rans? sounds like the SEC: LSU/bama and 10 also rans.

GTJoesDaddy

October 6th, 2011
12:26 pm

Son! Seriously, when are you going to move out of our basement and get a gf for christs sake! We thought you being a techie would give you such a great life but you sit on your computer all day talking to those people from UGA. We also thought you would meet a nice girl at tech, unfortunately all 60 of them were already taken by the football team.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:27 pm

when you haven’t played yet all you have is history. You’re not even making sense.

that history doesn’t bode well for Tech.

We’re not talking the 1920’s dude, we’re talking LAST YEAR.

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:27 pm

Hey Delusional: your boys should be honored to play in the oldest and winningest stadium in FBS.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:27 pm

Ask “who’s Aaron Murray?” again.

That was cute.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:29 pm

Wait, I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about history. LOL

either way, doesn’t work out well for you.

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:29 pm

ok funny, lets’ talk history. CPJ history. CPJ is 4-3 vs. the SEC, and 1-2 vs. UGA. one loss was an upset, the other with a backup QB.

The last 3 years have been coin flips. This year, only 1 team has gotten better. And it’s not the bullmutts.

Expert Opinion

October 6th, 2011
12:29 pm

GT Joe: Obsessed with SEC PE.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:30 pm

Georgia is 27-20-3 on that historic field.

LOL

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:31 pm

moral victories don’t count.

I don’t care about his record against other teams.

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:33 pm

If you can’t talk about this year, then talk history I guess. It’s all you got.

I don’t bring up 4 NCs vs. 1, or the most recent NC, or the most recent BCS Bowl appearance, or the most recent conference title. But I could.

Stick with history mutts.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:33 pm

WaitjustonedangMINUTE

October 6th, 2011
12:33 pm

Muarray is going to be fine, no worries. Bulldog fans RELAX. This kid is going to be OK. And the fans will return to Athens in droves. If he does not make it HOWEVER, there is a young stud QB in NAHUNTA, BRANTLEY COUNTY. This wunder kid is trashing defenses all over South Georgia. His name is is Josh LEXburger. Google the name, watch the film. He is only a feshman, word is Sabin (Ala) and Johnson (Ga Tech) are already watching him. My money still says Murray will do great things “twen the hedges”.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:35 pm

Do it. It’s more relevant than prognosticating about which team is better based on schedule comparison.

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:35 pm

When does the “fire richt” talk start back up?

Hankie Aron

October 6th, 2011
12:36 pm

GT Joe- Tech has played very well to this point and that’s to be commended. But, the true tough games for them at home and on the road are to come. The jury is still out on them and the #13 ranking is just that a ranking until the end of the year and the dust settles.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:36 pm

But again, the argument is about Georgia and Tech, not you being a proxy fan of the other schools Georgia has lost to recently.

arspub

October 6th, 2011
12:36 pm

Or the most recent BCS beat down by a lousy Iowa team…

Dirty Dawg

October 6th, 2011
12:37 pm

Hey Lamar – the first ‘guest’ questioner – I hope you’re right and young Mr. Murray remains ‘wreckless’, that way his auto insurance rates won’t go up much…now as for him being ‘reckless’ with the ball, perhaps you didn’t read Mark Richt’s comments about that, and certainly one couldn’t count on Billy here pointing it out – I really do think that the guy with ‘the fan’s perspective’ has got an agenda when it comes to Coach Richt. He, CMR, pointed out that the problems stem from several areas – pass rush and pressure…decision making…and route running – being the biggest. Agree that Aaron’s decisions, and he has admitted as much himself, haven’t always been ‘right-on’, but he’s the one with the most talent and will play until he either gets hurt or can’t get the job done. Huston will get his chances – and all but one will mean bad news for us (the one where we’re three or four TDs in front) – and hopefully he’ll perform well. Meanwhile AM’s our starter and team leader.

As for second half stuff, we cut down on the mistakes and turnovers and the rest will take care of itself. When you’re ahead and your defense is dominating, and your offense is, as Lamar tried to point out, being a bit ‘reckless’ with the ball, the tendency is to ‘dial it back’…so the answer is ‘better execution’ and we’ll be just fine.

Agree with Bill that the coaches must not think that Bruce Figgins can run ‘up the middle’ like our ‘traditional’ fullbacks have – they have been ‘low to the ground’, ‘powerful’ and ‘get behind their pads’ when they run – anybody 6′5″ or so doesn’t do that that well.

Young Mr. Crowell does seem to have a ‘maturity’ issue…along with a ‘need to get his rear-end in better shape’ issue. Did seem to me that there should have been better ‘camera’ evidence of his stepping out of bounds on that run, but since it was in front of the Georgia bench, they must have seen it as well, cause nobody seemed to complain. Maybe this weekend will be a good time to ‘introduce’ Boo Malcome to the rotation.

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:37 pm

i’m not basing anything on schedule comparison. I’m basing it on on-field performance. And so are the AP and USA Today voters.

But keep hanging your hat on your tough schedule. That and history. All you got.

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:38 pm

agreed hankie.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:38 pm

It never stopped.

You should be leading the “Fire Richt” charge, he’s 9-1 against Tech.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:39 pm

Ok, you keep arguing in “what ifs”

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:39 pm

You brought up the schedules.

Keep this up, it’s pretty funny to watch you backtrack and bring nothing of substance to the argument.

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:40 pm

no, i say keep richt. He gets outcoached by CPJ regularly.

Richt sure did own gailey though.

Shrimp N Grits

October 6th, 2011
12:40 pm

Ignore the Doosh Bugg.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:41 pm

typo, sorry, 8-1

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:41 pm

here’s some substance:

The ap voters and coaches poll voters see Tech FAR ABOVE UGA right now. Even DOOK got a vote in the Coaches Poll.

So don’t take my word for it.

Nick

October 6th, 2011
12:41 pm

STOP GIVING THE BALL TO RICHARD SAMUEL. PERIOD….

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:42 pm

wait what?

So regularly is once now?

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:42 pm

Your 9-1 record is about as relevant as our 8 game win streak against UGA in the 50s.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:42 pm

No one is discrediting Tech’s ranking.

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:43 pm

regularly means all 3 times we played. You don’t recall CPJ making Richt look like a fool last year by letting UGA score that last TD?

It’s chess, not checkers.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:44 pm

It’s pretty relevant when it’s the last 10 games, and it’s 8-1 and 8-2 overall in the last 10.

GT Jane

October 6th, 2011
12:44 pm

Joe, it’s time for your nap. You know you always get cranky when you don’t take your nap!

kevin

October 6th, 2011
12:45 pm

GT Joe,

You’re right, Richt’s been outcoached by PJ. That’s why PJ has been beat by Richt 2 out 3 years. Also, you have nerve making fun of UGA’s wins when the best team you played is UNC. We’ll see what happens when your mickey mouse high school offense runs up against a top 10 national defense (as UGA’s currently is)/ # 2 behind Bama in the SEC. You might want to wait until your team has won more than 1 game in 10 years against UGA to talk trash.

GT Joe

October 6th, 2011
12:45 pm

funny, was that 7 game streak relevant to the 2008 game? Thought not.

funny...

October 6th, 2011
12:45 pm

Wait, Paul Johnson is smart for losing.

Logic = not yours

BigORANGElittlecar(old pinto)

October 6th, 2011
12:45 pm

Bill DawginLex is wrong. I think your filters do a great job. I have been nailed MANY TIMES myself by them. I think it’s people like DawginLex that are the real problem. Bill, I know this guy has copied my blog name many times and I just LAUGH it off. After all it’s just fun. Talk a little football, talk a little trash, have a few BUDS and go to bed. Get up the next day and live in the greatest counrty in the world, repeat. Go Dogs.

dog in the woodshed

October 6th, 2011
12:46 pm

Bill, I’m glad you brought up the 2002 Florida game. As I recall we aa leading 10 – 0 and Greene was 10 for 10; I’m in the stands just assuming Richt would do what every other coach in major college foot would do and leave the hot hand in. BUt no, Shockley in ,pick 6 , and Greene was never the same in that game. Richt would not vary from his script even though everyone knew what a horrible decision that was. Fast forward 9 years a quote from Richt in Mark Bradley’s column from earlier this week: Er, no. Said Mark Richt, Georgia’s coach: “We have a certain [tailback] rotation. We’re not really interested in getting Isaiah 30 carries a game.”
That statement tells me that this coach would rather follow a script than have his best playmakers in the game at critical situation. What other great , or good , or average coach would do the same?