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.

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410 comments Add your comment

Delbert D.

October 7th, 2011
10:27 am

Better question: “Is it perception when the numbers say otherwise?”

Aaron Murray = Tony Romo

October 7th, 2011
10:38 am

Aaron Murray just isn’t getting the job done like Tony Romo of the Cowboys. I just think Richt is very loyal to Murray just like he was with Martinez, and Bobo. There is no way a kid who led one of the toughest states in all of high school football in passing for two years be sitting the bench at the University of Georgia when the starter isn’t producing. Hutson Mason SHATTERED those records in the states largest classification, AAAAA, easily. I don’t understand why he can’t even get one series in a SEC game to at least see what he can do because Murray is not the answer and his record proves it.

Look at how big of a difference it made by Crowell starting this year compared to Ealey. Ealey just wasn’t as good as Crowell, and Murray probably isn’t as good as Mason. I was at the UGA/Boise game on the ninth row…. and Murray was playing terrible, he looked like he had no clue what was happening.

G

October 7th, 2011
10:40 am

To all Tech” Fans” who post on Bulldawg articles etc.

I get it it sucks to be the number 2 team in your own city and paper. Enjoy the cupcakes and please keep on winning so we can stomp you when your ranked high due to the lack of competition. Sorry the DAWGS run the state including the hood of Atlanta.

DawginTX

October 7th, 2011
10:41 am

The interceptions and not tucking the ball away concern me. Yes, he and Walsh are both in slumps, but I doubt either slump will last all year. They are both too talented.

Reminder

October 7th, 2011
10:47 am

This needs to be reposted frequently to remind dawggies what an embarrassment they are.

Georgia Tech had the nation’s best average SAT score for football players, 1028 of a possible 1600, and best average high school GPA, 3.39 of a possible 4.0. But because its student body is apparently very smart, Tech’s football players still scored 315 SAT points lower than their classmates.

Many schools routinely used a special admissions process to admit athletes who did not meet the normal entrance requirements. More than half of scholarship athletes at the University of Georgia, the University of Wisconsin, Clemson University, UCLA, Rutgers University, Texas A&M University and Louisiana State University were special admits. . . At Georgia, for instance, 73.5 percent of athletes were special admits compared with 6.6 percent of the student body as a whole.

Godawgs

October 7th, 2011
10:49 am

Maybe if Murray had a good offensive corr. he might be able to do something. UGA play calling to terrible. I can tell exactly what is coming by the formation we line up in. We need to fire BoBo the Dodo. Look at how are defense had turned around with a new man making the calls. HELLO!!! The offense needs a new offensive coordinator and that will fix the crappy play. If we ran more that five pass plays and five running plays we might have more production.

Expert Opinion

October 7th, 2011
10:51 am

It only “needs to be reposted frequently” because Tech can’t compete in athletics.

That AAU membership plaque sure looks good in the trophy case though… ;-)

DAWGtired

October 7th, 2011
1:35 pm

I have an idea…we should change our name from UGA to “Georgia Tech” and that way our supposed irrelevancy will be such that no one shows up on our blogs, even the fans. We’ll hang out on Auburn, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida blogs trolling our way into some sort of notice. That is the only way that ppl will know we still even exist in the state of Georgia. Oh wait, you say? There’s already a Trade School on North Avenue that does that? And they’re already called “Georgia Institute of Technology”? Who knew.

Top Dawg

October 7th, 2011
4:35 pm

Goes back to beginning of football…..When things don’t go right, the most popular player on the team is the backup quarterback.
Unfair? Very….Murray is a very good quarterback who will continue to improve.

Thomas Brown

October 8th, 2011
8:55 am

ATL Sports Fan October 7th, 2011 8:10 am

“Thomas Brown, your an idiot. Throws himself down so he doesn’t get hit. 4.7 40-yard for a QB is fantastic. GUess what, Lemay isn’t that fast!! ”

Excuse me Christian LeMay is FASTER than Aaron Murray. Christian LeMay will NEVER average 1 yards a carry on his entire career as Aaron Murray is doing, NEVER. You just type whatever you wish. I have no problem with you typing here. I do not wish you to SHUT UP. On the contrary every time you open your mouth, you LIE. Why would you state that your opinion is that Aaron Murray is FASTER than Christian LeMay ? You obviously own the internet and can look up the Nike times for BOTH. The Nike times for both are on Scout.com. So, you run in here and tell me “your an idiot.”

.

ugab October 7th, 2011 10:00 am

“Murray is our QB!! He knows the offense. He has big game experience.”

# 22 South Carolina LOST
# 12 Arkansas LOST
# 15 Missy State LOST
# 01 Auburn LOST
# 21 Central Florida LOST
# 05 Boise State LOST
# 18 South Carolina LOST
UNRANKED Colorado LOST
UNRANKED Florida LOST….. This is the BIG-GAME EXPERIENCE you mean ?