Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo noted this week that all the career retrospective talk as Aaron Murray gets ready to play his last game Between the Hedges in Athens is a bit premature. The season isn’t over yet, and Bobo said he told his record-breaking senior quarterback, “You’re not dead. I’m not hugging you till after this season. We’ve got to beat Kentucky.”
And that’s not always as easy as it might seem on paper. If you’ll recall last year’s game, a sleepwalking Georgia team seemed in danger of dropping one to the Wildcats until Murray basically put the team on his back and carried it to a win with a remarkable passing performance that saw him throw four touchdowns and rack up 427 yards passing in a 29-24 thriller.
That’s just one of the many times Murray has stepped up big for the Dogs. This season’s big wins over Top 10 teams, South Carolina and LSU, both saw Murray leading game-winning drives when they were most needed. And fresh in our minds is the way he led his team in almost pulling off a miracle comeback against Auburn.
Hopefully, the Dogs won’t need any fourth-quarter salvation on the part of Murray this week, but with the team coming off a deflating fluke-play loss to the Tigers and the tendency of Mark Richt teams to come out flat against lesser opponents, it wouldn’t be at all surprising.
Fortunately, Murray’s a gamer, always willing to do whatever’s necessary, even if it’s putting his own body on the (goal) line, as he did last week against the Tigers.
Now it’s time for the Georgia fans to show up for Murray. The prospect of less than a full house at Sanford Stadium for Senior Night was made even more real by the 7 p.m. kickoff. Thanksgiving break begins at UGA after the end of classes Friday and many students are heading home rather than sticking around for the game and then having to clear out Sunday morning before the dorms close at noon. My daughter told me this week that quite a few students have been trying to unload their Kentucky game tickets.
But that hasn’t stopped other, more die-hard UGA students from championing a special way to salute Murray and the 27 other seniors who’ll be taking to the field at Sanford Stadium for Senior Night recognition at about 6:45 p.m. Saturday. (The Dawg Walk is set for 5:05 p.m.)
Using the Twitter hashtag #BlackoutForAaron, they’re calling for everyone to show up for the game wearing black. Of course, they’d also like for Richt to dress the team in black jerseys for this last home game, an idea Murray himself first floated the week of the Tennessee game when the Vols announced they’d be wearing Smokey Gray uniforms.
Murray noted he’d never gotten to wear the black jersey so far. “It definitely adds a little bit of juice to you,” he said. “You look good, you feel good, you play good.”
And last week Murray again mentioned to Bulldawg Illustrated that he’d be “the happiest man in the world” if the Dogs got to wear black for the game. “I think everyone on the team would love to wear them,” he said. “It’s not just a senior thing. We got new gloves and new cleats last week and that was a huge thing. Everybody loved it. If we got new jerseys, everyone would pretty much go crazy for it.”
Richt was asked about the possibility of black jerseys on Monday night’s “Bulldog Hotline” radio show.
“If I had black jerseys to give them, I’d have them wear ’em,” the head coach said. “We just don’t have them. I don’t know if that’s going to break everybody’s heart or not, but we don’t have any black jerseys in stock. If we did, I’d be all for it.”
But the coach added that “if the fans want to honor Aaron Murray’s request and bless him and the seniors, and I’m sure our players would love if the fans did a Blackout. The players don’t necessarily have to wear the black jerseys to get a Blackout, do they?”
Richt said he’d join the fans in doing so. “I’ll wear black,” he said. “I’ll go all Johnny Cash.”
When another “Hotline” caller said he’d get on the phone the next morning to Nike and see about getting black jerseys delivered, Rick demurred. “I wish it were that easy,” he said.
Murray, for his part, downplayed the idea of black jerseys this week, saying, “If it happens, I won’t complain about it, but I’m more focused on winning the game right now.”
Still, the fans blacking out Sanford Stadium at night would be a tremendous send-off for Murray and the other seniors. As safety Connor Norman told The Red & Black this week, “Obviously none of that is up to us as players, but it’s cool to see the Georgia fans get behind us and get behind Aaron.”
So that appears to be that. The fans can stage their own Blackout even if the team wears its traditional home red jerseys. Richt seems to have pretty firmly quashed the idea of black jerseys, even though with Murray having first brought it up at the start of October it’s a little difficult to believe Nike couldn’t have come up with said jerseys for one of its most prominent customers.
Plus, of course, it’s worth noting that when Georgia first donned black jerseys for the Auburn game of 2007, the players knew nothing about it in advance.
Maybe that’s why even as we were listening to Richt’s comments Monday night, my son and I both had the same idea dancing around in our heads: Can you think of better way to lift up a beat-up, bummed out team than for them to return to the locker room after warm-ups Saturday to find black jerseys waiting for them?
There’d certainly be no danger of the team coming out flat in that case!
Even if that just winds up being our pipe dream, I hope all the fans show up Saturday night in black.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg