Bulldog Bites: Appreciating Mike Bobo, rewarding Mark Fox, anticipating Hutson Mason

Mike Bobo's offense has carried the Georgia team of late. (University of Georgia)

Mike Bobo's offense has carried the Georgia team of late. (University of Georgia)

Remember when Mike Bobo used to be Bulldog Nation’s favorite whipping boy? Then the Georgia offense went stratospheric under the former-quarterback-turned-offensive-coordinator (with a hand from Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley) … and Todd Grantham came along.

More and more Bobo’s contribution to Mark Richt’s program is being appreciated. Last year, Bobo signed a new three-year deal that gave him a decent raise to a salary of $575,000 after years of lagging on the list of SEC coordinators’ pay. And now, after managing to overcome a catastrophic run of injuries last season to still have one of the nation’s best offenses, Bobo has been rewarded by having another year tacked on to that contract, which now runs through the 2016 football season and its bowl games.

Athletic director Greg McGarity said Richt wanted Bobo and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to be “on the same page as far as the duration of their contracts.”

However, they’re not on the same page as far as compensation, with Pruitt making $850,000 annually, as did his late, unlamented predecessor.

Frankly, I believe Bobo deserved another raise in addition to a contract extension, considering what Georgia pays its defensive coordinators. Anyone who thinks Bobo isn’t every bit as important to the program as the defensive coach should look at the past two seasons, when the offense basically has carried the team.

SPEAKING OF CONTRACT EXTENSIONS

A couple of months ago, as Mark Fox’s basketball Bulldogs entered conference play with a disappointing 6-6 nonconference record and Fox widely considered to be coaching for his job, I don’t know anyone who expected Georgia to finish the season tied with Kentucky for second place in the SEC and getting a double-bye in the conference tournament because of its No. 3 seeding. After all, Georgia had been pegged in preseason to finish 11th in the SEC.

The fact that Fox managed to turn his team into the one other coaches in the conference say they don’t want to face as the Dogs approach a quarter-final game Friday night in the SEC tournament is pretty amazing. Georgia (18-12, 12-6 SEC) had its best SEC finish since it went 13-5 and won the league championship in 1990.

What’s even more amazing is that Fox did this with, at best, a modestly talented team. All along, we’ve known that Fox was a good game coach and an admirable steward of the program, taking care of his players and seeing them graduate. The knock on him as been his inability to land a big-name recruit other than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was SEC player of the year but left Athens early for the NBA after last season.

Mark Fox chatting with football coach Mark Richt. (University of Georgia)

Mark Fox chatting with football coach Mark Richt. (University of Georgia)

And yet, despite losing KCP and having a team whose best player, Charles Mann, only made second-team all-SEC, Fox guided his players to 12 conference wins, which tied for the second most in the program’s 81-year SEC history and included four tough victories on the road. If it hadn’t been for Billy Donovan’s Gators going 18-0, Fox might well have been been named SEC Coach of the Year.

As Kentucky’s John Calipari told Monday’s SEC basketball coach teleconference of Fox, “what he’s done and how they’ve played, and to go on the road and win a game that matters [at LSU last weekend to lock up the third seed] it just tells a lot. … They struggled early, but it’s a sign of a coach that keeps his team together and keeps them moving in the right direction. And right now they believe as much as anybody in our league that they have a chance to win this thing.”

South Carolina’s Frank Martin was right when he said that Fox “doesn’t get the credit that he deserves. … We’re in a business where everyone wants that instant gratification. Let me tell you something — Mark has built a program there. Mark has a system in place. He’s got young kids that are becoming grownups as we watch them and I think he’s the essence of the strength of our league.”

Yes, the bad early losses likely mean the only way Georgia can make it to this year’s NCAA tournament is to get the automatic bid that comes to the SEC tournament champion, which probably would require beating the high-flying Gators. But already the Dogs are considered a likely NIT team, and considering where they were at the end of December, that’s quite an accomplishment. Plus, Fox has a young team, which means Georgia’s prospects for next season look good in a conference that, after Florida, is middling at best.

Despite this season’s turnaround, however, UGA’s athletic director is still playing it coy about Fox’s future at Georgia. “Let’s wait until the season is over,” McGarity said Monday when asked about the basketball coach’s status.

Let’s say it plainly here: Not only does Mark Fox deserve to stay on as Georgia’s basketball coach, but with just two years remaining on his contract, McGarity needs to take away a negative recruiting tool for other programs by rewarding Fox with a contract extension.

Fox has earned such a vote of confidence.

LOOKING AHEAD

ESPN voters pick Hutson Mason to lead the conference in touchdown throws. (University of Georgia)

ESPN voters pick Hutson Mason to lead the conference in touchdown throws. (University of Georgia)

Despite the loss of record-breaker Murray, voters in a recent ESPN SportsNation poll apparently don’t expect the football Dogs’ passing game to be any less productive in 2014 than it was last year.

With more than 8,500 votes cast in the poll, Murray’s replacement at quarterback, Hutson Mason, got 32 percent of the vote on who’s likely to throw the most touchdown passes in the SEC this coming season. South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson was next with 27 percent of the vote, followed by Auburn’s Nick Marshall with 19 percent and Bo Wallace of Ole Miss with 16 percent.

As ESPN.com’s Edward Aschoff said, “It’s hard to argue with this one because Mason isn’t just talented; he has some quality receivers coming back. … from guys such as Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett. Oh, and he can just hand the ball off to a stable of running backs — starting with workhorse Todd Gurley — when he wants to give his arm a break.”

Obviously, a lot of folks think Mason is up to the challenge and can handle the pressure of following Murray … and that Bobo’s offense looks to have another good year.

Go Dogs!

JUNKYARD MAIL CALL

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

154 comments Add your comment

NoAxeToGrind

March 12th, 2014
11:14 am

Looks like Fox’s problem is diametrically opposed to Richt’s: Good coaching, mediocre players as opposed to mediocre coaching, good to very good players.What’s the disparity between the salaries? Might Richt be being overpaid?

heyberto

March 12th, 2014
11:26 am

I have to agree with McGarity’s stance that he not comment until after the season. If he opens up when it’s warranted to give a pat on the back, then it makes it appear that “waiting until after the season is over” comments as a metaphor for the death knell for a coach. Fox may deserve a vote of confidence from his AD, but I think McGarity is handling it correctly.

1969 Graduate

March 12th, 2014
11:33 am

CMB has pretty clearly seemed to improve, although there are too frequent signs of reversion to ineffective old patterns such as the let’s run up the middle again even though it’s not working at all solution.

How much of what was so apparently good about his offense was maybe more about Aaron Murray being a really talented quarterback?

Also, I have my doubts about the new heir apparent snap receiver. We’ll see how good he is, and, believe me, I hope he’s another fabulous quarterback in the mold of QC. If he’s not, will Bobo’s offense adjust well enough. We’ll see…

I agree though, that Bobo probably deserves a big raise, sort of. If he’s good enough for a contract extension, and particularly considering that the Dawgs did as well as they did last year with a bad defense, and bad special teams play, why not give him the money being made by the other coordinator? How closely does CMB’s salary line up with his peers in the conference? Are offensive coordinators mostly less well paid than defensive? Would we want Bobo to leave if he were offered a head coaching job?

Sometimes I wonder about what sort of head coach Mike Bobo might make. I don’t know all that much about him, just mostly what I infer from his play calling, and such.

Go, Bulldawgs!

Columbus Dawg

March 12th, 2014
11:54 am

One of the biggest things that will determine Mark Richt’s and therefore most likely Bobo’s future will hinge on whether or not they can cobble together a decent OL for 2014. If Richt is hell bent on starting Hutson Mason, he will need GOOD blocking up front. He has not gotten this recently. Bobo will have a tailback corps that is second to none for 2014, but the backs will need GOOD blocking as well. Richt’s theory of having a crap OL, and good skill players will not feed the bulldog in the SEC. Most believe that Pruitt will get the defense fixed, but the majority of folks I’ve talked to do NOT believe the same about Richt and Bobo’s side of the ball. To be a championship team you have got to get the best of the opponent’s D line, most of the time. That being said, I can only hope that Will Friend will want to step it WAY up to avoid being embarrassed by his friend Pruitt. If Georgia can get decent blocking up front, and Bobo has the good sense to use the exceptional runners available to him, then Mason may be adequate.

Bill mentioned that Bobo’s weakness for wanting to run up the gut even when it’s not working, it’s not working because they can’t get any BLOCKING. Fix that problem and it WILL work. It ain’t rocket science.

dawgfan

March 12th, 2014
11:59 am

Bobo can call some ball plays but I’d still like to see more emphasis on the offensive line.

He’s never going to take it to the next level without it.

TheExpert

March 12th, 2014
12:24 pm

I am a bigtime Hutson Mason fan. Followed him in high school, when he set all the state all time records like touchdowns in one game, in one season, and so on. He owns a lot of state all time records. I remember the time he threw 7 touchdowns in a playoff game.

he had 2 very strong games in 2013: Ap St, and the Kent game. When I say strong, we’re talking top 10 in the nation quarterback ratings on ESPN.

In the GT game, he had a tough first half, got behind by 20 points, but then pulled himself together and ended up winning the game. That was an impressive test of resilience. He just missed winning the bowl game, Lynch’s 3 drops on the last drive didn’t help, especially the drop on the easy pass at the 5 yard line, but Mason put his team in a position to win.

He didn’t put up impressive Qbr’s in his last 2 games, I think a 59 at GT and a 60 at Neb, odd, I expected him to be at 85+. Hope that trend doesn’t continue or he’s gonna be 0-2 after his first 2 games. He better fix that quick because Clemson and South Carolina’s defense will be better and faster than GT or Neb. Then he’ll face Florida who will have a terrific defense. Mizzou will not be a cakewalk, and Auburn will take his best game to get the win. All 5 of these teams will be better than GT or Neb, and since Mason only put up a 60 qbr against those 2, it has to concern you. He has a lot to correct, especially the interceptions, and sacks, drivekillers.

At Lassiter, Mason turned around a program that had never really done much. That impressed me.

I think following Murray will make his job a lot easier because the bar is very low. Mason can win the SEC Championship, win a National Championship, beat 5 or 6 ranked teams, and go down as a legend at Georgia. Even an SEC Championship would etch him in stone in Georgia lore. It won’t take much, the bar is pretty low after the disappointing years with Stafford, Cox, and Murray, no championships. It’s been a long, long time, and Mason can bring Georgia back to a Championship level team.

He will have immense talent around him, best receiving corp in the country, and best set of running backs in the nation. Pruitt, the guy the guy that has played on the last 3 National Champs, running the defense on the other side of the ball.

The odds are not good. Mark Richt does struggle with first year quarterbacks if you look at Greene, Stafford, Cox, and Murray, none won more than 8 of 12 games in the regular season, DJ did well but used his legs a lot, some won as few as six games in their first year, so there a lot of things Richt must correct in how he coaches first year quarterbacks, and Mason must really outcompete and outwork and outlead those 4 guys Greene, Stafford, Cox, and Murray.

I’d hope Gurley and some of the new running backs would carry the ball more than normal for a Richt team to take pressure off Mason. I’d hope Richt will use a short yardage high percentage passing game, and be patient, playing to Mason’s strengths of accuracy. I’d hope Richt will focus on turnover margin for a change. I hope Pruitt’s defense can force 15-20 turnovers like Grantham did in his first 3 seasons at Georgia. I hope Mason develops chemistry with a tight end quick, because he was known at Lassiter as the best quarterback at using the tight end, he’s very intuitive with his tight end.

The first two games will be toughest, we havn’t got off to a good start in a while. Probably be best to expect a key offensive player to be suspended due to AD McGarity’s strictest SEC policies. Need a new approach and a new plan to come out 2-0, more run, hurry up offense, short passing game, no turnovers, etc. It starts there, 2-0 vs 2 top 10 ranked teams, once that happens, the team will believe in him. But he has to win those 2 games to have a magical year.

PTheRicker

March 12th, 2014
1:42 pm

Football clearly dominates the attention of dawg fans; however, it’s good to see the bulk of the above article recognizing the b-ball team and their success this year.

For whatever reason, UGA fans just can’t get behind their basketball season, or the team in general. Only 2 sellouts all season. Adding to that point, it’s not like stegman is some large arena with a lot of seats to fill. Has there been an overiding amount of success….no. However, tell that to gamecock fans. They basically have had no sustained success in football until recently with spurrier, while they continued to pack-in their 80,000+ stadium during down years of the late 80s, 90s and 2000s.

Need some positive energy directed towards the b-ball team. both the administration and fans have fallen short of giving this program it’s just due and support.

Quit commenting that Fox is some bad recruiter. everyone tries to pawn that opinion as some novel proclamation. in response to comments that he’s weak in recruiting, remember that he’s pulled the Mr. B-ball in GA 2/5 years, while just missing out on Tony Parker (2x- first after hs and then as a transfer after last season…until alford came in at UCLA and made him a priority to keep on the team).
it’s well documented that his rosters aren’t going to be show-cased in the recruiting magazines or websites. Focus on the good and leave the negative comments at the door.

CONGRATS to Fox and the basketball team for the greatly improved season!!!

Rhall55

March 12th, 2014
2:16 pm

Columbus Dawg is 100% correct…time to re-evaluate Will Friend and TIME FOR CMR TO WIN A NC!!!

UGA Insider

March 12th, 2014
2:45 pm

Bobo still has mixed reviews in Athens. His inability to close out games against Vandy and UF are still fresh on fans minds. Bobo has to learn how to keep the foot on the gas and not worry about turnovers. I would rather lose the game on an interception than letting a team come-back because we run up the middle 3 straight times for 4 or 5 possessions. And there have been numerous games in the past when we did just that. UF actually had us beat because Bobo went conservative. Bad move.

Whatever is working just stay with it. Just because you have a 17 pt lead doesn’t mean the game is over. Especially when you have the worst punt team in the history of the SEC. It doesn’t make sense to me.

I will say I am damn proud of the HoopHounds!!! Very impressive.

Our Fanbase is filled with Morons

March 12th, 2014
3:20 pm

The players left in the game with Murray against Vandy were true freshmen running backs and wide receivers who were walk-ons. No deep threat so what did Vandy do? Stuff the box. That wasn’t Bobo’s fault. Florida? So it’s Bobo’s fault that Arthur Lynch dropped the ball? Catch that and he is still running and the blowout is on. Again, not Bobo’s fault. Just part of the black cloud that hovered over the 2013 team.

WDE

March 12th, 2014
3:20 pm

@TheExpert after reading your post I just have to say “HuH? Your beating your chest cause Mason had ” 2 very strong games in 2013: Ap St, and the Kent game. When I say strong, we’re talking top 10 in the nation quarterback ratings on ESPN.” How in the world can you even post that ?? It was freaking Ap St and Kent St…and while I hope Mason has a great year ,lets let him show us he is a world beater not just anoint him before the season. Oh yeah and all that disappointment you feel about AM just remember there was a reason he was the starter and not because he was the coaches pet…he was better.

jrmdvm1

March 12th, 2014
3:41 pm

I am very proud of the roundball Dawgs! Love watching them play as a team. We should stay with CMF, and these results will eventually draw some more talent. I think that while they are not “superstars”, our current players do have considerable talent, which, as has been shown, is maximized when they play effectively as a TEAM. As to Mason, my only qualms about him ( and about the coaching staff ) are that he has not had enough reps in practice or games before now. Maybe the changes to practice that have resulted from the input of CJP will mean that our subs will get more reps and therefore be more ready when needed. I can’t be too upset about a QB who threw a TD on his first play from scrimmage. If he gets his footwork corrected, look out!

he record is remarkable for UGA

March 12th, 2014
4:03 pm

Love to see UGA B ball played two times in metro ATL.

Mark Fox is a basketball coach. If over the next year or two, he can pick up some talented Ga HS Cagers, UGA ought to win 19-23 games per year consistently. His potential is this year with 4 more games in the Win column.

UGA cannot do any better than CMF and keep the kids in school working on a degree and playing very decent b ball.
UGa needs to provide ALL the resources that we can or Mark Fox will be recruited away.

UGA class of 71&73

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
4:17 pm

where there you have it Mason will win the National Championship according to TheExpert aka Dingle aka Redhead aka………….

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
4:20 pm

Im still waiting on TheExpert aka Dingle aka Redhead aka…………

to answer those questions from yesterday

I could really use an “Expert” opinion

RiffRaff

March 12th, 2014
4:26 pm

I think Hutson Mason is in a great situation this coming season. The offense is going to be loaded. If the OL can function as a group this could be the most balanced offenses in the SEC. Mason has the tools and just needs to manage the game. Go Dawgs!

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
4:30 pm

The offense was loaded in 2008 and we all know how that turned out

ARdawg

March 12th, 2014
4:55 pm

Bill King
Let’s not forget Bobo is still making over a half mil a year. Maybe your sympathies are a little misdirected? I believe that still puts him in the upper 10 percentile for OC’s in the country. Let’s not forget he still has frequent brain farts several times a year

ShowMeYurTD's

March 12th, 2014
6:13 pm

Worst brain “fart” by BooBoo was keeping Murray in the game he got hurt. He should be ashamed. I would like to see a fair competition at the QB position; we must play the best guy.

ARdawg

March 12th, 2014
6:23 pm

Also, Pruitt is a hot commodity. Fresh from major contributions to a National Championship team. Bobo hasn’t yet earn that distinction. These days and times, that makes a different in the money one can command. Pruitt has done it, Bobo hasn’t. Just to keep thing is proper perspective

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
6:37 pm

wow ARdawg wasn’t expecting that

Love the dawgs

March 12th, 2014
6:44 pm

ARdawg is a genius … NOT!

RedCap

March 12th, 2014
6:51 pm

@theexpert Good points, also, Hutson Mason had a higher ESPN QB rating for the Kentucky game than wonderboy Murray, same as in both guy’s first Bowl, so I look for improvement at that position. Also, good point that the bar is low, I agree, it’s been since DJ that any UGA Qb has won a conference championship. Hopefully Hutson is better than Joe Cox was after waiting his 4 years, and more like DJ was after waiting his 4 years. I’d say, 50/50 odds Hutson gets us an SEC Championship based on how Cox/DJ did, 50% chance he wins 8 games, 50% chance he wins 10 games.

RedCap

March 12th, 2014
6:53 pm

@showmeyur… Agree, we must play the best guy at quarterback. Mason will be on a short leash, if he goes 0-2, look for Richt to start getting ready for 2015 and rotating in Bauta & Ramey and some of these other qb’s, he might do that anyhow if Hutson has a tough Spring.

ARdawg

March 12th, 2014
6:57 pm

Flat but you know I call them like I see them.

ARdawg

March 12th, 2014
6:58 pm

Love the dawgs

I am no genius that is true. I do suspect my IQ easily would double yours but unfortunately for us both, that ain’t saying much

RedCap

March 12th, 2014
6:59 pm

Richt pulled Joe T a few years ago after he got off to a rough start, and went with Matthew Stafford, so it wouldn’t be a surprise, especially considering Richt’s thinking about 2015 and how he wants to get the 2015 some experience no matter what. Competition is good, hopefully after seeing how Mettenberger and Marshall did better than Murray, Richt will rethink his judgment & allow some real competition this go around at the Qb position instead of just going with his favorite. Then again, Richt doesn’t usually learn form his mistakes, tends to repeat them a lot, so we’ll see.

dawgfan

March 12th, 2014
7:05 pm

Dingle is now talking to himself. This is pure comedy.

DawgVoiceofReason

March 12th, 2014
7:14 pm

Redcap

Thanks for narrowing that down for us. So it’s a toss up whether we win a championship or not. Way to go out on a limb and make a bold prediction!

RedCap

March 12th, 2014
7:34 pm

@DVR you’re welcome. Now, if you want to dig deeper for why Cox went 8-5 and DJ went 10-3/

was it:
a) interceptions/turnover margin
b) ability to run the ball and throw–dual threat

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
7:37 pm

ARdawg

Ive been calling it like I see it for years. I totally agree with what you stated

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
7:47 pm

Mettenburger and Marshall did better than Murray?

Mettenburger lost to Clemson and lost to Murray

Marshall was the recipient of a miracle pass a miracle last second run back and a head coach that goes for it

RedCap

March 12th, 2014
7:52 pm

@FT both won more games as a percentage than Murray. Not even close.

You want a Qb who wins games or sets passing records?

RedCap

March 12th, 2014
7:55 pm

@DB it worries me, especially the 8 sacks and the 3 interceptions in his limited time on the field.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
8:02 pm

Mason lost against a lousy Nebraska team and barely beat laughable GT he’s 1-1 against 2 lousy teams

RedCap

March 12th, 2014
8:26 pm

@FT Nebraska had a pretty good pass defense, #32, GT, not so much, #85.

Florida, Clemson, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Tenn were all in the top 27 pass defenses in 2013, so if they’re about the same in 2014, could be a challenge. Those 5 games will be a tough out for a first year Qb.

Should he make it to the conf. championship, likely face another top 15 pass defense in Bama or LSU.

DawgVoiceofReason

March 12th, 2014
8:30 pm

While Mason made his share of mistakes, he was nearly done in by the D against Tech and was done in by both the defense and his receivers against Nebraska.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
8:33 pm

so we talk about winning percentage among certain QB’s and you make excuses for having barely winning against a sorry GT team and losing to a lousy Nebraska team

DawgVoiceofReason

March 12th, 2014
8:33 pm

Red

My thought would be that DJs success was due to both his running ability and the fact he was an accurate passer.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
8:34 pm

DawgVoiceofReason

March 12th, 2014
8:38 pm

I’m saying Mason played well enough to win both games, whatever you want to say abt his performance. Facts not execuses. How many game winning drives would Tom Brady have if his top receivers dropped his passes on those drives???

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
8:39 pm

Nebraska was 8-4 against a laughable schedule

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
8:43 pm

yea Mason played well to win

so did Murray the past 4 years

DawgVoiceofReason

March 12th, 2014
8:43 pm

And Tech was “sorry” while Nebraska was “lousy”? Not afraid to exaggerate to make a point are you?

DawgVoiceofReason

March 12th, 2014
8:46 pm

Flat

So you concede my point.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
8:46 pm

oh Im sorry

I should have mentioned Nebraska won the Big 10 and Tech won the ACC

RedCap

March 12th, 2014
8:47 pm

@DVR If you go back and check, Richt’s biggest seasons were all years when he pulled off a tremendous turnover margin. So, DJ was no different than Greene, or the big year Stafford had, DJ finished with 24 touchdowns vs just 5 int’s. That’ll get you to Atlanta.

In fact, as far as scoring goes, not much difference in Auburn & Georgia in 2013, just a diff in to margin.

For Georgia to roll and starting winning championships again, turnover margin has got to be job #1 again.

And a dual-threat Qb works well in the Sec, especially with first year starters, if you look at what Cam & Nick did, how Johnny drove Saban crazy, so dual-threat Faton Bauta might just be the answer if Mason keeps getting sacked so easily.

Buzz-Off

March 12th, 2014
8:56 pm

Sure wish the great players in Georgia would stay home and give Fox a chance. UGa could win it all with several superstars.

DawgVoiceofReason

March 12th, 2014
8:56 pm

Flat

Didn’t realize only conference champions could be considered better than lousy. Again more exaggeration. Don’t like being called on it do you?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

March 12th, 2014
8:58 pm

Murray was a duel threat QB but wasnt allowed to be one

DJ lost his bowl game remember those bowl game stats you like to give?

big year Stafford had? what championship was won during his time?

DJ’s best was a 2 loss season; like Murray

“DJ finished with 24 touchdowns vs just 5 int’s. That’ll get you to Atlanta.” If I remember Murray made it to Atlanta 2 times didnt he?