JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It has become the norm in the Georgia-Florida football series: Georgia’s quarterback throws three interceptions.
Matthew Stafford did it in 2008, Joe Cox in 2009 and Aaron Murray in 2010 — all Georgia losses. On Saturday, for the fourth time in the past five Georgia-Florida games, UGA’s quarterback again was intercepted thrice — all in the first half this time.
Murray threw only eight passes in the half, connecting four times with Georgia receivers and three times with Florida defenders. The three interceptions were just one fewer than Murray had thrown in 199 passes in the season’s previous seven games.
“I was a little disappointed (at halftime),” Murray said, “but I told myself, ‘Hey, we’re still up 7-6. Start it over. It’s a new half. Go out there fresh and compete and finish the game up.’”
The game ended with one big difference from those other three-interception performances here: Georgia won, posting a 17-9 victory over the No. 2 Gators because the Bulldogs’ defense forced twice as many turnovers (six) as its offense committed (three).
In the opening half, the first interception of Murray came on a tipped pass when he threw into a crowd of Gators at midfield. The second came on another tipped ball with Georgia inside the Florida 10-yard line and primed to get at least a field goal. The third came when a Murray pass overshot his intended receiver and landed in the hands of a Florida safety, who returned it to the Georgia 11.
Florida got field goals out of Murray’s second and third interceptions, accounting for all of its scoring in the first half. But the Gators nevertheless trailed 7-6 because they matched Georgia turnover for turnover in the first two quarters, throwing one interception and fumbling the ball away twice (one of the fumbles leading to a Georgia touchdown).
“My teammates, the coaches, everyone, was coming up to me and making sure my head was up and making sure I was staying focused,” Murray said. “There was a lot of ballgame left to play, still 30 minutes to go, and anything could happen.”
Murray did not have a scintillating second half, but he eliminated the mistakes. He threw no interceptions as the Bulldogs played a turnover-free half. For the game, Murray completed 12 of 24 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown.
Florida, which had committed only four turnovers in its previous seven games, committed six in this one — three in each half. The Gators threw two interceptions and lost four fumbles. Georgia scored 10 points off the Florida turnovers.