Notebook: QB Aaron Murray’s struggles coming mainly versus elite defenses

Aaron Murray says balance and footwork -- not nerves -- led to his poor first-half performance against Florida. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Aaron Murray says balance and footwork -- not nerves -- led to his poor first-half performance against Florida. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

ATHENS — Aaron Murray is every bit the video junkie. But unlike normal, he dreaded getting up this past Sunday morning to head over to the football complex to review the tape of Georgia’s game against Florida.

Well, the first half at least.

“It was not good,” Murray said, but smiling and laughing as he did. “I tried not to go in but I had to get in here and watch the film. Definitely, there were some errors.”

Definitely.

The Bulldogs’ record-setting quarterback was breaking some personal records on infamy as he threw three interceptions in the opening two quarters against Florida. But Murray rebounded with a 45-yard touchdown pass in the second half and Georgia held on for decisive 17-9 win over the Gators.

Murray’s final line was not one of his better ones: 12-of-24 passing for 150 yards, 1 TD and 3 interceptions. But coming out with the victory helped salve any wounds Murray might have felt.

“It’s definitely one of the top ones for me, regardless of personal stats in the game,” said Murray, who hails from Tampa and was heavily recruited by the Gators. “All that doesn’t matter. I play to win games and that win was probably the biggest one I’ve ever been a part of since I’ve been here.”

While Murray contributed significantly to winning the game, his performance against the Gators continued a trend of struggle in big games against elite defenses. That’s certainly not unusual; the best defenses are going to make quarterback look worse – but a lot of Murray’s mistakes against Florida weren’t necessarily made under the duress pressure. They were simply bad reads or bad throws, neither of which Murray normally does much.

The first one Murray tried to force into triple coverage, the second was badly overthrown and the third was delivered late and off target over the middle. Here’s Murray’s explanations:

  • Of the first interception, an attempt to tight end Jay Rome, Murray said: “I saw a window but it was a very, very tight window and the safety didn’t really back off at all. He pretty much sat on the route and I should have checked down to my fullback and gotten a nice little three- or four-yard completion.”
  • Of the second one, an overthrow on an attempt to split end Marlon Brown over the middle, he said: “That was probably the worst throw I’ve ever made in my life. That was just me trying not to make a mistake on a pass and trying to throw it like a dart instead of throwing it like a football. “
  • Of the third one, a hard over-the-middle throw for receiver Rantavious Wooten: “My feet just weren’t right and I was trying to throw it across the middle.”

Murray said his film study revealed it was mainly a matter of fundamentals. His tendency is to get off balance and neglect his footwork, which he is concentrating on improving in practice this week. But there is also evidence that Murray may be a little too pumped up and/or pressing in the Bulldogs’ most important games.

In his two games against Top 10 opponents South Carolina and Florida this season, Murray has completed 23 of 55 of passes (41.8 percent) for 259 yards and 1 touchdown with 4 interceptions. In his games against everybody else this season, Murray has completed 129 of 168 passes for 1,805 yards and 16 touchdowns with just 3 interceptions.

He has thrown 7 picks in three games against the Gators and had two interceptions in each of the Bulldogs’ final two games last season against LSU in the SEC Championship Game and Michigan State in the Outback Bowl. Both were Top 10 opponents.

“I don’t know,” quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo said. “The guy has performed so well over his career. The SEC Championship last year, he was on point in the first half and we didn’t help him out catching the ball. The bottom line is you’ve just got to relax and show you can play the way you’ve always played and be confident.”

Murray doesn’t believe he’s pressing more in big games, though he did say Bobo told him at halftime “to calm down and relax.”

“I’ve played in a lot of big games,” Murray said. “The locker room was all positive as far as my teammates and other coaches and I wasn’t stressed and freaking out. I just knew I had to clean things up. We were still up 7-6 at halftime so I knew I just needed to settle down a little bit and I’d be ready to go.A lot of my inaccuracy had to do with my feet not being on balance and that’s pretty much the reason. Come the second half, you could definitely see my footwork getting back to what it’s been during the entire season before and that’s when I started hitting more receivers.

The bottom line is Murray got the job done on Saturday, and his coaches and teammates have been unwavering in their support.

Asked if they’d considered making a quarterback change at any point in the game, coach Mark Richt snapped: “Aaron is the guy. Period.”

Jordan Jenkins’ stock is up

Richt confirmed on Wednesday that Jordan Jenkins has solidified his status as starter at “Sam,” or strongside, outside linebacker opposite of Jarvis Jones. Junior Chase Vasser is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury and senior Cornelius Washington has been playing primarily at a down lineman position since senior Abry Jones was lost for the season with an ankle injury.

Besides, Jenkins is playing lights out. The 6-foot-3, 257-pound athlete from Harris County has now started three games and, despite limited playing time early in the season, he’s second on the team in sacks (3), tackles for loss (6) and quarterback pressures (13).

“We’re going to play him as much as he can,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “He’s really come on and produced and really had a chance to have a sack the other night and he’s done some other good things. So we’ll continue to play him and try to get players that can make plays on the field.”

Having Jenkins opposite of Jones has proved particularly effective as teams are running away from the Bulldogs’ All-American only to find Jenkins at the ready. Occasionally, Grantham will pair them on the same side.

“Those two guys have got a pretty good pass rush, a pretty good twitch, get-off, and it allows them not to be able to say that they can totally go to this guy,” Grantham said. “If they do, it’s going to leave somebody else one-on-one. By doing that, though, a guy like Cornelius Washington went inside and that was really big for us. I thought Cornelius did good inside, so at times we had as many as three outside backers in there, maybe four every now and then.”

John Jenkins sidelined, Hall out

Starting nose guard John Jenkins was help out of practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury he suffered in practice on Tuesday. Richt indicated the 6-foot-3, 358-pound senior will be able to play against Ole Miss on Saturday.

“We think he’ll be fine but we didn’t want to put him out there today,” Richt said. “We think he’ll be ready.”

Richt said starting fullback Merritt Hall (ankle) did not practice and is likely out for Saturday’s game. He said junior Zander Ogletree, who played every fullback snap against the Gators, will start instead.

Etc. . . .

Cornerback Damian Swann was in a non-contact, green jersey but is not expected to miss any playing time this week. . . . Richt said Jamie Lindley handled all the kickoffs against Florida because Georgia wanted to attempt an onsides kick, Richt said. He won’t necessarily handle them against Ole Miss, however. “I don’t think Marshall (Morgan) is done with that,” Richt said. . . . Since it has been more than a month since the last home game, the Bulldogs expecting a big recruiting weekend. Among the unofficial visitors will be Grayson defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, the younger brother of Ole Miss linebacker and leading tackler Denzel Nkemdiche.

337 comments Add your comment

BostonDawg

October 31st, 2012
9:54 pm

GO DAWGS, beat Old Miss!

CaliDawg

October 31st, 2012
9:54 pm

kmarshall4

October 31st, 2012
9:55 pm

what took so long on jenkins starting anybody can see the kid is a stud go dawgs!!!

kmarshall4

October 31st, 2012
9:56 pm

jj and jj look out ole miss

cvilleryder

October 31st, 2012
9:59 pm

Gaters

October 31st, 2012
10:05 pm

He gets too hyped up. He needs to smoke some of those devil lettuce cigarettes to calm down.

joe jenkins

October 31st, 2012
10:06 pm

Jordan jenkins is a tar in the making….the guy is huge and only a freshman…..he should of been starting over vasser all along

St Simons

October 31st, 2012
10:12 pm

this must be the greatest team ever, to win with a qb this god-awful

the worst. period.

Dick Enewe

October 31st, 2012
10:13 pm

People can brag on AM record setting all they wont to be he is near awful against a good team. Pathetc.

bwell

October 31st, 2012
10:18 pm

Where is Ray Drew

joe jenkins

October 31st, 2012
10:19 pm

I would love to see murray quit turning the ball over….If he does, he will go down as one of the best qb’s we ever had………..Yall have to give murray his due though….he threw the winning td pass last sat…and he has a winning record against our most hated rival……

Irish Dawg

October 31st, 2012
10:20 pm

I may be wrong, but it looks to me that Aaron never looks at any other receivers except his primary one. That gives good db’s an advantage and will may it tough for him in the draft.

BobDawg

October 31st, 2012
10:27 pm

We play a Pro Style Offense people…. Step back from the cliff and take a deep breath… if it was so easy, Ole Cam and Mr. Vick and Mr Romo and others would be All Pro with it. Even Spurrier has gone to the spread to make it easier for his QB… BUT, if you want a chance against Bama, only the Dawgs can hang with them…. Watch how LS Who struggles this weekend against Bama with Mettenberger….

JaxDawg

October 31st, 2012
10:29 pm

Murray will have big games the next three weeks and strugle mightly against Bama… He is a good QB but will never get the job done against good teams. Murray has alot to do with that horrible record the last 3 years against top teams.

Real Fan

October 31st, 2012
10:36 pm

The kid is pretty good but no David Greene!

Voyager Dawg

October 31st, 2012
10:40 pm

Hopefully getting two in a row against Florida will exorcise some more demons. Murray is a tough kid and has had a great career so far at Georgia. I think they should let him run with the ball some more. I remember in his first year he would tuck and run some. May take some of the pressure off him trying to force something when there’s not much there. I hope he has a stellar day against Ole Miss and finishes out the season with consistency. Trick or Treat Let the Big Dawg Eat!

Age gap match

October 31st, 2012
10:41 pm

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Relax and Play The Game

October 31st, 2012
10:47 pm

Aaron. Let the game come to you. Prepare. Focus. And, by all means, just relax.

Throw and catch!

Don’t over analyze it! Good luck #11!

RUSH PROPSTS WET HANKY

October 31st, 2012
10:53 pm

BACK OFF PEOPLE! AM IS NOT THE BEST QB UGA HAS EVER HAD, BUT HE IS THE BEST WE HAVE RIGHT NOW. IT COULD BE WORSE, WE COULD HAVE JENNIFER DRISKEL. I ASSURE YOU THAT AM WANTS TO BE SUCCESSFUL JUST AS BADLY AS WE WANT HIM TO SUCCEED AND HE IS TRYING HIS HARDEST. I AM SURE HE FEELS MORE PRESSURE IN HIS “JOB” THAN MOST OF US DO IN OURS. DO YOU HAVE 93,000 PEOPLE SHOWING UP AT YOUR OFFICE OR JOBSITE CRITIQUIING EVERYTHING YOU DO?
HE IS 2&1 VS FLORIDA. EVEN STAFFORD DIDNT DO THAT!

Nick SATAN

October 31st, 2012
10:55 pm

Good point, two in a row against FU is incredibly important to UGA program.

lol

October 31st, 2012
11:09 pm

he needs to work on his “not running and throwing like a sissy”.

North Carolina

October 31st, 2012
11:14 pm

I think its Lemay time. AM is overated I have seen his kind before good in practice, great against lesser talent, will never win the big game. Actually he was given to much credit on the touchdown. Most of the work wasdone by Malcolm Mitchell. Bring on Christain Lemay and lets stop struggling.

The Dawg Consultant

October 31st, 2012
11:18 pm

I like AM. He is a Damn Good Dawg. He is also a “turnover machine”. Has been for almost three seasons now. Hard to put my figure on it; but something is missing. I feel for him.

I have a buddy who is a former pro scout, and his observation for what is it worth is this: “Murray is a hustle, attitude and hard work player. The kind coaches love. He leads by example. He simply doesnt have a natural feel for the passing game though. This is what top teams expose. Doesn’t mean he is not a top 20% college quarterback, but it does mean he can not carry a team by himself.”

icedawg

October 31st, 2012
11:24 pm

Murray’s late TD was mainly the nifty running of the receiver. The offense did not lose the game, but the defense won it.

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L.A. BULLDAWG

October 31st, 2012
11:33 pm

AARON MURRAY, WILL BE FINE GOING FORWARD! LOOK AROUND THE S.E.C., WHO IS A BETTER QB? MCCARON IS A CARETAKER OF ‘BAMA’S OFFENSE! MURRAY, IS NOT JUST A SNAP TAKER, HE TAKES CHANCES TO MAKE PLAYS! DRISKELL, METTENBERGER, ETC., CAN’T HOLD MURRAY’S JOCK!

Cmdawg99

October 31st, 2012
11:46 pm

The Florida defense won the game for us.. The 15 yard face mask call saved our backsides. Otherwise we were punting. Scary thought!! Boo!!

Alphare

October 31st, 2012
11:46 pm

Murray’s problem is, he is not a quick decision maker. That’s why he struggles against good team who give him little decision time. And, that’s why he holds on to ball for too long.

During the FL mid-game interview, coach Richt was obviously frustrated. Richt said Murray should do step 1-2-3-4 every time he has the ball. That way, I am assuming the coach’s thinking, he would make quicker decision, and won’t hold on to ball too long.

Yes, he is not a quick decision maker, that’s his fundamental problem. It’s been like that for 3 years. Coach Richt has been saying that for 3 years as I can remember. But quick decision making is a human trait, it’s hard to overcome even with Richt’s 1-2-3-4 step method.

Therefore, it’s my personal opinion, Murray is a fundamentally flawed QB.

just sayin

October 31st, 2012
11:49 pm

now, now chippie I think Murrey showed his mettle in the 2nd half against the gators top ranked defense…or is it something else?

Haka-Dawg

November 1st, 2012
12:05 am

Bring in LeMay? Get real man! Christian LeMay never start for UGA. He’s a good talent but he’ll have big challenges down the road… Hutson Matson, Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey. I still believe in AM. He’ll clean up his mechanics and I’m confident he’ll finish the season strong.

Le Go Dawgs!

Haka-Dawg aka SamoanDawg

Lamar

November 1st, 2012
12:14 am

Every time Murray has a EXCUSE FOR HIS TROUBLES!! If he knows what is wrong, then why does he keep DOING IT TIME AFTER TIME?? In games against average teams, HE NEVER MISSES GUY THAT IS OPEN, yet in big games HE LOOKS COMPLETELY LOST!! I will be glad WHEN HE LEAVES ATHENS!! Nobody believes this BUT MASON IS A BETTER QB! The reason Murray plays like he does in big games IS BECAUSE HE DON’T FEAR LOSING HIS JOB IF HE KEEPS IT UP!! In the Florida game if Richt had benched him for one series, YOU WOULD HAVE SEEN HIM PLAY BETTER WHEN HE GOT BACK IN THE GAME!! I sure don’t trust him, THIS KID PLAYED BETTER HIS FRESHMAN YEAR! In big games, HE IS LOST!! I hope somebody drafts him at the end of the year!!

GB's Hamburgers

November 1st, 2012
12:16 am

Murray is clearly doing his best. He’s been anointed and no other quaterback good enough to get a scholarship need apply. Before the year started Bobo said Murray should be better because he knows more of the offense. Must be one complicated offense. If Murray is better, it is against bad teams. Against good teams he is not. Now he says he’s throwing picks because of poor fundamentals, yet he somehow remains untouchable. In fact, it makes Richt angry if you ask a question about it. Again, Murray is a great kid. He has worked hard to improve. But what about the other kids that have aspirations who never seem to get a chance. Why do quarterbacks come to Georgia under this system?

GB's Hamburgers

November 1st, 2012
12:20 am

Lamar has nailed it pretty good.

murray

November 1st, 2012
12:22 am

Yea,, I am scared to death when I play a good ranked defense….I have nightmares and i wet my bed….

flo-ri-duh

November 1st, 2012
12:31 am

Bummer hasn’t played any top teams yet. Michigan was way over rated. Ole Miss played them tough and was still in the game in the 4th quarter so UGA better be ready for a well balanced offense and a better than average defense. I expect LSU to stay with Bummer saturday unless Mettenbubba screws up and turns the ball over. This could be another very low scoring game much like LSU’s win last year.

daddo

November 1st, 2012
12:49 am

Better than average defense? HAHAHAHAHA…and that would make Georgia’s? Alice Murray will fold like a napkin when he sees a Saban defense for the first time. He will be eaten alive, the offensive and defensive lines will be dominated by Alabama, you can’t run on them, Murray cant pass and u won’t even get that courtesy touchdown you got against that mighty, mighty, South Carolina defense. Good for you since you can’t kick PATS.

dboy scott

November 1st, 2012
12:53 am

@GB’s Hamburger…So they possebly be the 1st pick in the draft dumb a$$

Hugh

November 1st, 2012
1:02 am

Come on Chip. Are you really buying the “it’s my feet” excuse? No wonder Aaron’s making such poor decisions. He thinking about his feet when he should be thinking about finding the open receiver and not forcing the ball into traffic. It’s not his arm and it’s not his feet for goodness sakes. The problem is between his ears. And we are supposed to feel all better because we won the game and his teammates were nice to him? Anyone can learn from a loss. I want to see Aaron learn from this win. Yes we won – not because of Aaron but in spite of him. Come on Chip. Be a journalist.

dawgs01

November 1st, 2012
1:15 am

Enter your comments here

dbc

November 1st, 2012
1:18 am

UGA won in spite of AM. The kid is gritty, just not a big time QB. Beat Bama with poise and I’ll eat all the crow you want. I’m more worried about Ole Miss right now.

dawgs01

November 1st, 2012
1:22 am

I have always liked jordan jenkins since watching him play against griffin at harris county and in the under armour all star game. at that all star game practice through out the week, he was always one of the stand outs in each days practice report. He has a ton of upside to. He will put on 15-25 pounds of muscle and add some speed with that new strength he will get from a college s&c program. A college s&c program shocks the body so much that you have to have the worst genes on earth not to get huge. At the all star game they get all the players measurables and what stood out about jordan jenkins was his arm length or wing span it was the largest they had ever recorded not just for his ht. but for any ht. His wing span was larger than that of Jadevon Clowney which blew my mind. with that wing span a defensive end can be etremely dangerous especially as he keeps polishing up his hands. working with jarvis is gonna be huge for the kid too. Jordan has all the measureables that NFL scouts go crazy for so watch him while he is here this kid will go in the first couple of rounds probably the first.

j-dawg

November 1st, 2012
1:25 am

I really want Hutson Mason in there at center, but I’m ok with Lemay getting a shot. Murray is just too bad in the big games and lemay has shown he has talent in the brief periods he has been on the field.

Pazian

November 1st, 2012
2:16 am

Those who are saying LeMay has shown promise in the periods when he’s been on the field are just crazy. I think he’s thrown 2 passes this year and one of them was a pick-six. He doesn’t know the offense and he wont see the field this year even if Murray was to get injured.

Lemay

November 1st, 2012
2:44 am

I have been dreadful so far this year. In one game,i looked clueless with a pic and appeared to be lost. I can explain that, you see, I WAS lost.

By my Junior year, I might be ready but no way now, I am ready for anything pertaining to playing QB for UGA

Hale C

November 1st, 2012
2:50 am

He chokes……….Mentally he is a baby…….I still miss David Greene…

SSgt Dawg

November 1st, 2012
3:29 am

CMR drives me crazy with his loyalty at times. I don’t think Lemay is anywhere close to the answer butMason is a legit SEC Qb. He is very similar to Matty Ice. I would think that CMR should know that competition brings out the best in everybody. Jordan outplayed Vasser because he was given am opportunity. Maybe Mason wouldn’t have won the starting job, bit I’m sure it would force Amy Murray to play better. If anybody spots Ray Drew please let me know.

BobbyDawg

November 1st, 2012
5:08 am

There is a weak link in every defensive secondary, and Murray can’t be expected to find the weak spot on a moments notice. This is where the coaches and assistants come in by watching films and studying the opponents and getting Murray ready for the next game.
He’s the real deal but he can’t do it alone. GO DAWGS

JUNKYARD DAWG

November 1st, 2012
5:26 am

GET SoooooooEM you hairy DAWGS!

Hooty Goot

November 1st, 2012
5:29 am

junkyardbyrd

November 1st, 2012
5:51 am

A Murray is the most overrated player in UGA history. He doesn’t just play bad against good teams, but all teams. He hurts us more than he helps. Last year his turnovers accounted for 17 TD’s for the opposing team…17