Quarterbacks Murray, McCarron in SEC title game spotlight

ATHENS -- Aaron Murray isn’t talking to the media this week, but plenty of people are talking about him.

One of the top conversation pieces in advance of Saturday’s SEC Championship game is the matchup of Georgia’s Murray vs. Alabama’s AJ McCarron — quarterbacks who rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the nation, respectively, in passing efficiency.

Dogs hope Aaron Murray's play speaks for itself Saturday.

Dogs hope Aaron Murray's play speaks for itself Saturday.

“The quarterback position, with two great defenses, will determine who wins this game,” ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer, a former Florida quarterback, said on air.

No one doubts second-year starter McCarron’s ability to win a mega-game. He was the offensive Most Valuable Player of last season’s BCS title-game victory over LSU, and in this season’s rematch with the Tigers he calmly led the Crimson Tide on a 72-yard touchdown drive to win the game at the end.

Murray does not have that type of big-game resume, leaving open to discussion the question of whether he can step up against an elite defense such as Alabama’s. Against the two best defenses Georgia has faced so far this season, Murray completed 11 of 31 passes for 109 yards in a loss to South Carolina and 12 of 24 for 150 yards (with three first-half interceptions) in a win over Florida.

By all accounts, he’ll have to do better than that for Georgia to upset Alabama and secure a spot in the national-title game.

Alabama coach Nick Saban “makes you play NFL-style football against them. Your quarterback has to complete passes,” CBS analyst Gary Danielson said. “When you do it, like (LSU’s Zach) Mettenberger did or (Texas A&M’s) Johnny Manziel did, they’re vulnerable. But if you don’t have a quarterback who can do it, forget it; you have no chance.”

For all of Murray’s gaudy numbers — 9,399 yards passing and 89 touchdown passes in three seasons as Georgia’s starting quarterback — he no doubt would be asked about his lack of signature victories if he were entertaining questions from the media this week. Normally one of the team’s more accessible players, Murray opted to skip interviews.

Coach Mark Richt said Murray needed to complete “two big papers” for his graduate-level psychology classes and then wanted to “submerge himself into film study” and focus on Alabama.

“I know this one means so much to him,” said Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson, a close friend of Murray’s. “This is the biggest game of our career.”

Murray got a flurry of questions about signature victories before the Florida game, which turned out to be Georgia’s first win in three years over a top-10 opponent.

“I don’t even think about it, really,” Murray said at the time. “It’s a team game. I’m not playing … any top team all by myself.”

Certainly, many other factors will help shape Saturday’s game. But none will get more analysis than Murray vs. McCarron.

AJ McCarron has thrown only two interceptions in 265 passes this season. (AP photo)

AJ McCarron has thrown only two interceptions in 265 passes this season. (AP photo)

“No quarterback ever has success without the help of his teammates,” Richt said. “But quarterback play, as we all know, is very crucial.

“Guys can get in the middle of a game and make some great plays, but guys can get in the middle of a game, try to do too much, put their teams in a bad situation. … I think everybody is going to have to be a little bit patient in this game (with) two really fine defenses playing.”

Murray has thrown for 3,201 yards and 30 touchdowns this season, McCarron for 2,507 yards and 25 touchdowns. Both have completed 67 percent of their passes. McCarron has thrown just two interceptions out of 265 passes (both against Texas A&M), Murray seven interceptions out of 320 passes. Murray leads the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 177.2, followed by McCarron’s 176.3.

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said McCarron “gets in the right plays. He protects the ball. He understands defenses and what’s coming. And when the game was on the line at LSU, he did go win it. … He’s got some weapons around him that obviously help him, and he’s got an offensive line that is good.”

Saban, meanwhile, said Murray is a smart, accurate quarterback who “knows exactly what he wants to do with the ball” and manages the game well. “Everybody thinks when I say a guy is a good game manager, that’s a negative, but I think it’s a real positive,” Saban said. “I think he’s done a phenomenal job of that for their team. … That’s why they’ve been extremely successful on offense.”

Georgia hopes Murray’s game speaks for itself Saturday.

“I want Aaron Murray to be himself,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo said. “I want him to cut it loose. I want him to play aggressive. I want him to play like I know he can play and like we all know he can play.”

81 comments Add your comment

Italian_29

November 29th, 2012
9:04 am

Italian_29

November 29th, 2012
9:08 am

I just hope Murray doesn’t make any of his NORMAL stupid mistakes, like he usually does against tough opponents. Go Dawgs!

zbulldawg

November 29th, 2012
9:08 am

LET THE BIG DAWG EAT

zbulldawg

November 29th, 2012
9:12 am

Everybody wants to talk about Gurley’s running !! But don’t forget he can block as well on pass plays !!

zbulldawg

November 29th, 2012
9:16 am

Look for Rhett to have some big catches & Murray to take off running. When Murray takes off it fires this team up & keeps the drive alive !! GETUSUM

Vinings Dawg

November 29th, 2012
9:17 am

I like his foucs. Just don’t get too wired and overdue it. It’s a task, not a mountain. You’ll be fine AM. Just kick them in the jumblies like we all know you can. Pick their tales apart and throw. This game will be your legacy.

T1Dogs

November 29th, 2012
9:32 am

Murray is better than mccarron—he will light up the alabama secondary for big plays, just like the Texas A&M game. The alabama D is overrated—they played one good offense (A&M) and got steamrolled. Ga 31 alabama 19—bet the house!

Alphare

November 29th, 2012
9:36 am

Murray is obviously in a clutter as Saban would say.

Alphare

November 29th, 2012
9:38 am

Vinings Dawg,

Sorry, didn’t see you post. “too wired and overdo” is “clutter” in Saban dictionary..

DouglasDawg95

November 29th, 2012
9:41 am

If our O line can hold up we win. If they play like they did in Carolina, another long night!

Alphare

November 29th, 2012
9:48 am

Murray has been QB for 3 years and win a total of 1 game against ranked team: FL.

Even against FL, he was little above average. If you ask me, I’d say JJones played lights out in that game and personally delivered the W for the dawgs. Actually I thought Murray would personally give the W to FL until the last quarter.

Honey Badger Has the Munchies

November 29th, 2012
9:51 am

Pass block UGA and Murray could have a great game. Our D will be steller and they have your back AM. Run game has to get going as well for UGA

Alphare

November 29th, 2012
9:55 am

Murray is all cluttered in big games. He said he could not sleep before the USC game. Now he is not talking to the media as he is usually very accessible, a sign he is cluttered again.

Hairy Crack

November 29th, 2012
9:58 am

I agree with DouglasDawg95 that this game depends on how well our offensive line plays.
That being said I feel it is our destiny to win the next to games an be National Champs!

Go You Hairy Dawgs!!!

Jim

November 29th, 2012
9:58 am

Even the great Jessie Palmer would have his clocked cleaned if he was playing for Georgia this year against South Carolina. If Georgia beats Alabama does Murray leapfrog to the front of the Heisman race?

Honey Badger Has the Munchies

November 29th, 2012
10:01 am

Alphare….he is taking exams for his MBA

ARdawg

November 29th, 2012
10:03 am

Alphare
Your pannies are showing again. It’s a team sport and UGA wins and loses as a team. Murray didn’t help us much in the 1st half of the FL game but he did settle in and help win it

Honey Badger Has the Munchies

November 29th, 2012
10:03 am

Alphare…but I doa gree with you, he has to get that monkey off his back

ARdawg

November 29th, 2012
10:04 am

Jim
I had that question myself. The answer seems to be, too little too late. The SC game seemingly has tied a stink bomb to Murray’s chances

NCDawg

November 29th, 2012
10:08 am

Aaron needs to be done with his film study by tomorrow at 3PM and then he just needs to chill. He needs to take a sleeping pill so he can get some good sleep. Too many times I’ve seen him comment that he hasn’t been able to sleep before XX game. Even as a kid it is not good to not sleep. Sure you can get by but you are NEVER at your best. If anything he needs to watch his highlights Friday night and meditate on what he can do and not on what he should do.

Sunbury Dawg

November 29th, 2012
10:08 am

Dawg fans…..and fair weather dawg fans. Don’t worry, UGA will be ready.

marseilles mutt

November 29th, 2012
10:13 am

Back in the day, Hank Stram with, I believe Lenny Dawson, developed what was then known as ‘the moving pocket’ with KC in the NFL, and for awhile it was all the rage. Wonder why more teams do not do this today, what with all the blitzing and nickel and dime packages being thrown up by the defenses.

Would seem that it would be of considerable help to AM AND put him in a position to run on the corner without getting killed. Do wish UGA would allow him to run more….makes him twice as dangerous. You reckon there are many- read any- “Murray Plays” in the playbook?

Go Dogs, do whatever it takes, but please, this time, just get it done!

TampaDawg

November 29th, 2012
10:18 am

After watching AM play over the past 3 years, you can tell how amped the young guy is in big games. I sure hope this is the game he finally proves all the critics wrong and plays lights out.

One big thing I have noticed is that he stares his recievers down against big competition more because he is worried about the pass rush. If his go to guy isn’t open he either takes the sack, throws an INT or it is incomplete. The play action is the only reason he made the majority of the completions against UF and SC.

I hope Bobo lets him roll out and dink and dunk the first couple of drives to build confidence to go witht he running game. But who knows? Against the Bama secondary I almost would send Mitchel on a go route with Rome on a streak to pull the safety over and go for the home run on the first play.

JB

November 29th, 2012
10:22 am

Gotta gotta gotta get Bama defense to react to us. Gotta spread them out, Roll Murray out with our FIVE wideouts taking ALL the Bama DB’s downfield with them, create some space and turn Murray loose to throw on the run or run for 7,10 yards. Keep THEM on their heels. Coming out in a tight pro set plays right into their strength.

Strat Cat Dawg

November 29th, 2012
10:41 am

Don’t forget this play #11 made with a guy right in his face http://youtu.be/0DOB-1cVhQU

johnnyvet

November 29th, 2012
10:46 am

who let the Dawgs out?

Dirty Dawg

November 29th, 2012
10:47 am

Maybe Bobo should ’slip Aaron a Valium’ or something to calm him down. By the way the ESPNers won’t leave AM’s troubles with the, so-called, big teams…and the guy that they call ‘coach’ – believe he was fired by Oregon or something – keeps talking about Georgia’s ‘left side’ breakdowns and the trouble it gave Murray. But the only thing he showed was the SC game and Mr Clowney…hell, Clowney broke down everybody’s left side all season…and he ain’t playing for Alabama…is he?

te29wr

November 29th, 2012
10:56 am

This world is full of coaches with great ideas I wonder why any team in the state ever lost a game including Yech

tony

November 29th, 2012
10:56 am

Too many excuses for Aaron Murray. I’ve seen many of times against sc/fl when he had the time to deliver passes that he should of completed – mostly overthrown, threw behind the wrs or he just didn’t see the open guy. There were times when David Greene and DJ Shockey got poor pass protection but they maintain their composer when they needed to. Let’s face it – some qbs can maintain their composer under pressure and some can’t.

bill arp

November 29th, 2012
11:05 am

With all of the ‘Spread-option’ style offenses out there now-a-days, it seems like all of the ‘big boys’ of college football still have a QB that can sit in the pocket and throw the football.

You can keep the Dan Mullins’ of the world. Give me the Pro-style attacks that know how to win big time college football games.

And on a recruiting note, I can’t believe UGA didn’t go after that Eddie Printz kid from Lassiter. That young man can make some major league throws. This Brice Ramsey kid, who ran the ole Wing-T style offense, better be special…

NCDawg

November 29th, 2012
11:19 am

marseilles mutt – I have often wondered if Coach Bobo hamstrung Murray by so strongly discoraging him from running. I understand that last year they were worried about depth. We really couldn’t afford for him to be injured but his mobility was always such a part of his game. Now he hardly ever runs. I think we should take the leash off… it might loosen him up some.
I wonder if they are worry about the ball security issues he has had when he scrambled in the past. Like the fumble against LSU?

NCDawg

November 29th, 2012
11:26 am

are worry = are worried..doh!

Joey

November 29th, 2012
11:29 am

Bobo is right – Murray needs “to cut it loose.”

And so does Bobo/Richt.

Joey

November 29th, 2012
11:34 am

“Let’s face it – some qbs can maintain their composer under pressure and some can’t.”
*******************************************
That’s true tony, but Murray’s last shot at big pressure was the second half of the UF game, vs a defense that’ better than Bama’s.

He played good, with no mistakes in that half.

Now we need him to do it for 4 quarters.

I think he will.

NYC Dawg

November 29th, 2012
11:34 am

Strat Cat Dog… Thanks for the clip. Great example of what AM can do in the 4th quarter, with the game on the line, against a top team.

Ron Roberts

November 29th, 2012
11:35 am

Murray will have success if he uses his mobility now and then. Someone (he, Bobo or Richt) decided early in the year to make him a solely-pocket passer, and he nearly got KILLED by SC. He’s got to use his elusiveness and make the occasional called run to keep defenses honest. That’s the key, I think. That, and those “out” screens we’ve seen Georgia (and I think, not coincidentally, the Falcons, too) call more often lately.

Whiznot

November 29th, 2012
11:43 am

Murray would play great on Saturday if he would just relax. Maybe he needs to go out Friday night with Rambo and Ogletree and get mellow.

NYC Dawg

November 29th, 2012
12:01 pm

I agree, Ron, that AM’s mobility is completely under-utilized, and could be very effective versus UA… as demonstrated by Tex A+M’s Manziel. Actually, I am not too worried about Murray.

Jimmy Crack

November 29th, 2012
12:05 pm

Exactly, I’m looking for some called QB draws, and Murray has got some wheels on him too. Make them think about that type of play and it will draw a defender in long enough to get a crossing pattern to the house!

Alphare

November 29th, 2012
12:05 pm

I am so stupid as to not realize that it is a team effort and not based on one individual. I guess that the D’s performance is AM’s fault too. What an idiot I am!

Alphare

November 29th, 2012
12:09 pm

@ bill arp

“Ramsey better be special…”. Or what? Are you going to pout like a little girl?

NYC Dawg

November 29th, 2012
12:10 pm

My main concern is that we CATCH THE FOOTBALL on offense, defense and special teams.

We have all seen UGA receivers make untimely drops, or fail to aggressively move to the football.
We have all seen UGA defenders “almost” make the game changing play (eg Rambo vs SC in the 1st Q) but not actually do so.
We have all seen UGA kick returners have inexplicable drops in critical situations (SC this year, LSU last year)

However, when we have caught the ball well, in all phases…as we did in the FL game…we have won.

To beat UA we need to be stronger and more aggressive when the ball is in the air. To me (ex wide receiver) it is a function of desire, aggressiveness and concentration.

If Murray puts the ball on our receiver’s hands, we MUST make the grab.
If AJ throws a bad ball (and he won’t throw many) we MUST take advantage.
We must cleanly field all kicks.

This UA team is way too good for us to squander any opportunities at all.

Sammy

November 29th, 2012
12:15 pm

Murray is not the key to the game.

Murray had 3 turnovers against Florida in 2012, and UGA won.
Murray had 3 turnovers against Florida in 2011, and UGA won.

It’s really more about the defense. The defense has to force turnovers and win the turnover battle. The defense also has to be stout in the red zone. The defense has to hold Bama to under 28 points.

Over the last 2 seasons, UGA has WON EVERY SINGLE GAME where the DEFENSE held the OPPOSITION TO UNDER 28 points.

And since 2011, UGA has LOST every GAME where the DEFENSE ALLOWED more than 28 POINTS.

UGA was 11-0 in 2012 when UGA won the turnover battle, and 0-1 when UGA lost the turnover battle.

If the offense turns the ball over 3 times, the defense has to force 4-6 turnovers like they did against Florida and hold the opposition to under 28 points, and be stout in the red zone.

NCDawg

November 29th, 2012
12:16 pm

You know it’s gonna be a good day if : Murray completes 6 more more of his first 10 passes.
You know it’s gonna be a bad day if : We run it on first and second down and leave Murray with a 3rd and 7 or more on 3 of the first 4 sets of downs.
It is possible that he could complete 1 of those, maybe even 2 but it defeats the purpose of getting him into a rhythm.
Mixing it up and not giving Bama a chance to get settled in is the key. They are like a wrestler that, if he can get his hands on you, you are done. They are like a phython, if they coil up on you, they will slowly squeeze the life out of you. Dawgs need to slash and dash, be where they aren’t expected. Do that and it will be a great day.

Sammy

November 29th, 2012
12:18 pm

Murray didn’t have any turnovers in 2010 against Miss ST OR aUBURN, played real well in both games, AND uga still lost both games, so that’s not the key to the game.

Alphare

November 29th, 2012
12:20 pm

Sammy,

“UGA has WON EVERY SINGLE GAME”

You scare me.

Until I read further.

Sammy

November 29th, 2012
12:22 pm

Murray played a solid game against South Carolina in 2010, and UGA lost.

Murray played solid in 2011 against Boise St, and UGA lost.

Murray played solid against South Carolina in 2011, and UGA lost.

Murray played porrly against Florida in 2011 & 2012, and UGA won.

So Murray isn’t the key to the game.

It’s defense. Turnovers forced, defensive scoring, and red zone defense.

Sammy

November 29th, 2012
12:29 pm

UGA not going to win many games when UGA gives up:
35 points to SC in 2012
33 to Mich St in 2011
42 to LSU in 2011
45 to SC in 2011
35 to Boise St in 2011

Defense has to hunker down.

SEC Headlines 11/29/2012

November 29th, 2012
12:30 pm

[...] 23. This game will put the spotlight on Murray and Alabama’s AJ McCarron – the top-ranked passing efficiency quarterbacks in college football. [...]

Sammy

November 29th, 2012
12:36 pm

This is really about the two defenses.

Bama’s Defense CHOKED in BOTH games against ranekd SEC games:
gave up 135+ rushing to BOTH teams
gave up 70-78% pass completion rates and over 8 yards per pass to BOTH teams

UGA defense CHOKED in ONE GAME against ranked SEC teams, and SHUT DOWN the other.

The SOUTH CAROLINA game UGA got caught deep playing too agressive with safeties, gave up a punt return for a td on punt return defense, let Connor Shaw run around and pick up first downs, etc. Also, players were just coming off suspensions, and rusty.

Not so against Florida.

Bama’s defense got beat both times against SEC ranked opponenets.
UGA’s defense got beat ONCE against SEC ranked opponents.

That’s the story. And will be the story. Whichever defense forces mroe turnovers, plays better in the red zone, and holds to less points, will win the game.