COLUMBIA, S.C. - If offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and head coach Mark Richt learned one thing during Saturday's 17-6 loss to South Carolina, it's time to take the reins off redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray.
During the Bulldogs' first two games, coaches have taken great care to coddle the Tampa native by keeping the game-plan simple in an effort to ease him into the grind of being a starting quarterback in the SEC.
It appears those days are over.
When asked if he purposely kept Saturday's game-plan simple, Bobo admitted he did.
"Yeah, a little bit," Bobo said. "We've got a lot of good players around him but I think he played well. He showed some good poise. We're going to need to open it up a little more and let him play some football."
After watching Murray complete 14-of-21 passes for 192 yards with no interceptions, Richt conceded it's time to see what his quarterback can really do, beginning with this Saturday's game against Arkansas.
"We've just got to allow him to play ball. We've got to treat him more like a veteran. He's played two games now, one in a hostile environment and I think he's played very well," Richt said. "I thought he put the ball on the money when it was there, most of the time. I thought he handed things really pretty good."
Murray was sacked three times, but showed good pocket awareness and appeared to make the proper progressions throughout his progressions.
"I think he's prepared to run the system as we have it. He's human, I'm sure he will make a mistake here or there but he's ready," Richt said. "Plus, if we're going to have a chance to beat a team like Arkansas, which is very prolific, we're going to have to score points, not just then but the rest of the year. We're going to have to let the kid play."
Murray did not seem fazed by the noise made by the sold-out crowd of 80,974.
In fact, he said rather enjoyed the opportunity.
"It was crazy, but I kind of liked it," Murray said. "That's what makes college football so great. I actually thought we had pretty good communication across the line. It got loud, but it was nothing we weren't able to handle."
For the season Murray has now completed 31-of-47 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns.
"Whatever Coach Bobo wants me to do is fine with me," Murray said. "I thought we had a good game plan, so whatever he wants to do. I'll go out and perform to the best of my ability."
Murray's best play came late in the third quarter when he pump faked a completed a beautiful 55-ayrd pass to Kris Durham down to the South Carolina 10-yard line.
Unfortunately, that was the same drive what Washaun Ealey fumbled the ball away to the Gamecocks. Another redzone opportunity was limited to a 27-yard field goal by Blair Walsh when Orson Charles bobbled a catch and was knocked down short of a first down inside the 10.
"We didn't execute in the red zone and that's what we've got to improve," Bobo said. "The first time we were in the red zone we bobbled a pass, had a chance to get the first down and the third time we fumbled. We've got to capitalize when we get those opportunities."
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