October 2, 2012

Murray's big chance

If there's been one knock some Georgia fans have regarding quarterback Aaron Murray it's that he hasn't won the big one.

Of course, that depends somewhat on what your definition of a "big game" is. Over his career, Murray has beaten the likes of Tennessee (twice), Florida (once), Auburn (once) and Georgia Tech (twice), huge victories any Bulldog QB would like to have on his resume.

However, if you're talking about beating a Top 25 team, much less someone in the Top 10, well, then you may have an argument.

In Murray's defense, Auburn and Georgia Tech were both ranked when the Bulldogs defeated the two arch-rivals last year. However, in terms of leading Georgia to that 'signature win' that remains a feather Murray has yet to put in his cap.

With sixth-ranked South Carolina (5-0, 3-0) on deck in Saturday night's nationally televised game against the Gamecocks, he might not get a better opportunity.

"I wouldn't look at it as a personal achievement, but it's definitely a team achievement," Murray said Tuesday. "It would be a huge win for us to beat the No. 6 team in the country and help us get to our ultimate goals of getting to Atlanta and Miami."

Wide receiver Michael Bennett obviously doesn't buy into the notion that Murray can't lead fifth-ranked Georgia (5-0, 3-0) to a victory in what's sure to be a hostile Williams-Brice Stadium, although he's sure that the competitive part of the quarterback wouldn't like a little redemption.

In two starts against the Gamecocks, Murray is 0-2.

"I'm sure he's thinking about that a little bit. He wants to prove himself in a really big game," Bennett said. "Personally, I feel he has done that, last year against Florida was a pretty big game, last week was a big game … but yeah, just like everyone else, we want to prove ourselves at 7 p.m. on ESPN, a national prime time game."

Head coach Mark Richt has already shown that his faith in Murray goes arguably beyond any quarterback he's had during his 12 years in Athens.

Last week against Tennessee, the Vols scored with less than a minute to go at half to grab a 30-27 lead. But instead of limping back to the locker room, Richt decided to give Murray one more shot. After the Vols elected to squib the kick to the 35, Richt decided to have his quarterback take a shot. As a result, Georgia was able to tie the game on a 50-yard field goal by Marshall Morgan.

"At that point with 37 seconds you might say let's not throw a pick and give up another turnover. They are scoring 20 points in the second quarter and things are going bad, so you might say we've had enough," Richt said. "But I told Coach (Mike) Bobo, let's go try to score. Murray did a really nice job of moving us down the field and getting us in position to get those three points. I think psychologically those were important points for us. I don't know if I would have done that last year. I definitely wouldn't have done it his freshman year. I guess that gives you an idea of the faith I have in him as a head coach."

Last year's game against the Gamecocks is one Murray would just as soon forget.

Although he completed 19 of 29 passes for 248 yards and four touchdowns, the two plays most Georgia fans remember are the Pick-6 and the fumble following a sack by Gamecock defensive end Jedeveon Clowney, which was returned by Melvin Ingram for a 5-yard touchdown, leading directly to the 45-42 loss.

"It was definitely a tough loss last year, but this is a new season and a new team, a completely new team. I think we're a whole heckuva lot better than we were last year when it comes to everything," Murray said. "Last year is behind us. All we can do is watch the film. It's painful to watch; fortunately I don't have to watch it too much. We're ready to go for it."

But while he's greatly anticipating Saturday's opportunity, Murray said he's not changing the way he prepares.

" I prepare the same for every team when it comes to film preparation and I try to take it to practice. I think I've been a part of some big-time games and played some big-time teams where I don't think I'm going to be too nervous," he said. "I get a little nervous before every game, obviously, but work my way out. I think I'm ready to go, mentally and physically. I'm definitely more mature."

But can Murray - who is one touchdown pass away from equaling David Greene's career touchdown pass mark of 72 - keep Georgia's high-powered offense flying against the defensive-minded Gamecocks?

That's the proverbial million-dollar question for the Bulldogs, who come in averaging 48.5 points per contest, having scored over 40 points in the opening five games for the first time in school history.

"As an offene we're feeling extremely good with the way we're moving the ball and putting points on the board," said Murray, who has completed 89 of 130 passes for 1,378 yards and 12 touchdowns. "Obviously, we can't turn the ball over like we did last week so we'll be making sure we cut down on that. If can do that and keep working like we are, I think our guys can put points on the board."

Wide receiver Tavarres King couldn't help but have a little fun when asked the same question.

"South Carolina can do a lot up there … Clowney and Taylor, they're good," King said. "Hopefully, we'll be successful chopping those guys down so short little Aaron (listed at 6-foot-1) can throw to us."

Murray laughed that he'll do his best.

"They do a great job of getting pressure with just four. They don't need to blitz to get pressure on the quarterback or create havoc in the run game," he said. "We definitely have our work cut out when it comes to preparation, but I think we're going to be ready to go."