Despite an amazing college career, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has relentlessly been criticized for his performances on the biggest stages. Football is often called “The Ultimate Team Game,” yet the quarterback position is often judged entirely by wins and losses, and unfortunately for Murray, there have been more losses than wins in big games for the Bulldogs while he has been in Athens.
But with the young Bulldogs defense struggling and their season on the line, Murray’s ability to make plays under pressure lifted his team to a 41-30 victory against the South Carolina Gamecocks Saturday.
This back-and-forth ballgame was destined to come down to which team made the clutch plays, and it was Murray who made one big play after another. Murray avoided pressure on two key third-down plays and found open receivers for touchdowns.
The fifth-year senior completed 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
The play of the game might have been after it appeared star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney would have a chance to sack Murray. However, Murray was able to change directions, and he found Justin Scott-Wesley streaking down the left sideline for an 85-yard touchdown.
With one big play, the monkey was off Murray’s back.
However, this win was not because of Murray alone. Heisman candidate Todd Gurley was a man among boys once again, and fellow backfield teammates Keith Marshall, Quayvon Hicks and Brendan Douglas all gave timely contributions.
Georgia’s offensive line, which struggled mightily a year ago in a 35-7 loss at South Carolina, played very well in the win. The Bulldogs kept Clowney in check and Murray’s pants clean. Moreover, they did a great job of opening holes for the Bulldogs running backs.
Georgia’s inexperienced defense, however, did not perform nearly as well as its offense did. For much of the game, the Gamecocks were bulldozed by the running game and efficiently picked apart by quarterback Connor Shaw.
Todd Grantham’s defense did make one all-important stop with less than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The South Carolina offense was once again deep inside the red zone. It was fourth-and-goal from the one, and Spurrier called an option pitch from Shaw to running back Mike Davis, but junior linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson snuffed it out for no gain.
From there, the Bulldogs went on a 13-play drive that gained 81 yards and ran out the clock.
Coach Mark Richt has plenty to fix before the Bulldogs square off with the LSU Tigers on September 28th. It will be their third top-10 opponent this season despite being just their fourth game.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they are on a bye this week and will play undermanned North Texas the following week. Richt will have plenty of time to prepare for LSU, and hopefully a better defense will emerge.