Wearing a black undershirt, Murray reached down at the 35-yard line, grabbed a mini-football and playfully tossed it to a youngster nearby. The incompletion was one of the few times Murray failed to deliver Saturday.
After knocking off No. 6 South Carolina in a clutch performance earlier in the month, the Georgia senior quarterback eclipsed that effort in a wild 44-41 win over No. 6 Louisiana State.
In a shootout against former teammate Zach Mettenberger, Murray tossed four touchdown passes, including the game-winner with 1:47 remaining. Murray found Justin Scott-Wesley wide open down the right sideline for a 25-yard touchdown and a three-point lead. Murray completed his final five passes, converting 20 of 34 attempts for 298 yards with an interception.
“It’s not about me,” said Murray, who now has 11,429 career passing yards and needs 100 more to set the school and SEC record held by David Greene. “It’s about this team. I think everyone in the nation now knows what Georgia football is about. We’re a tough group of guys.”
The ninth-ranked Bulldogs improved to 3-1 (2-0 Southeastern Conference), defeating a pair of top-10 opponents in September for the first time in school history. Georgia extended its home winning streak to 15 and extinguished LSU’s streak of 34 consecutive wins when scoring 30 or more points.
The Bulldogs now face three consecutive nonranked opponents – two on the road – before taking a bye week. Then, Georgia plays Florida, on Nov. 2, in Jacksonville, Fla., in a likely showdown for the SEC East title and a trip to Atlanta.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Murray said. “We have a lot of tough games ahead of us.”
Georgia might have to play Saturday at Tennessee without starting tailback Todd Gurley, who left the contest in the second quarter with a sprained ankle and didn’t return. He finished with 73 yards on eight carries, and his status was uncertain after the game.
The day began with ESPN’s College GameDay crew on campus in the morning. In the afternoon, it became the Mettenberger-Murray face-off. Murray won Georgia’s starting quarterback position in the spring of 2010 over Mettenberger, who was kicked off the team after a bar incident in March of that year in south Georgia.
Now a senior at LSU, Mettenberger has resurrected his career, entering the matchup with 1,026 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
He stormed out of the gate in his return to Athens, completing six of his first seven pass attempts, including two for touchdowns in the first quarter. He chewed up the Bulldog defense for 372 yards passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Mettenberger pulled his team out of a near-impossible situation midway through the fourth quarter. Facing a third-and-22 from the LSU 13, Mettenberger completed a 25-yard pass against Georgia’s prevent defense. He connected on three more passes for 53 yards to drive the Tigers down to the 8. One play later, Jeremy Hill bounced around the left side untouched to give the Tigers a 41-37 lead with 4:14 remaining.
Then, Murray went to work. He hit Scott-Wesley on an 11-yard pass play and he found Arthur Lynch for 9 yards. After a short Keith Marshall run, Murray hit Lynch again for 10 yards. Then, freshman J.J. Green broke off an 18-yard run. On the next play, Murray connected again with Scott-Wesley to put Georgia ahead. Now, it was up to the defense to stop Mettenberger.
LSU faced first and 10 from its 35, when Mettenberger tossed three consecutive incompletions. On fourth down, Georgia pressured Mettenberger up the middle and he misfired again, sending the Bulldogs into euphoria.
“It was all about the pressure. We were getting to him and it was making him uncomfortable,” Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “We were able to rush him and it caused him to make some bad throws there at the end.”