ATHENS, Ga. — For just a quick moment after Georgia’s pivotal 44-41 victory over then No. 6 Louisiana State on Saturday, Aaron Murray let his guard down.
Asked whether he felt like he exorcised a few demons by beating top-10 teams South Carolina and LSU in September, the Georgia quarterback said, “I hope,” and then quickly went in another direction.
“Like I said earlier, it’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about this team and we’ve grown up a lot this past month. I think it’s a great month for us.”
Outsiders have seen the fifth-year senior grow even more as a quarterback by playing some of his best football as a Bulldog in two of the biggest games of his career, knocking off the Gamecocks and Tigers.
“I thought Aaron played good during the game, when the game was over I thought he played good, and then I watched the film and I thought he played great,” coach Mark Richt said of his film review of the LSU game.
Murray completed 37 of 57 passes for 607 yards with eight touchdowns and once interception and ran for another score in those two games.
“I think he has stepped up his game even moreso than the past,” tight end Arthur Lynch said.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones, whose team will play Georgia on Saturday, went up against a Bulldogs team in 2008 when he was at Central Michigan that was quarterbacked by Matthew Stafford.
“Their quarterback is as good as any quarterback in the country, he is a Sunday quarterback, he can make all the throws,” Jones said of Murray.
Murray’s stock certainly rose Saturday and his name is now mentioned again among top contenders for the Heisman Trophy.
He is listed as No. 3 on SI.com’s Heisman Watch behind quarterbacks Tajh Boyd, of Clemson, and Marcus Mariota, of Oregon. He’s also No. 3 in the HeismanPundit.com Straw Poll behind Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Mariota.
Murray isn’t exactly clearing his calendar now for a trip to New York for the ceremony.
“I’m not even thinking about that,” Murray said Tuesday. “You know me. It’s all about the next game. It’s all about getting ready for Tennessee.”
Murray has about killed off the storyline of not coming through in big games. He’s 3-2 in his last five games against top-10 opponents after starting his career 0-4.
Even playing an unranked Volunteers team, Murray will have a CBS national television audience watching as he becomes the SEC’s all-time career passing yardage leader probably sometime in the first half Saturday.
Murray (11,429 passing yards) is just 100 yards away from passing former Bulldogs quarterback David Greene (11,528).
“It’s crazy to think about,” Murray said. “I’ve never been a guy worried about stats. It’s always about winning, winning, winning.”
Murray and Greene, who got to know each other when Murray was a freshman, talked after the LSU game not about that approaching milestone, but about how that LSU win will be remembered.
“He said, ‘You might not realize it now, but this is a game that not only you will remember but everyone in the state of Georgia will remember for a long, long time. Anyone you meet or talk to is going to want to bring that game up.’”
Murray on Saturday passed No. 3 Chris Leak (11,213) of Florida and No. 4 Peyton Manning (11,201) of Tennessee.
Murray now has 106 touchdown passes and is nine away from holding that SEC record, as well
“It’s been amazing,” former Georgia coach Vince Dooley said. “He’s got the incredible fire of a sophomore the way he acts. It’s great to see that in a veteran. He is a veteran. He’s been around. I think he’s got such wonderful leadership qualities about him. If all goes well and he goes to the next level and he gets with the right coach, who knows? Players like that have succeeded and I think he will have an excellent chance to do that.”
Murray and Georgia aren’t coasting into the Tennessee week.
Even in Monday’s practice, usually “a chill day,” Murray said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo had the quarterbacks go hard with pocket drills and other work.
“I told him at the beginning of the year that I don’t want him to sugar anything this year,” Murray said. “I want him to push me to get better every single day, to not take a day off.”