ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia’s Aaron Murray proved to be just as elusive with the media Saturday afternoon as he was with Georgia Tech’s frustrated defense.
On a day when he etched his name in the Southeastern Conference record books by becoming the first quarterback in the league to throw for 3,000-plus yards in three consecutive seasons, Murray was among the players who left the No. 3 Bulldogs’ interview room before the media was allowed in.
And he was departing in a hurry.
“I’ve got to go meet my parents,” said the smiling Murray, who completed 14 of 17 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns as Georgia (11-1) ripped Georgia Tech 42-10 in the Bulldogs’ final home game of 2012.
Although one of the Bulldogs’ most congenial and eloquent speakers, Murray let his actions do all the talking Saturday.
On Georgia’s opening drive of the day against the Yellow Jackets (6-6), Murray’s 15-yard pass to tight end (and roommate) Arthur Lynch put him over the 3,000-yard mark for the season, and once Todd Gurley rushed in from the 3-yard line a few moments later, the Bulldogs’ offense was off and running.
“Every time he steps on the field he seems to be breaking some kind of record,” said receiver Tavarres King, who had one catch for 19 yards. “You just never know what that kid will do next.”
With their quarterback in the driver’s seat, Georgia’s offense was the epitome of efficiency in the first two quarters, scoring on four of their five first-half possessions in drives that averaged five plays and 62 yards.
The Bulldogs’ shortest possession took three plays and traversed 85 yards, highlighted by Murray’s 57-yard pass to Malcom Mitchell and capped by Keith Marshall’s 15-yard scoring scamper to put Georgia up 21-3 with 14:39 remaining in the second quarter.
“He was extremely accurate, as he’s been … basically all year,” said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. “He came out early and took what the defense gave him, which was good. We had a couple of balls caught down the field, but he took the underneath route, which got completions and kept the chains moving. We didn’t get in hardly any third downs because of his accuracy on first or second down.”
Murray also did a nice job completing key passes to players who don’t always make the postgame highlight reel, connecting with Rhett McGowan on an 11-yard scoring strike and throwing a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jay Rome, the tight end’s first career score.
“Aaron has played great this year, putting the ball where it needs to be and getting us in the right calls with checks and everything and recognizing blitzes,” said Rome. “He’s very accurate and very smart.”
“He elevates everybody,” added McGowan, who recorded his second career touchdown Saturday. “We’ve got confidence in him and he’s got confidence in us. This offense has been together for a while and I think trusting in each other helps us. We’re confident he can get us the ball and he’s confident we can get open.”
In the process of claiming its 11th victory in the last 12 games against Georgia Tech, Georgia also set a school record for points in a season with 456, eclipsing the old mark of 450 set by the 2002 team in 14 games. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt pointed to Murray’s ability to make accurate reads at the line of scrimmage as a pivotal reason for many of those points.
“He does get us in the right play a lot and gets us in the right protection a lot and because of that we’re not just guessing out there,” said Richt. “The days of calling a play and running it and hoping you’re right – those days are gone. You’ve got to have a way to see what the defense’s intentions are and try to run the best possible play, and then it’s still hard as heck to execute. If you try execute a play that has no chance – well, that’s tough. But he’s good at that.”
And while Murray had an excellent outing, he wasn’t perfect, as Bobo – somewhat reluctantly – pointed out, using Georgia’s only first-half possession without a touchdown as illustration.
“He had a few mental mistakes,” said Bobo. “On that three-and-out we had, he forgot to send a receiver in motion and he fumbled the second down play and had an (incompletion) on the third play, but that was a bad series. I didn’t talk to him the rest of the half because I didn’t want to say anything bad. Other than that, he did an outstanding job.”
“I don’t think there’s a better quarterback in the country who does what he does and what he’s asked to do and how he goes about handling his business,” said Lynch. “It’s a complicated offense with multiple formations, plays, sets, looks and protections, and Aaron is able have all that information and manage it at a high level when the bullets are flying, so to speak.”
There’s been speculation as to whether Murray – who has already earned his undergraduate degree – will stick around for his final season, but only one player broached the subject after the game.
“I love playing with Aaron,” said Rome. “He’s also a great guy off the field. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to play with him and I hope he comes back next year.”