ATHENS, Ga. — Aaron Murray’s Georgia-red shirt relayed a message of reassurance:
“Keep Calm. We’ve got Gurshall.”
Gurshall is the nickname for No. 13 Georgia’s freshmen tailback duo, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Each ranks among the Southeastern Conference’s rushing leaders.
Murray says his mother made the shirt he wore to Tuesday’s news conference. Asked why the shirt didn’t bear his name, he smiled and said “I wouldn’t want to wear that shirt, that’s why.”
The junior quarterback and the freshmen couldn’t lift Georgia’s offense in a 35-7 loss at South Carolina on Oct. 6. The loss ended the Bulldogs’ school-record streak of five straight games with more than 40 points, and Murray’s 109 yards passing set a career low.
Murray and Georgia (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) will look to regain their offensive momentum at Kentucky on Saturday.
The loss was the start to a bad week for Murray. The house he shares with teammates was egged and littered with toilet paper. His father, Denny Murray, had surgery on Monday in Tampa for thyroid cancer.
Murray said his father is “doing well” and is back at work.
Following a long off week, the Bulldogs finally have a chance to move past the ugly loss to the Gamecocks.
One of Murray’s roommates, linebacker Christian Robinson, said he expects the quarterback to have a strong answer to his poor results at South Carolina. Murray completed only 11 of 31 passes with an interception and no touchdowns, ending a streak of at least one touchdown pass in 13 straight games.
“I can see him coming back really fast and strong and making a statement,” Robinson said. “That’s his nature and his competitiveness. He really wants to be the best and he’s going to push himself to be the best.”
Murray needs only one touchdown pass to match Georgia’s career record of 72 set by David Greene from 2001-04. Greene was a four-year starter, and Murray is only midway through his third season.
There has been little talk of personal milestones this week. Murray said he is focused on getting the offense moving again as the Bulldogs try to protect their hopes of catching Florida and South Carolina in the SEC East.
“It’s great to have a bye week to get the body feeling better,” Murray said. “But part of me wishes we had a game this past week just to get the bad taste out of our mouth and get back on the playing field and be able to compete again and not having to think about it two straight weeks.”
Coach Mark Richt said Murray needed the open week to spend time with his family following his father’s surgery.
“Sometimes you just have to take off and forget about football, and that was one of those times,” Richt said.
The loss to South Carolina was a reality check for an offense that had been on a record roll. Georgia is averaging 41.3 points per game.
“I think our guys understand we’re still a very talented offense,” Murray said. “We went back and watched the film and saw man, we definitely could have put points on the board. We didn’t execute and they did a great job defensively of making plays and stopping us. We are still very confident in our abilities. We just have to go out and play.”
Confident and motivated, according to senior receiver Tavarres King.
“We do have a chip on our shoulder,” King said. “We’ve got to play this game with an edge. Certainly we’re going to play with a lot of intensity and focus and effort this week.”
The off week gave Georgia more time to adjust to receiver Michael Bennett’s season-ending right knee injury. Bennett was the team’s leading receiver when he blew out the knee in practice the week before the South Carolina game.
Murray said the Bulldogs are deep at wide receiver with King, Marlon Brown, Malcolm Mitchell, Rantavious Wooten and Chris Conley.
“It definitely was tough to have to replace a great receiver like Michael, but we have a lot of great receivers,” Murray said. “We’ve been talking about it all camp, all season, about we’re able to rotate guys in and out. So other guys just have to step up. Guys like Marlon and Malcolm, who both play his position. Those are two pretty good guys to plug in there.”
Murray said the offense needs to start strong against Kentucky (1-6, 0-4 SEC).
“I think score early, just to give us some confidence and get some momentum, especially the way we played against South Carolina, not being able to put points on the board,” he said. “The feel of putting that behind us, get some momentum, try to get their crowd out of the game, I think that would be huge for us offensively.”