Shanks: Murray answers his critics

sports@macon.comSeptember 7, 2013 

uga_sc

3) No. 9 Georgia (1-1, 1-0 SEC)

Well, Aaron Murray didn't look all that scared against Jadeveon Clowney, did he? Coming up with one of the best performances of his career (17-for-23, 309 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions), the senior signal-caller helped the Bulldogs remain in the thick of the national title race with the victory over the Gamecocks.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com

ATHENS -- Everyone in the world knew Aaron Murray had to have the game of his life for Georgia to win Saturday. After last week’s game against Clemson, many wondered if Murray could win a big game.

Well, he answered that question loudly against South Carolina. Murray didn’t fumble. He didn’t throw an interception. He simply did what a senior quarterback has to do in big games.

He got the job done.

“One of the biggest games of his life, and he played the game of his life,” wide receiver Michael Bennett said. “He didn’t make many mistakes at all. He was real confident out there. No matter what the situation, what the down was, he was throwing it down the barrel to us.”

It was no shock that as a senior, Murray brushed off his accomplishment. He said the right things after the game, talking about it being a team win. But he did let his guard down when asked if this was one of the best games of his career.

“It’s up there,” he said with a smile.

Murray had a lot going against him in this game. Fans wondered if he would be intimidated by South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, particularly considering what happened last year in Columbia. And they wondered if Murray would clean up his game from last week, when he made two huge mistakes that hurt Georgia against Clemson.

But Murray was 17-for-23 with 309 yards passing and four touchdowns against the Gamecocks, while Clowney was really not a huge factor.

“It’s my job not to focus on him,” Murray said. “I have to trust my offensive line, and I did that all night. They did an unbelievable job.”

Murray was right. The embattled offensive line did a fine job of making Clowney somewhat irrelevant. David Andrews, the starting center, gave the praise back to Murray.

“He always trusts us. He didn’t dwell on what happened last week,” Andrews said. “He challenged us to get it done because it starts with us, and I think we did this game. Aaron is a confident guy, a fearless leader. Everyone trusts him. Knowing that he trusts us … after the last game, he wasn’t mad at us or pointing fingers at us. Having a guy like that means a lot.”

Murray wouldn’t admit he felt or heard the pressure going into the game, but it was obvious in his postgame news conference that there was an air of relief in his voice.

“All week long everyone wants to talk about the QB, the head coach, but it’s a team game,” he said. “We win and we lose as a team. (Head coach Mark) Richt and I didn’t win. It was the University of Georgia Bulldogs. We won as the whole team.”

Murray’s ability to scramble and be confident his line would protect him was a big factor. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has stressed to Murray to extend plays, and he did that with two terrific touchdown passes -- one to Todd Gurley in the third quarter and an 85-yard pass to Justin Scott-Wesley in the fourth quarter to seal the game. Both passes were thrown on the run, with the Gamecocks defenders chasing him from behind.

Murray did what Bobo wanted him to do.

“When things break down in the pocket, just not crumble in the pocket and take a sack but get out of the pocket and let my receivers work and get open. We were able to have two huge plays right there,” Murray said.

“Aaron doesn’t show any sign of freaking out in any big situation,” said Bennett.

That made the difference Saturday, and it could mean everything if Georgia holds onto the lead in the SEC East.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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