It wasn’t the greatest opening day début by a Georgia quarterback – that honor still belongs to D.J. Shockley and his start against Boise State – but Aaron Murray’s certainly was one of the most entertaining. I’m not sure his final stats do complete justice to what we saw. That’s not to say they weren’t solid for the most part – 17 for 26 passing, with three touchdowns, along with another 42 yards rushing and a gutsy (almost to the point of don’t-do-that-again-son) touchdown run as the clock expired at the end of the first half.
But there’s an element to his game that’s hard to quantify: the kid’s a born playmaker. Take, for example, that busted play on Georgia’s first scoring drive. Murray was flushed out of the pocket, rolled to the right sideline chased by the ULL rush and just before going out of bounds threw a forty yard pass on the run that Logan Gray missed taking in for a touchdown. There simply haven’t been a lot of Georgia quarterbacks capable of making that kind of play.
The flip side of that is that Murray took more than a few chances against a Sun Belt Conference team that wasn’t physically capable of making him pay. That’s not going to be the case this week.
Mark Richt summed up the highs and lows adequately with this comment:
“I thought he played well,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I thought he certainly made some freshman mistakes. … I thought a couple of times when he was out of the pocket he could have thrown the ball out of bounds. He would turn up and try to dodge people, and he’s going to get splattered if he does that.”
He also got caught making freshman mistakes like locking on to receivers, especially Orson Charles (understandable, that, considering how long they’ve played together), that, again, ULL didn’t capitalize on, but for which a team like South Carolina will exact a price.
And there’s the challenge for Mark Richt and Mike Bobo.
“Aaron moves well. We’ve known he was that kind of an athlete,” Richt said. “I don’t want to turn him into a robot. I don’t think he does. He’s doing his thing. He’s doing what comes natural to him. … I think as the season goes on I think they’ll be bigger, faster guys chasing him. I think when you look at our depth chart at quarterback, we don’t have very many of them.”
Murray is going to have to think about what Ellis Johnson will throw at him, but it’s not as if he didn’t give Johnson a few things to think about from yesterday’s game, either. He’s got a live arm, even if it isn’t Staffordesque, and he’s mobile enough that South Carolina is going to have to stay focused on containment with its pass rush – something that wasn’t a concern last season.
It’ll be a wild ride at times, but there looks to be some significant upside as Murray figures out his game on the college level. There was a lot to like yesterday. And take heart in this, Dawg fans: even if his first game wasn’t as great as Shockley’s, it was certainly better than the much more heralded John Brantley’s.