Better running, better quarterback?

Mike Bobo haz a revelation.

The key to Aaron Murray becoming a better quarterback, according to Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, is for the Georgia Bulldogs to develop a more productive running game.

Murray closed the season with two of his shakier performances — totaling 451 passing yards, three touchdowns, two lost fumbles and four interceptions, including two for touchdowns — in losses to LSU and Michigan State.

The common thread in those two games was that Georgia’s battered backfield was completely ineffective at moving the ball on the ground.

Actually, I thought the common thread in those two games was that Georgia faced two top-ten defensive units.  But I digress.  Let’s instead see if we can test Bobo’s hypothesis.

Georgia averaged 3.95 yards per rush this past season.  Aaron Murray’s average passer rating in 2011 was 146.41.  If you separate the games on the basis of those in which Georgia exceeded the rushing average from those in which it didn’t, here’s how that looks, in handy chart form.

BSU 4.42 139.39
SC 4.95 175.98
CC 4.13 168.05
NMSU 6.97 236.92
AUB 5.43 255.64
GT 4.57 177.14
AVG 5.078333 192.1867
MISS 3.7 169.67
MISS ST 3.16 108.16
UT 3.66 136.27
VANDY 3.44 150.75
UF 3.78 99.41
UK 3.37 106.57
LSU 2.29 72.48
MICH ST 1.31 146.23
AVG 3.08875 123.6925

So, yeah, there’s a certain truth to the stats as they relate to Bobo’s point.  Murray’s average passer rating in games when the rushing attack was better than average was certainly above his average in the games when the Dawgs were under the 3.95 ypr season average.

But there are several exceptions to the rule you can find when you look at each game, particularly with some of the ones in which the rushing lagged (Murray had three games among those with higher passer ratings than in the Boise State game).  And note that in the bowl game, when Georgia’s running game was essentially non-existent, Murray managed to pull off an average game by his standards.

Would a better ground game help Murray? The numbers suggest that it would.  But is that because it would make him a better quarterback, or because it would make Bobo a better play caller?  Who is more comfortable when Murray doesn’t have to try to carry the offense on his shoulders?


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

61 responses to “Better running, better quarterback?

  1. Jason

    Irony – a coach saying the running game is the main problem while he simultaneously chooses gives the 2nd most carries (and that includes missing 4 or 5 games) to a guy who averages less than 3 yds per carry.

    • Normaltown Mike

      Yeah what a clod.

      He should’ve started Trent Richardson or Marcus Lattimore instead of:

      (1) that lazy pot head Crowell or
      (2) that scrawny pot head Thomas or
      (3) that marginally talented pot head Boo or
      (4) that converted Linebacker Samuel

      Bobo is such an idiot.

  2. UFTimmy

    >> Actually, I thought the common thread in those two games was that Georgia faced two top-ten defensive units

    Now you’re starting to sound like a Florida fan when trying to rationalize why our offense was god awful this year.

  3. JG Shellnutt

    Does a better running game make the better passer
    Does a better passer open up the running game
    Does a weaker defense make passing AND rushing easier
    Does a clicking offense make the offensive coordinator more comfortable?

  4. charlottedawg

    Murray’s problem is turnovers not being an effective passer hence his problems are not reflected in his passer rating. Examples A and B are USC and MSU. UGA wins in a rout and Murray has a great game if not for the turnovers which btw directly led to points for the opposition. Georgia’s offense will live or die by how well Murray takes care of the ball in big games and if he can’t eventually get that taken care of yes I will blame Bobo. I’m still not giving up on Murray though because A) if he doesn’t turn the ball over he is, not will be, is, scary good and B) I thought the Auburn game fit the definition of a big game and he was near flawless. Both of which give me reasonable hope he can take that next step.

    • Murray’s problem is turnovers not being an effective passer hence his problems are not reflected in his passer rating.

      Interceptions are factored into passer rating, so that’s not entirely accurate.

      • Merk

        but not location of int….or pick 6’s

        an int on the other teams 10 is not the same as an int on your own 10(unless they are returned to the same point).

      • mp

        Fumbles aren’t, and he had killer fumbles (in terms of momentum killing or field position, or both) vs. USC, LSU, and MSU.

        I got frustrated when it seemed he was more reluctant to take off running in the latter half of his freshman year, but he really needs to learn that if he does take off, he needs to protect the ball (or slide). The best passers that selectively run can commit fully to running while still faking a throw, but it seems sometimes like he’s indecisive about whether or not he should be out there.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          What do you need to win at football? First thing you need is “a quarterback who won’t beat you” himself. Jimmy Johnson, 1994

  5. Go Dawgs!

    Murray’s problem is that when he’s throwing the ball effectively, his offensive coordinator stops letting him and instead sends running backs into a line that isn’t run blocking.

    As soon as Richt/Bobo go conservative, I think Aaron gets tight. When it’s fast and loose, he plays better. As soon as the message becomes, “OK, don’t screw it up” I think the entire team gets tight. The coaches need to understand the personality of their quarterback and their offense. If that means a few feelings get hurt on opposing teams when we’re still wide open with a three score lead, so be it. If Richt’s lonely at the SEC meetings, I’ll come sit at his table.

    • MinnesotaDawg

      Agree with a lot of this.

      The comments about needing our O-line and running game to be stronger are right, of course. But the coaches need to coach, call plays, manage games with our team and the players (recognizing all of its strengths and weaknesses) as they exist during the game–not with a hope and a prayer that we will suddenly become something that we are not (namely, a power rushing team with a dominant line and stud tailback).

  6. Derek

    QB’s play better when not under pressure. Nothing reduces pressure on QB’s like running the ball. You have to have the front seven thinking run first. When the front seven is unleashed to think kill qb first, the qb will struggle in the passing game. Not rocket science here guys.

    • Skeeter

      Wait, so you’re saying 200 lb guys don’t like being hit from behind by 330 lb guys why they try to think and perform a complicated task? Hmm…

      • Derek

        A shocking theory I know. For some reason people think that because you passed well in the first quarter vs. LSU that you can just keep doing it. Any running plays are then stupid calls. That simply shows a lack if knowledge of football.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          Running the ball straight into an unblocked D-line between the tackles with 170 pound RBs on first and second down thereby getting your QB into a third and 13 repeatedly doesn’t work very well either. But then, I don’t know sh!t about football I guess. So never mind.

  7. Biggus Rickus

    I tend to think that in most of the games where Georgia exceeded their average YPC, it was because the other team’s defense wasn’t very good. So you’d expect Murray to put up better numbers against them as well. The exception is Boise State, but the rushing average is also misleading in that game, as it only exceeded the season average because of one Boykin run.

  8. Irwin R. Fletcher

    Interesting theory by Bobo…and I think there is legitimate concern there that might not pop up in the numbers when you look at the entire game vs. the drive chart.

    A good example is the Boise game…UGA averaged 4.4 yards, but 98 of our yards were on 2 plays and it includes sacks. Our running backs averaged 3.2 ypc in the Boise game. May be the stats are better analyzed by separating the running game by the running backs from the rest of the running game. In other words, maybe it isn’t ‘the running game’ in total that needs to improve, but the production from the backs.

    Is that because of personnel, o-line, play calling?

    I’d say another big issue should be Murray’s ability to take care of the football…especially in Georgia territory. That’s a common thread from all 4 losses…Boise, South Carolina, LSU, and MSU all 4 had Murray turnovers in Georgia territory that resulted in the other team either evening the score and/or taking the lead (except that MSU only had an attempt to even the score with the failed 2 point attempt).

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      It’s the O-line Fletch. UGA won 11 games in 1971 (admittedly a long time ago but football really hasn’t change much) with 170 pound Jimmy Poulos at RB because of a dominating O-line, something UGA hasn’t had in years.

  9. Gravidy

    For me, the notion that a better running game helps the passing game falls under the category of “no shit, Sherlock”. A better running game helps EVERYTHING. It is the preverbial rising tide on a football team that lifts all of that football team’s boats, so to speak. I just hope Bobo thought he was stating the obvious, rather than saying something profound.

  10. 81Dog

    it makes sense to me that having an OL that wasnt both patchwork and lacking in depth, plus having a reliable corps or RBs, would make UGA’s pro-style offense more efficient, and would take a good bit of heat off the QB. I mean, if you aren’t running for your life in the pocket, or looking at a lot of second or third and long plays because you can’t run the ball, it would seem logical to think your offense will function better.

    God bless the guys on the OL this year, but we didnt have enough of them, and a few of the ones we had werent playing their optimal position. At RB, we had a true freshman, a kid who played LB last year, an elf, and a smaller elf. You can argue about how we ended up with the roster we had, but considering what we had to work with, the offense wasnt that bad. It looks like UGA will have taken some steps to address RB depth with this signing class. Let’s hope it also addresses OL depth. Murray’s at his worst when he tries to salvage a play that just isnt there. Give him a little more breathing room a little more often, and our offense will be pretty damn good.

    • The Lone Stranger

      I’m just pleased that the D is stocked with a battalion of orcs (or whatever D&D / LOTR badass you want to insert). And I still think the Thomas elf could be effective if used for swing passes or sweeps.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Frankly, because of the RB situation I am amazed that the UGA coaching staff didn’t go to an empty backfield set with another receiver in the offensive line-up (at least in the second half of the LSU game) with Murray running the QB draw once in awhile to keep the D honest.

  11. DawgPhan

    fairly cynical.

  12. Evidently Normaltown

    Better o-line fixes all the problems.

    • Hogbody Spradlin

      That’s what I say.

      Football is two things: blocking and tackling. I read that somewhere once.😉

      Give Murray more time and he quits worrying about getting his head bashed in and makes better throws, even if we don’t have Herschel.

      • Cojones

        And if you have a good running game that opponents have to respect, no more of their “pinning back their ears” and coming after Murray, especially when a RB runs right by them as they fight to get to Murray. On pass plays the good running game makes the opponent hesitate long enough to give Murray a chance to go through successive receivers. His quick release helps as well.

        Has everyone forgotten Murray’s running ability from 2010? A good bit of that was the O line performance providing him time to make good decisions when to run.

  13. stoopnagle

    Murray is tough and competitive, but he hasn’t yet shown that he’s capable of carrying the team against a better than average team. I don’t know who’s fault that is because I’m not smart enough to know.

    My guess is that if we turn him loose on his wheels a little bit, take advantage of his athleticism, then the rest of the running game will be helped. I get not wanting to get him banged up, etc. Yet, he seems pretty tough to me.

    I could be wrong, but I’ve often had the thought cross my mind since 2009 that we’re still running an offense suited to Matthew Stafford’s arm and not so much Aaron Murray’s (or Joe Cox’s). It’s foolish to ask them to make the same type of throws MS could make. But, I’m not paid 6 figures to figure that out.

    • The Lone Stranger

      I am with you on the new mobile version of A.Murray. He seems to like to ramble if given the leeway to do so, and I think this would tend to stretch defenses from sideline to sideline (maybe providing the chance to bash it up inside more?). Plus, with Mitchell now a So. and the others more grizzled the communication ought to only improve (see Mich. St. debacle).

  14. citizencrane

    Ah but is this his rationale for Balance for Balance’s sake?

    • Skeeter

      Maybe he should have balance in each play, so first we run and then the runner passes!

      • The Lone Stranger

        Trying to recall the last halfback pass that the Dawgs tried to pull off. Shoot, RSIV has tried about everything else; why not let him air it out some. I’m open to anything that puts some doubt in the collective heads of the D, given the apparent constraints on pro-style offensive creativity!

  15. Russ

    Well, instead of parsing Bobo’s words, I’ll just take it that the coaching staff is focused on getting a better running game. Given that turnovers and 3rd down defense were the focuses last off-season, and that they both improved, I’d say that’s reason for optimism. Plus, Gurley and Marshall should help a bit. 🙂

  16. Noonan

    Q: Who is winning in the NFL playoffs?
    A: Teams who can run the ball and play good defense.

  17. Faulkner

    Take care of the football, and we don’t lose to MSU or USC.
    Fundamentals first and foremost.
    Running game should be better next year as long as everyone is healthy and has their bongs locked up.

  18. Hill Dawg

    If you have a good O line, you will have a better QB and a better OC. Always.

  19. Will Trane

    I tend to agree with Bobo. With Marshall, Gurley, Crowell, and others I think the sets, plays, playbook, and game management changes with these guys. Dawgs could not get to the edge…stretch, sweep, and etc. You take the ball out of the QB’s hands in running plays I’d think there will be less turnovers from the QB position [Murray or others].

    The running game changes defensive personnel, packages, and timing on the field. It will force opposing defenses into certain packages. It will change the field of play both vertically and horizonally on both sides of the ball. If you have RBs that can get to the edge and create more running lanes across the field, you change the defense. If you do not think so look at the film of those last two games. Those two games defined the running game at Georgia at the end of season due to talent, depth, speed, experience, and injury. The first two losses do not count and neither do the QB ratings.
    Now, why could Bobo not employ the TE packages the Patriots did to dismantle the Broncos. Granted the LOS and the TEs are different on the Patriots, but gosh almighty could not have used White and Charles in those kind of sets and plays.

  20. W Cobb Dawg

    Lack of a running game didn’t seem to effect Houston vs. Penn State. We didn’t bother throwing to the FB, or running the FB for that matter. One (1) completion to our bevy of talented TEs. Truth is Bobo called a very poor game, and is throwing out excuses for anyone who’s dumb enough to buy in.

  21. MinnesotaDawg

    Sure, a deeper, better o-line would make everyone’s life easier on the offensive staff, no doubt. Georgia recruiters and Will Friend should be working their ass off to make sure that that happens. And I really hope it does. However, given the youth, inexperience, depth it might not in 2012. So then what do you do to make your offense better or to take advantage of your strengths? This is what I’d like our coaches to be THINKING about during the off-season instead of pointing out fairly obvious football generalities (A productive running game is good for an offense? No kidding. A dominating offensive line helps an offense? Got it.) The real question is what you do, how you game-plan, and how you call plays when you don’t have it.

  22. Snake Plisskin

    The game plan never goes out the window with CMB…he’ll stick to it to a fault…don’t really blame CMB as much as I do CMR…CMR wears a headset and yet he permits these calls to be sent in over and over and over again….this ineptness keeps the D on the field way too long, and eventually they wear out…does the guy care so much about hurting CMB’s feelings as opposed to stepping on his toes and making him better…Murray has made great strides at working under center after coming from a spread offense…if the running game and blocking schemes are solid, then these are two things that Murray doesn’t have to worry about…a healthy, dedicated, in shape running back can make the OL look good and vice versa …getting yards after a hit and moving the pile will do wonders for the passing game and the offense overall…plain and simple, this is the responsibility of the OC, Bobo needs to get it done