The Georgia Bulldogs suffered two back-breaking losses to the Missouri Tigers and Vanderbilt Commodores in the past two weeks, and they will have to get things straightened out over the bye week. Murray had a rough month of October overall, and he finished the month with a completion percentage of just 55.6% and threw a combined three interceptions in the upset losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt. The project first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has averaged 8.8 yards per attempt this season with 17 touchdowns to just six total interceptions, but his three October games left a lot to be desired on the stat sheet.
For one of those games, we’ll see if the tape either supports the stat sheet or forces us to change our perception of the numbers. In the 41-26 loss to the Missouri Tigers, Aaron Muray completed 25 of 45 passes for 290 yards, thus averaging 6.4 yards per attempt. He threw three touchdowns, two interceptions, and had an above-average ESPN TQBR of 57.3. The tape I am using can be found on Draft Breakdown, which is arguably the best NFL Draft site around.
The first pass should have been caught by Chris Conley, but it wasn’t the best of throws either from Murray. The defensive back had enough time to come in and make the play, but it’s hard to fault Murray for that one. I like quarterbacks who are aggressive to start the game, and that was certainly an aggressive through from Murray. But throughout the game, it was clear that the Missouri DBs did a terrific job of sticking to the Georgia receivers on deeper throws, and that was an example. Most of Murray’s completed passes were bubble screens and simple passes on the flat, and he did a good job of checking down when under pressure. A common knock on Murray is his inability to deal with pressure, so that’s a positive from my perspective.
Georgia’s first drive was a three-and-out, with the only completed pass being a screen (that wasn’t even a good pass) to J.J. Green, who had himself a nice day with 129 yards from scrimmage. It was Murray’s final pass that caused me to raise my eyebrows, because it can be classified as a wounded duck throw. By the way, Michael Sam is a boss, he was giving John Theus fits on the right side.
Murray did an excellent job drawing a blatant offsides penalty from an extremely aggressive Missouri defense, and it was clear that he wanted that to happen badly. I thought Murray did a terrific job early in the game of finding open receivers and making smart checkdown throws. He showed good vision as a passer by hitting some safe throws, and I liked his seven-yard pass to Brendan Douglas prior to the penalty. It was a safe, easy throw.
Michael Sam played an excellent game, but it’s too bad the stat sheet didn’t show just how great of job he did using his speed to put pressure on Murray. He had a critical 3-and-12 sack negated, thanks to an offsides penalty. It’s never a wise idea to give Murray and the Georgia offense a second chance to convert on third down, as Douglas showed incredible strength in breaking tackles for the first. It was a critical succession of plays for the Bulldogs offense.
Quayvon Hicks should have caught another pass on the flat, so that was an instance of a Georgia pass-catcher not making the play.
At 4:34, Aaron Murray found an absolute wide open Rantavious Wooten for a 26-yard gain, and it’s inexplicable as to how Mizzou allowed Wooten to sneak underneath the deep coverage like that. Bad play from Mizzou, good work by Georgia to take advantage. It was a well-executed play call by Georgia to stretch the field with one wideout and then have Wooten run a crossing route, and he totally caught the linebacker offguard. The LB should have tracked back, but he noticed his error far too late.
While there was no pressure present on Murray’s seven-yard touchdown pass to Douglas, I thought he did an impeccable job of rushing to the left side. It was an incredibly shrewd move by a veteran college QB, because it bought him some time and also caused some confusion in the Mizzou defense. There was plenty of space out there on that first and goal play, so the Tigers defenders had to account for the possibility of Murray running it, because that’s something he can do. That decision to leave the pocket, more importantly, gave Murray a better angle to throw it, because he wouldn’t have been able to make that TD throw if he stayed in the pocket. Good stuff and also great route-running from Douglas, who had himself a whale of game. He made some critical plays on that first Georgia TD drive.
Murray’s 48-yard pass to Wooten early in the second quarter (12:26) was a thing of beauty, and it showed just how excellent his vision is. Not only did it take great vision to spot Wooten, but he also did a great job evading the pressure and finding something of a new pocket on the left side of the field. Murray bought himself time and delivered a beautiful strike to Wooten.
I love Murray’s ability to extend plays with his legs, by time with his legs, and even run the ball when needed. His first down run had everyone on the other sideline fooled, and the fake handoff really sold things.
Sam did a great job breaking up a third-down pass to Douglas, as the Tigers star DE was able to bat away Murray’s pass from behind the Georgia QB. Throughout the game, Sam did an excellent job of blowing by Theus, forcing Theus to recovery and try and use his strength to hold off Sam. That critical rush forced Georgia to kick a field goal, and that would have been a completed pass and a first down, as Douglas did a nice job of beating the linebacker in coverage.
The fumble return touchdown was all on the offensive line, and I thought it was disgraceful blocking from the left tackle. The fact that it was a play action play also hurt, because it obviously took longer for anything to develop. Murray was hit from behind, and all he could do was try and sell his arm motion moving forward. And, of course, it was Sam who recovered it for a TD.
The Georgia offensive line was lucky to have another bad sack negated due to an offsides call.
Georgia should have had a touchdown drive in the second quarter, but Douglas fumbled the ball. I thought Murray did an exceptional job of hitting open receivers for solid gains, and the best way for Georgia to move the ball was to make the easy throws against an aggressive Missouri defense that did an incredible job locking on WRs downfield.