First off, I think the whole “big game” meme is overblown. When you are playing for SEC Championships in a tight Eastern Division or even in contention for a National Championship, every game is a “big game”. Hell, the Georgia Tech and Auburn games were big games, though no one on ESPN or the media will tell you that.
Georgia has struggled in big games recently, but it is not just all of Aaron Murray’s fault. Now, he does deserve some blame for losing some of the games, but he is not the only one at fault. I said after the Florida game that even though Georgia won and Murray threw the game clinching TD pass, one game against the #2 wouldn’t change the perception.
But, to tickle the fancy of the pundits, let’s just see if it is Aaron Murray’s fault that Georiga hasn’t won a big game recently.
Well, in 2008 Murray was a senior in high shool, coming back from a broken leg to lead Plant to a state championship. I guess it was somehow Murray’s fault that Stafford and company lost to Alabama and Florida. In 2009, I guess that, even though he was a redshirt, it was Murray’s fault that UGA lost to Oklahoma State and Florida (and Kentucky, and Tennessee, and LSU). I think all SEC games are big, especially in 2011 and 2012, but I will humor the pundits and look at their definition of a “big game”.
But in 2010, Georgia played three really big games against ranked opponents and then the Cockatil Party:
South Carolina: Murray went 14/21 for 192 with 0 TD and 0 INT. Didn’t have A.J. Green and was asked to not do much. Didn’t make any plays, but didn’t make any mistakes, and was not put in a bad situation in his first start. Verdict: South Carolina was the better team, but I guess if we are assigning blame, you blame Richt here. Murray was handled with kid gloves; but that strategy was their perogotive, and who am I to argue with their QB development?
Arkansas: 15/27 for 253 and 1 TD and 1 INT. Murray led a late comeback and a game tying drive in the final moments. Verdict: Took a big sack that hurt us, but overall this was a defensive stinker.
Florida: 18/37 for 313 and 3 TD, 3 INT. Murray deserves some credit for leading a comeback, but wouldn’t be in that mess if he was better. And, he threw a pick in OT that sealed the loss. Verdict: Under 50% completion percentage and 3 INT, yeah I’d say Murray didn’t play well.
Auburn: 15/28 for 273 and 3 TD and no int. Against the eventual National Champions and he got the hell knocked out of him. Verdict: I’d say he played his ass off.
Boise State: Murray went 16/29 with 236 and 2 TD and 1 INT. Nothing spectacular, nothing great. Verdict: Very mediocre performance, but I wouldn’t say Murray’s play cost the Bulldogs the game. I think you can point the blame a lot on the defense on this one.
South Carolina: Murray went 19/29 for 248 and 4 TD and 1 INT (and one fumble). Verdict: Well, there were a lot of reasons Georgia lost this game. Murray didn’t help with the fumble and scoop and score that sealed the deal for Carolina, but I mean, dude still threw for 4 TD and kept the game close. Special teams screwed the pooch here, and though the defense played well enough, it couldn’t stop Lattimore when it counted. But Murray’s turnovers (and Crowell’s fumble) were costly also.
Florida: Murray was 15/34 for 169 and 2 TD and 1 INT. Murray had a very forgettable 2nd half, missing like 8 or 9 in a row, but played well enough when it counted to seal the deal. Verdict: Played mediocre, but the Dawgs won, so it really doesn’t matter.
LSU: 16/40 for 163 and 1 TD and 2 INT. Verdict: The stats look bad, but the special teams and the lack of running game here is what got the Dawgs. Once LSU realized there was no running game threat, they teed off on Murray. Murray actually stood strong and had some recievers open, but the recievers just couldn’t make plays. I really honestly believe that you can’t blame Aaron for this game. He played as well as you could possibly play against the best defense in the country with absolutely zero help from anyone else around you.
Michigan State: 20/32 for 288 and 2 TD and 1 INT (1 fumble lost) Verdict: Decent game. Again, like with LSU, there was no threat of a running game and Michigan State had one of the top defenses in the country. Murray’s three turnovers hurt, but to me this game was lost by the defense. Michigan State drove down the field with a minute and half left and tied it up. Murray hit Boykin with a TD to go up by 7; the defense screwed the pooch here. He didn’t play outstanding, but the play calling got very conservative in the 2nd half until we need to get back in it, and his performance didn’t cost us the game either.
South Carolina: 11/31 for 109 with 0 TD and 1 INT. Verdict: Murray played pretty pitiful, but wasn’t helped out any by the defense, special teams, or play calling. An all around poor effort, and I don’t think you can single handidly blame Murray. But, he did not play well.
Florida: 12/24 for 150 and 1 TD and 3 INT. Verdict: Murray didn’t play that well. He did have a strong 2nd half, but his first half was forgettable, and this game shouldn’t have really been that close. He didn’t play well, but managed the game well in the 2nd half and was poised on the final drive to seal the deal for the Dawgs.
So, in 2 big games this year, Murray has not played well. In two last year, he didn’t either. I think the games in 2010 he played pretty well. I still think it is BS to say he doesn’t show up in big games, becuase every game is a big game. He has struggled in some big games, but also consider the defenses he has struggled against. I think it is more fair to say that he has struggled agianst elite top level defenses rather than in the “big game”. In 2011, he faced the the #2, 3, 6 and 16 teams ranked in total defense. In 2012,he struggled against the #5 and #13 defenses. Alabama has the #1 defense, but I honestly feel like Alabama’s defense will be the 3rd best defense UGA has played all season. I know the stats and rankings, but going on the eyeball test, I would say Florida’s secondary and South Carolina’s defensive front is the best in the nation.
Aaron very well could struggle tomorrow. And the pundits will say he continues to struggle in big games. That is easy if you just look at the W-L records, but take a closer look, and you will see that the big games Georgia has lost, he deserves some blame, but it is not entirely his fault.
Why isn’t anyone talking about Todd Grantham’s unit in big games? Why does he get a pass and Aaron Murray doesn’t?