October 30, 2012

'Aaron is the guy - period'

In case anybody was wondering whether or not head coach Mark Richt would ever consider replacing Aaron Murray for any reason other than injury was completely and absolutely shot down during Tuesday's weekly press conference at the Butts-Mehre Building.

"Aaron is the guy, period. Aaron is the guy," Richt said, when asked if any of his other backup QBs could receive an opportunity over the final four weeks of the regular season.

Much of the consternation over Murray stems from his first half against Florida in Saturday's 17-9 win.

In the game, Murray endured the most difficult first half of football in his Bulldog career, completing just 4 of 8 passes for 34 yards and three interceptions on three straight possessions, resulting in two of the Gators' three field goals.

Internet message boards have been afire, wondering why in the world a quarterback in his third year as a starter struggled to the extent Murray did, albeit against a top-notch defense like the Gators?

Tuesday, Murray offered this explanation.

"I talked to Coach (Mike) Bobo yesterday. A lot of it had to do with my footwork. I wasn't on balance and that's something I prided myself on this off-season, camp throughout the season and I think I took a step backwards in that category," Murray said. "It's something I'm going to have to do a better job at, to get back to my fundamentals and continue to work on my footwork. I think that will improve everything."

Fortunately for Murray, he was able to fix some of the issues during halftime and in the second half completed 8 of 16 passes for 116 yards and one touchdown with no turnovers.

"Coach Bobo was very positive during the game. He doesn't get on me too much; he saves that for me during the week in practice," Murray said. "But he just told me to calm down and relax. The locker room was all positive - teammates and coaches," Murray said. "I wasn't stressed or freaking out, I just needed to clean some things up because the defense was playing so well. I just needed to settle down and I'd be good to go."

Richt said he challenged Murray - along with the rest of the team - prior to last Saturday's kickoff.

"We talked a little bit about what it means to be soft position-by-position. I guess it was the day of the game. One of the things we talked about at quarterback was you're soft if you can't get knocked down a couple of times and get back up and trust your protection and throw strikes," Richt said. "I didn't say throw picks, but that's the same kind of thing. You'd rather get sacked than throw a pick. That's a test of a guy's toughness at the quarterback position. Can he have some bad plays and then shake it off and go make some plays that will help you win the game at the end? I thought he showed real outstanding mental toughness in that area. I thought Coach Bobo did a good job of not quitting on the guy."

Of Murray's three first-half interceptions, the one he sailed to Florida safety Matt Elam appeared to bother the quarterback the most.

"That was probably the worst pass I've ever thrown. That was me just trying not to make a mistake on a pass and throwing it like a dart instead of a football," Murray said. "You have to trust your decisions and live with them and when you see an opening let it rip instead of trying not to make a mistake."

Murray also recognized he has to do a better job checking down to his backs.

There were a couple of occasions during Saturday's contest when tailback Todd Gurley had slipped out untouched and appeared to be wide open. But Murray didn't see him.

"Yeah, there were a couple of times that happened," Murray said. "I've got to do a better job of getting down to my back and let them make a play."

Murray did, however, disagree with the notion that there's something about "big games" that makes him freeze or make bad decisions.

Instead, he blamed poor fundamentals.

"When I went back and watched the film I think a lot of it just had to do with my footwork," Murray said. "A lot of my inaccuracy had to do with my feet not being in balance. Come the second half, you could see my footwork getting back to where it's been the entire season. That's when I was able to hit more receivers."