ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia Bulldogs have defeated Florida just three times since 1990, and none of those wins occurred with a quarterback getting his first crack at the Gators.
Mike Bobo and David Greene were fifth-year seniors when they finally tasted success in Jacksonville during the 1997 and 2004 seasons, and Matthew Stafford was a sophomore in ’07 when he got his lone series win in three tries. Should redshirt freshman Aaron Murray guide the Bulldogs to victory Saturday, he would become the first Georgia quarterback to down Florida in his initial attempt since Greg Talley in 1989.
“I didn’t know that,” Murray said Tuesday. “I’m just trying to prepare like it’s any other game and not focus on all the hype. It’s an SEC game for us, so we’ve just got to keep working hard. I’m fine with that. It’s not a big deal.”
Talley was a sophomore in ’89 when his first start against the Gators resulted in a 17-10 triumph, but his experience as a junior was much different. Steve Spurrier took over as Florida’s coach in ’90, and the Gators cruised 38-7 to start a seven-game series win streak.
Florida’s dominance is not lost on Murray, a 6-foot-1, 209-pounder from Tampa who signed with Georgia over Florida and UCLA and was present for last year’s matchup when the Gators rolled 41-17. The Georgia-Florida game is among the few nationally that still employs a 50-50 crowd split, joining Oklahoma-Texas and Army-Navy.
“It’s one of those things where I’m going to tell Aaron to take it in and soak it up,” senior receiver Kris Durham said. “You can see where the blue and orange fans are, and you can see where the red and black fans are. I’m going to tell him to take it in during pregame, but after that first play we’ve got to start executing.”
Said coach Mark Richt: “I just want to encourage him just to focus on his job, and just do what you’ve been doing every week. Prepare like you’ve been preparing every week, and you’ll be fine. I probably don’t even have to say that to him, to be honest with you.”
Murray has been remarkably consistent to this point, completing 121 of 193 passes (62.7 percent) for 1,766 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. He has completed 57 of 88 attempts the past four weeks for 887 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.
His three pickoffs are tied with Alabama’s Greg McElroy for the fewest among SEC starting quarterbacks.
“I think we did a good job of kind of easing him into this thing,” Richt said. “If we had given him more early on, he might have handled it. I don’t know. We didn’t want to take the chance of just throwing the whole game plan on his back early and expecting him to play like a two- or three-year starter.
“The thing that I’m really most proud of for him is that respect he’s had for the football and the fact that he rarely throws it in a dangerous place.”
Murray met with Greene before the season to discuss the challenges of starting as a redshirt freshman. He expects to talk to him later this week about his experiences in Jacksonville.
Greene threw four touchdown passes in four meetings against the Gators, with three of those in the ’04 win.
“I remember, especially my redshirt freshman year, that they gave me some different looks early on,” Greene said. “One key that Florida does every year on their defense is that they really like to roll their safety down weak. If you see a lot of Georgia-Florida games, we always hit that backside seam route. We do it every year.
“It’s a different atmosphere. When you come to Georgia, you want to play in the Georgia-Florida game. It’s huge.”
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...