ATHENS, Ga. — He was sensational against LSU and clutch at Tennessee.
During last Saturday's 41-26 loss to Missouri, however, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray found himself pressing.
"Pressing and maybe lacking a little trust on some of my throws," Murray said Tuesday. "I didn't trust my receivers to throw it out there and put the ball where I knew I needed to put it."
Last weekend marked the first time this season that Murray played a 60-minute game without tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and without receivers Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley. Marshall, Bennett and Scott-Wesley were injured Oct. 5 in Knoxville, when Murray rallied the Bulldogs from a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation to a 34-31 overtime triumph.
Murray is expected to be without those same components this week -- Gurley has yet to practice since spraining his ankle Sept. 28 against LSU -- when the No. 15 Bulldogs visit Vanderbilt.
The 6-foot-1, 208-pound redshirt senior completed 25 of 45 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns against Missouri, with his third score being a 10-yarder to Chris Conley that pulled the Bulldogs within 28-26 with 12:15 remaining. The Bulldogs trailed 34-26 when they took over at their 24-yard line with 4:25 left, but any hopes of Murray rekindling his magic from Tennessee were dashed by an interception on the possession's first play.
"I thought for the first 56 minutes of the game that he played great, especially with what was at his disposal," tight end Arthur Lynch said. "We put ourselves behind, and I think Aaron put us in position to make a lot of plays. He got us to the red zone three times where we didn't score. We fumbled once and had two field goals, and if we could have turned that into 21 points, we win the game.
"I think Aaron is fine, and I don't think this will affect him over the course of the next couple of weeks. We just need to defeat Vanderbilt and get to this bye week, because everyone knows we need it."
The injury-riddled offense resulted in Conley taking the boundary receiver role for the first time in his career. Conley had played slot receiver and flanker, which is the field side, but playing boundary meant dealing with restricted space and therefore less room to get open.
Did Murray have company in the pressing department?
"Maybe a little bit because I was at a new position," Conley said. "There was a lot of stuff I had to learn last week and about three days to practice it."
Missouri showed no sympathy for Georgia's loss in personnel, grabbing a 28-10 lead at the 5:46 mark of the second quarter on defensive end Michael Sam's 21-yard fumble return after opposite end Shane Ray slammed into Murray. The Tigers played a lot of zone coverage and did not allow a reception of longer than 21 yards in the second half.
"As we were trying to get back into the game, you couldn't get a bunch of big chunks," coach Mark Richt said. "Last year, I think we were number one in the nation in big plays, and we had a bunch of big plays going into this game this year. It was just one of those games where you've got to play methodically and move the ball down the field, and some of the evidence of that was the fact our tailbacks caught 10 balls between the two of them.
"As you're trying to come back, the tendency is to want to get a bigger chunk, and I think a couple of times that's what Aaron did. He tried to get a bigger chunk than he should have, and it cost us."
Murray, already the all-time passing leader in SEC history, has two more league records within his grasp. He has 12,203 yards of total offense in his career and needs just 30 more to break the standard set by Florida quarterback Tim Tebow from 2006 to '09.
Tebow's mark should fall quickly Saturday, and Murray is also three touchdown passes away from breaking the 114 Danny Wuerffel tallied at Florida from 1993 to '96. Murray has thrown at least three touchdown passes in each of his last five games.
"I'm having fun," Murray said. "I'm definitely having fun. If you're not having fun out there playing, then you don't need to be out there. It was a tough loss last weekend, but I think we've put it behind us."
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 ...