ATHENS, Ga. - Though college football schedules often are assembled several years in advance, Georgia has shown impeccable timing in cycling in new quarterbacks.
The Bulldogs have opened twice against Clemson and Oklahoma State within the last decade, but they hosted Arkansas State in 2001 when David Greene started as a redshirt freshman and welcomed Western Kentucky in 2006 when freshman Matthew Stafford made his debut. Redshirt freshman Aaron Murray now is Georgia's starter, and his first test takes place Saturday against the visiting Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette.
"I'm really glad I'm opening at home," Murray said Tuesday. "It's going to be a great experience and a great way to start the season."
Murray will be playing in front of more than 92,000 friendly fans at Sanford Stadium, as Louisiana-Lafayette was allotted 4,500 tickets but only sold 490.
Greene looked sharp in his Sanford debut, completing 21 of 29 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns as the Bulldogs rolled past the Indians 45-17. Stafford played in the final stages of a 48-12 win over the Hilltoppers, completing 3 of 5 passes for 40 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown to reserve tight end Coleman Watson.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt hopes Saturday can be just as pleasant and productive for Murray, who Richt expects will have nerves.
"I'm a 50-year-old man and I'll be nervous too, which is a good thing," Richt said. "Hopefully our fans will be friendly to him and will realize he's a freshman and that he is going to make mistakes. He probably won't just be lights out as far as his accuracy and his decisions and all those things. He's going to be finding his way, and hopefully his teammates will help him out offensively and defensively and even in the kicking game.
"All those areas can really help a young quarterback, and I feel good about that. I feel good about the guys around him."
Richt said the best way to ease in new quarterbacks is starting them off with smaller packages and hoping they have early success from which they can grow.
The greatest debut for a starting quarterback under Richt occurred in 2005, when fifth-year senior D.J. Shockley tied a school record with five touchdown passes in a 48-13 humbling of No. 19 Boise State. Joe Cox was a fifth-year senior when he started last season's opener at No. 9 Oklahoma State, completing 15 of 30 passes for 162 yards in a 24-10 loss.
Murray made that trip to Stillwater and is glad this year is different, provided he can control his excitement.
"I need to take that down a notch," he said. "It would be a great thing if I was on defense and I was trying to take someone's head off, but on offense you want to be a little more mellow."
Said fifth-year receiver Kris Durham: "For him to go ahead and get those jitters out this week will be good for him. It will help him for next week when we have to go on the road."