EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 13th story in a series on the 15 most memorable SEC football games beat writer David Paschall has covered since joining the newspaper in 1990. The games are being presented in chronological order.
There was no shortage of magnificent "M" starting quarterbacks during the 2013 Southeastern Conference football season.
Alabama's AJ McCarron was coming off consecutive national championships. Auburn's Nick Marshall would guide the Tigers to the league crown during Gus Malzahn's inaugural season as head coach on the Plains, while Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel was the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
Thrilling games were the norm that year, with No. 9 Georgia's 44-41 outlasting of No. 6 LSU inside Sanford Stadium serving as one of the most dazzling encounters of the past decade. This particular quarterback showdown pitted LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Georgia's Aaron Murray, who both signed with the Bulldogs in 2009.
"It was awesome," Murray said amid a sea of reporters after the CBS-televised thriller. "This is a game we'll talk about 20 or 30 years down the road, when we're all old and you guys are really, really old."
The Mettenberger-Murray storyline certainly added to the top-10 clash, with Mettenberger having been dismissed from Georgia in April 2010, when Bulldogs coach Mark Richt learned of Mettenberger inappropriately touching a female at a bar in Remerton, Georgia, a few weeks earlier when the university was on spring break. Mettenberger wound up pleading guilty to a pair of misdemeanor counts of sexual battery.
Making the buildup to LSU's visit to Athens all the more awkward was the fact that Mettenberger's mother, Tammy, worked within Georgia's athletic department in football operations. Richt gave her the LSU week off because of all the attention surrounding her son's first Sanford appearance since his dismissal.
Once kickoff arrived, the two offenses traded punch after punch after punch, with Murray throwing for 298 yards and four touchdowns and Mettenberger countering with a career-best 372 yards and three scores. Georgia's ground game produced 196 yards to give the Bulldogs the more balanced attack, with sophomore Keith Marshall and freshman J.J. Green having to shoulder most of the load once starter Todd Gurley was sidelined with a sprained ankle after 73 first-half yards.
Marshall tallied 96 rushing yards in a game that contained 943 total yards.
A 25-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Justin Scott-Wesley with 1:47 left proved to be the winning score, as a Mettenberger fourth-and-10 attempt from midfield sailed incomplete with 52 seconds remaining.
"I'm just honored to be a part of something like that," Richt said afterward.
Said Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo: "I'm about to pass out."
Georgia survived with Gurley in a walking boot for the final 30 minutes and having been completely overmatched against LSU's aerial attack. The Tigers possessed the receiving tandem of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, while Georgia was forced to employ four freshmen in its secondary, with cornerbacks Brendan Langley and Shaq Wiggins and safety Tray Matthews playing a chunk of the game together.
The Tigers took their last lead at 41-37 on Jeremy Hill's 8-yard touchdown run with 4:14 to go, but that was more than enough time for Murray to produce the final score in the memorable duel.
"We all know your quarterback has to play well to win a game like this," Richt said. "Aaron was phenomenal, gutsy and tremendous. They are both great players. It was incredible how well they played."
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Alabama 32, Georgia 28 (2012): Time runs out on Georgia in the most thrilling SEC title game played to date