3:30 PM ET, October 5, 2013
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
3:30 PM ET, October 5, 2013
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
(AP) -- There was a sense of confident calm around Georgia's offense on Tuesday even as the Bulldogs prepared for the possibility of being without star running back Todd Gurley at Tennessee on Saturday.
Quarterback Aaron Murray is the main reason the offense hasn't missed a beat.
Murray kept the offense moving after the No. 6 Bulldogs lost top receiver Malcolm Mitchell for the season in their opening game. He then threw four touchdown passes to lead Georgia to a 44-41 win over LSU last week after Gurley left with a sprained left ankle in the first half.
Georgia (3-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) has averaged 41.2 points per game against a tough early schedule that included three top 10 teams. The highlight was last week's win over then-No. 6 LSU. Murray threw a go-ahead, 25-yard touchdown pass to Justin Scott-Wesley with 1:47 remaining.
"I thought Aaron played good during the game," coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. "When the game was over I thought he had played good. Then I watched the film and I thought he played great."
Richt said Murray "was on top of everything -- all the checks, all the protections."
Murray, who ranks fourth in the nation in passing efficiency, should break former Georgia star David Greene's SEC record of 11,528 yards passing this week. Murray is only yards away from matching Greene's total from 2001-04.
Murray is also on the verge of breaking Florida standout Danny Wuerffel's SEC mark of 114 career touchdown passes. Murray has 106 TD passes.
"It's crazy to think about," Murray said. "I've never been a guy who's worried about stats. It's all about winning, winning, winning, but it's definitely an honor to be alongside some of those guys like Greene and Wuerffel, guys who did some unbelievable things."
Murray's senior leadership has been especially important after Mitchell was lost with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Clemson. Now Gurley's status is in doubt for the game at Tennessee.
Gurley ranks third in the SEC with his average of 112.5 yards rushing. Murray said losing Gurley would hurt but added Georgia will be ready to move on with Keith Marshall and freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas at tailback.
"It's the next guy up," Murray said. "We do a great job every week of getting everyone prepared because you never know the situation, you never know who is going to go down and we're very confident in everyone on offense at every position."
No position inspires more confidence than Murray at quarterback.
"I think he has stepped up his game, even more so than in the past," said tight end Arthur Lynch. "It's not just about who we've played but about his decision making, his ability to make the big play when we need it most, and third down throws that are pretty vital.
"I think that's all something that comes with maturity and hard work and preparation, and those are three things that have always been in his corner."
Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Murray has a future in the NFL.
Murray "is as good as any quarterback in the country," Jones said. "He is a Sunday quarterback. He can make all the throws.
"The great quarterbacks have the ability to defeat tight coverage and throw it in there. Murray can defeat tight coverage. That's what makes him a special player. He's poised and he's in control."
Murray threw a combined eight TD passes with one interception in wins over top 10 teams South Carolina and LSU. He passed for 323 yards with one interception and ran for a touchdown in Georgia's 38-35 loss to Clemson.
Lynch, who pointed out Murray also has started in back-to-back wins over Florida, said Murray's old label as a quarterback who couldn't win the big game "is out the window."
Gurley did not practice on Tuesday and may be held out again on Wednesday.
"When we say day to day, that's the best way to describe it because we just don't know how fast it will heal or how fast the swelling will go down," Richt said. "He was supposed to be on crutches, but I looked out the window and watched him walking with his crutches over his shoulder, so I don't know if that's a telltale sign, but hopefully it won't be too long."
Murray had a big day in Georgia's last matchup with Tennessee, going 20 of 26 for 286 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a wild 51-44 victory last Sept. 29 in Athens. Marshall rushed for 164 yards on just 10 carries and had touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards, while Gurley ran for 130 yards and three scores.
The Vols (3-2, 0-1) barely held off South Alabama 31-24 last week, needing Brian Randolph's game-clinching, fourth-and-goal interception in the end zone with 1:51 remaining after Tennessee squandered most of a 24-point lead. Justin Worley threw three interceptions, two of which were in the end zone late in the first half.
"We needed a game like this," Jones said. "We needed to find out (about ourselves) as we move forward into the SEC schedule. We've had some adversity. We were in a tight game. You really find out which guys step up in those types of circumstances."
The Vols are opening a brutal three-game stretch, hosting No. 13 South Carolina and visiting top-ranked Alabama after this contest. They've lost their two games against ranked teams this season by a combined 90-31, and have dropped 15 straight and 21 of 22 to Top 25 opponents.
Mark Richt's Georgia team has made it through a brutal September with its championship goals still largely intact. The No. 6 Bulldogs are coming off an emotionally draining win against LSU, but Richt said of Saturday's game, "We're playing Tennessee. I don't foresee a letdown. If we were playing somebody else, you might start talking that way, but when you play Tennessee, you don't talk that way."
|Avg Points Allowed||32.2||28.0|