Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray (11) looks to pass during the second half against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium on Saturday. (Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports)
Georgia’s chances for a third straight SEC East Division title were dashed following a heartbreaking 43-38 loss to Auburn last Saturday.
But the Bulldogs insist there is still plenty to play for when they face Kentucky in their final home game of the season on Saturday. Georgia (6-4, 4-3 SEC) will honor 28 seniors before the game, including four-year starting quarterback Aaron Murray.
“We want to win regardless,” Georgia sophomore running back Todd Gurley said. “It’s a conference game so we definitely want to finish off strong and get a win for the seniors.”
In the Auburn loss, Georgia fell behind 27-10 at halftime before rallying back to take a 38-37 lead in the fourth quarter. But with 25 seconds left, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall connected with receiver Ricardo Louis for a 73-yard TD pass to win the game.
The inability to close out the game late underscored Georgia’s season-long struggles in the secondary.
“I always tell the staff and the players to think about what we can learn from this and how can we make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I always have to look at what I could have done better, and the coaches have to look at what they could do better and the players are the same way.”
The Kentucky game will give Georgia the chance to honor Murray, who has broken several SEC and school passing marks during his four-year career with the Bulldogs. Murray is the SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards (12,983 yards), passing TDs (117) and total offense (13,334 yards).
Murray has managed to put up big numbers in his college career in part due to his durability. In four years at Georgia, Murray has yet to miss a start due to injury.
“I am definitely proud of the way I’ve been able to play this long,” Murray said. “It’s been a little bit of luck, too, because I’ve definitely taken my share of shots that you see end people’s seasons all the time. But no matter how I’m feeling, if I have even a remote chance of playing I am going to make it happen.”
• Georgia coach Mark Richt blamed himself for not ordering the directive for Georgia defensive backs to knock the ball down on Auburn’s miracle 73-yard TD pass from quarterback Nick Marshall to receiver Ricardo Louis. On the play, Marshall launched a pass deep into double-coverage but Georgia defensive backs Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons collided while going for an interception. The ball caromed off Matthews’ chest into the hands for Louis for the score with 25.1 seconds left in the game. “You’ve got to know to knock a ball down in that situation,” Richt said. “But we had a timeout prior to that and I’m in there in the huddle. Grantham’s in there. We’re all in there. I could have easily said, ‘Hey guys, if the ball’s launched deep bat it down.’ I mean, I could have said that. That would have been a good reminder for a young bunch of guys back there.”
• Georgia currently ranks 11th in the SEC in scoring defense, giving up 30.2 points per game. The Bulldogs are on pace to set a program record for most points allowed per game, surpassing the 26.6 set in 1990. Richt refused to single-out defensive coordinator Todd Grantham as a reason for Georgia’s defensive struggles. “We’re a team here at Georgia and we’re going to keep coaching and keep trying to make improvements and corrections on everything we do in all phases of the game,” Richt said.
Players to watch
• QB Aaron Murray passed for more than 400 yards in a game for the second time this passing, passing for 415 yards and two TDs in Georgia’s 43-38 loss at Auburn. Murray did about all he could do to bring the Bulldogs back from an early 27-7 hole, completing 33 of 49 passes and rushing for two more TDs on quarterback scrambles. For the season, Murray has passed for 2,892 yards with 22 TDs and eight interceptions.
• RB Todd Gurley had another solid all-around game against Auburn with 79 yards rushing and one TD and 77 yards receiving. For the season, Gurley has rushed for 704 yards and seven TDs despite missing three games with a sprained ankle.
• TE Arthur Lynch had four catches for 75 yards and a TD against Auburn. Lynch has put together a strong senior season for the Bulldogs with 318 yards receiving and three TDs. Lynch has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 25.
• LB Ramik Wilson put together another strong game for Georgia against Auburn with 18 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and one sack. Wilson has a team-high 110 tackles for the Bulldogs with nine tackles for loss and three sacks this season.
Quote to note
“He is probably one of the better team guys that we’ve had. We’ve had a lot of good ones, but I don’t know if I’ve ever even heard him come close to tooting his own horn. It’s always been about the team and about deferring credit to other people.” — Georgia coach Mark Richt, on the legacy of senior quarterback Aaron Murray.
NCAAF Team Report - Georgia - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Scouting the running game: Georgia finished with 117 rushing yards against Auburn on 4.7 yards per carry. QB Aaron Murray scrambled out of the pocket for 37 yards and two TDs. For the season, Georgia ranks 11th in the SEC in rushing offense at 174.5 yards per game.
Scouting the passing game: Georgia QB Aaron Murray spread his 33 completions against Auburn to seven different receivers. WR Rantavious Wooten had 5 catches for 99 yards and a TD, while WR Michael Bennett finished with seven catches for 89 yards. Georgia’s offensive line did a decent job in pass protection. Murray was sacked just once.
Scouting the run defense: Auburn gashed Georgia’s run defense for 323 yards rushing on 5.7 yards per carry. Georgia failed to account for scrambling Auburn QB Nick Marshall, who rushed for 89 yards and 2 TDs. The Bulldogs have given up 21 rushing TDs this season and rank fourth in the SEC in run defense, allowing 145.7 yards per game.
Scouting the pass defense: Georgia allowed 229 yards passing, but most of that came late due to the miraculous 73-yard TD catch by Auburn WR Ricardo Louis. A miscommunication in the secondary proved costly as S Tray Matthews and S Josh Harvey Clemons tried to go for the ball at the same time. The collision between the two Georgia DBs caused the ball to pop loose to Louis for the catch. For the season, Georgia ranks 11th in the SEC in pass defense, giving up 241.2 yards per game. The Bulldogs rank 13th in the SEC in interceptions with just four.
Scouting the special teams: PK Marshall Morgan made his lone field goal attempt against Auburn from 37 yards to improve to 15 for 17 on the season. P Collin Barber had four punts with a 38.2 yard average and a long of 51. Barber is fifth in the SEC in punting at 44.1 yards per game. Georgia freshman LB Leonard Floyd blocked a 36-yard Auburn field goal attempt.
—WR Chris Conley returned from a sprained ankle to play against Auburn and finished with two catches for 24 yards.
—TE Jay Rome will sit out Georgia’s final two regular season games with an ankle injury. Georgia coach Mark Richt said Rome could return for Georgia’s bowl game.