Georgia opened its football season with back-to-back losses against Boise State and South Carolina. Coming off a disappointing 2010 season, the pair of losses had plenty of people wondering about the hot seat of coach Mark Richt and exactly which direction the program is headed. It’s safe to say those questions are no longer on the table as the Bulldogs have rattled off 10 consecutive victories and earned a berth in the SEC Championship game on Saturday.
But can they do something that few teams have done this year and hang with LSU? Better yet, do they have the necessary ingredients to pull of an upset? Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray doesn’t exactly say those words, but he does sound confident that Georgia can matchup physically with LSU.
Aaron Murray joined ESPN Radio with Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo to discuss the Bulldogs facing LSU with an SEC title at stake in the same building — the Georgia Dome — where UGA lost to Boise State in the season opener, what has turned things around since then, when it clicked for him that he was a top quarterback in the SEC, what he sees of LSU on film, how much more comfortable he is at this stage of this season after battling through growing pains, and Saturday’s matchup with LSU.
How much have things changed since you left the Georgia Dome following a loss to Boise State to now returning for the SEC championship game?:
“It’s a whole different mood. I think we have some very loyal fans at Georgia, some of the best fans in the country, but there was some unhappiness going around. You could tell not just only in our team and our coaches, but fans walking around campus. There really is just a different mood walking around campus. … It’s a great feeling right now being in Athens.”
What was the most important thing in turning things around there?:
“I think turnovers. That South Carolina game we gave the ball up a lot and didn’t protect it. The rest of the season, we’ve had this little deal with Coach Richt that if we win the turnover ratio we don’t have to shave. And we’ve won the turnover ratio every single game we’ve won this year, 10 weeks in a row. … Our defense has done a great job all season of giving us the ball back in good field position.”
When did it really click to you that you were one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC?:
“I think as a whole offense we’ve gotten better the entire season. We started off with a very young team, a lot of guys put in new positions on the offensive line and then a lot of young skill positions. … It’s made my job easier, the more those guys have progressed and gotten better throughout the season.”
When you watch LSU on film, what do you see?:
“A lot of speed. There’s speed all over the SEC when you face those defenses, but LSU takes it to another notch. They’ve got a bunch of guys who can move around, make plays, a very athletic defensive line. … And then probably the best group of corners and safeties we’ve faced all year, and some of the best in the countries. They just make plays; they’re playmakers. … It’s a huge challenge for us.”
How do you know when it’s time to take a shot downfield and when it’s time to play it safe?:
“I think it’s all to do with game-planning and how much preparation you put in. When you put in the time and effort when it comes to film study and the practice field … they make sure I’m completely prepared so that in the game it’s not so much of trying things out or testing things, it’s, ‘That’s what we saw; that’s what we prepared for.'”
How much more comfortable are you now compared to a year ago?:
“I think a lot more confidence right now. Not only confidence in myself, I think the coaches have a lot more confidence in me. I think Coach Bobo trusts me a lot more with the playbook and opening things up. … I think we’ve done a great job all year of that. We’ve got multiple receivers with 30 or more catches. … It really makes it hard for defenses to figure out where the ball’s going.”
Do you have to approach this game just like the last 10, as a game that you can win?:
“Oh definitely. We started off the season as a very young team and we’ve taken strides every game of getting better and better, offensively, defensively … and then special teams we’ve gotten better every week, too. We have a lot of confidence. We’re feeling great about the direction our team’s heading in. We feel we match up extremely well against LSU.”
Listen to Aaron Murray on ESPN Radio here (Interview begins at 30:20)