By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Aaron Murray knows what the quarterback’s handbook says, but he knows its his job to make the lights flicker on the scoreboard, too.
Murray, among the top-rated quarterbacks in the SEC, will try to balance the desire to make a big play against the time-proven approach of give-and-take, protect the football and get in the end zone.
Georgia’s third-year sophomore is third in the league in pass efficiency, third in passing yards a game and second in touchdown passes.
Saturday morning at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium he’ll face an improved Ole Miss secondary but also a Rebels’ defense that has been susceptible to big plays of late.
“It’s hard, because you always want to make the play. You always want to get the completion or if nothing’s there, try to get up and run,” Murray said. “Sometimes you’ve got to throw the ball away, get down, take the sack. You never want to do that, but at the end of the day, the smarter play matters most.”
In its last two games, Ole Miss has given up plays of 19 yards or more 12 times, some in the run game, some with the pass.
Vanderbilt tailback Zac Stacy had runs of 34 and 77 yards, and Ole Miss has allowed a run of at least 70 yards in two straight games.
Joining Murray on the Georgia offense will be freshman running back Isaiah Crowell, who has drawn comparisons to former Bulldogs star Herschel Walker. Crowell (5-11, 215) will be making his first SEC start. He’s rushed for 264 yards, 118 of them against South Carolina.
Crowell will be utilized a good bit with screen passes.
“They’re very explosive, one of the top offenses in the SEC,” Nix said. “Aaron Murray has been listed as the top quarterback in the conference, and he’ll be the best one we’ve seen so far. They have great tools, big time RB that is a true freshman and big offensive line, big tight ends. I mean they are a very talented football team.”
Spreading the wealth
Murray has spread the ball around, throwing touchdown passes to six different receivers, unlike last year when much of his attention went to one receiver, A.J. Green.
Ole Miss was among the worst in the country last year in pass defense, but the Rebels through three games rank in the top 30 nationally in both passing defense (176.0 ypg) and pass defense efficiency (104.75 rating).
The Rebels have strengthened themselves in the secondary with last week’s move of freshman Nick Brassell from wide receiver to cornerback. Brassell broke up two passes, forced a fumble and recovered one against Vanderbilt in his first substantial action on defense.
Nix believes the Rebels’ secondary will be up to the challenge.
“It’s all about consistency. It’s about doing the little things right in your scheme, and we’re going to have multiple looks and mix our coverages,” he said. “I think that bothers any quarterback if you can disguise the coverages well. The biggest thing for us is to get him in some obvious pass situations and do some different things coverage-wise that give us the upper hand.”