By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Perhaps losing A.J. Green isn’t a big deal after all.
Not that Georgia coach Mark Richt wouldn’t love to have Green back on the field this year as a senior. The wide receiver left after his junior year and was the fourth overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft by Cincinnati.
Green’s departure looked to strike a blow to Georgia’s offense and make life difficult for sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray.
But it hasn’t been so bad.
The Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC), who host Mississippi State (2-2, 0-2) at 11 a.m. Saturday, are still getting up and down the field. They’re fourth in the SEC in total offense (438.5 yards per game) and fifth in scoring offense (37.2 points per game).
“I’d love to have A.J. back, don’t get me wrong,” Richt said, “but in some ways it’s simpler from a game planning point of view, and a quarterback decision-making point of view, that now you’re just reading your progressions, and we’re not sitting there going, ‘Man, if we don’t get the ball to A.J. it’s a bad day.’ ”
Murray, meanwhile, is actually putting up better numbers than last season.
He had a strong freshman year, throwing for 3,049 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions, with a passer rating of 154.48. So far this season, Murray has passed for 940 yards, 11 TDs, three interceptions and a 162.96 rating.
As Richt pointed out, there is no shortage of targets. Receiver Malcolm Mitchell leads the way with 17 catches for 252 yards, and tight end Orson Charles has 13 grabs for 210.
Cornerback and kick returner Brandon Boykin will also get the occasional touch on offense, and he’s a big-play threat.
Georgia also has a freshman running back in Isaiah Crowell who’s made a great first impression, rushing for 411 yards so far. The offense is playing at a slightly faster pace this year, too – the Bulldogs are running an average of 73 plays per game, up from 62.6 last season.
“We just played Louisiana Tech, so I’m sure they ain’t going to go no faster than them,” MSU cornerback Corey Broomfield said. “We ain’t worrying about pace.”
he’s the decider
State should be worried about Murray, though. Now in his second year running the show, he can find a comfort level without a guy like Green around. Besides, Murray played the first four games of last season without Green, who was suspended for selling one of his signed jerseys.
“Last year he came in (to Starkville) and had not played a lot, but now you can see he’s a veteran quarterback and makes good decisions with the ball in his hand, and can make every throw,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said. “When you stop him in the throw game, he comes out, can scramble around and create with his feet.
“We’re going to have to play real sound on defense and keep the ball in front of us and hopefully get a little bit of pressure on him to rush some of his decisions, so he doesn’t have time to sit back and pick us apart.”