The key is in keeping it there.
Murray has done a masterful job of distributing the football to Georgia’s playmakers, a key reason the Bulldogs (7-2, 5-1 SEC) are on a seven-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s game against the Tigers (6-3, 5-1).
“Aaron Murray is everything he’s billed,” said Auburn coach Gene Chizik. “He lives up to the billing. He makes that offense extremely explosive because at any time, they’re going to throw the ball vertically down the field and hit some big plays. And they can still run the ball very effectively. They’re just all the way around. Aaron definitely makes them click.”
Murray has completed 153 of 255 passes (60 percent) for 2,060 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He leads the SEC in passing efficiency with a rating of 151.3 and is second to Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson in passing yards per game with 228.9.
Making things more difficult is there is no single receiver to key on. Georgia has four players with 23 or more receptions and at least three touchdown catches.
Tight end Orson Charles leads the Bulldogs in receiving with 31 receptions for 390 yards and five touchdowns.
“(Murray) has made some incredible throws,” Chizik said. “I want to say they’ve thrown for 25 touchdowns (as a team), somewhere in that neighborhood. That’s not by accident. They’re really good in the red zone. They’ve got some really, really good receivers, although a lot of them are young guys.”
Georgia also has been solid running the football. The Bulldogs rank sixth in the SEC in rushing at 175.6 yards per game.
Isaiah Crowell, who returns after a one-game suspension, leads Georgia in rushing with 689 yards and four touchdowns on 146 carries.
“Offensively, they’re just very efficient,” Chizik said. “They lead the league in pass efficiency. They’re very physical up front. They can run the ball with young tailbacks. They’re just an extremely talented, very physical football team. And I think they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.
The balance between run and pass has definitely helped the Bulldogs keep the chains moving. Georgia ranks second in the SEC in first downs with 22 per game and second in time of possession, averaging 32.58 minutes per game.
“They’re doing everything well,” said Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof. “They’re very explosive. They’re averaging a bunch of points and a bunch of yards a game. They’ve got a very effective rushing attack, both a perimeter run and a power run game. At the same time, they can play-action you to death because they’ve got big-play people.”
The key is leaving Murray with nowhere to go with the football. Although not lacking in mobility, running the ball is definitely not his strong suit.
He has rushed 50 times for 75 yards (an average of 1.5 yards per carry) and he has been sacked 18 times for 102 yards in losses.
Even so, Roof says Murray, a redshirt sophomore in his second season as the Bulldogs’ starter, has done a better job of choosing when to tuck and run and that has been part of his overall improvement as a quarterback from last year to this year.
“I think he’s gotten significantly better,” Roof said. “He’s making good decisions with the football and when he pulls it down, he keeps drives alive with his feet. You can see they’re starting to check more and things of that nature as he’s gained confidence and gained experience. You can tell that they have a lot of faith in him by what they do.”
Charles Bennett covers Auburn University sports for The Star. Follow him on Twitter @AUTigers_Star