Aaron Murray's Greatest Moments at Georgia
His career came to a close two-and-a-half games too soon, but Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will go down as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the Southeastern Conference.
The Tampa, Fla.-native came to Georgia as a Rivals.com 4-star quarterback in the class of 2009, and won the starting job prior to the 2010 season after taking a redshirt. When he took the field for his first career game versus Louisiana-Lafayette as a freshman, it was clear that Murray was going to be something special.
What were some of his top moments in the red and black? Let's take a look back.
9. Back-to-Back SEC East Titles
Georgia didn't win the BCS National Championship or an SEC title with Aaron Murray at the helm, but it came close. Murray led the Bulldogs to within five yards of an SEC Championship and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game last season. Almost doesn't count, but back-to-back SEC East titles still count for something.
The Bulldogs dropped games to Boise State and South Carolina to open the 2011 season, but reeled off 10 straight wins to close out the regular season and square off with LSU in the Georgia Dome. The Bulldogs led then-No. 1 LSU 10-7 at halftime before the wheels came off and the Tigers rolled to a 42-10 win.
Georgia tied Florida with a 7-1 conference record in 2012, and earned a repeat trip to Atlanta by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Gators.
Murray came back to try to finish the drill in 2013, but it wasn't to be. Still, back-to-back division titles are nothing to scoff at, particularly with South Carolina winning 11 games in each of those seasons and Florida dancing on the periphery of the national title race in 2012.
8. 2013 Capital One Bowl Win over Nebraska
Aaron Murray's performance in the 2013 Capital One Bowl following the 2012 set the tone for his record-setting senior season between the hedges.
Murray lit up a Nebraska defense that came in as the best pass defense in the country to the tune of 427 passing yards and five touchdowns in a 45-31 victory over the Cornhuskers.
"I'm real proud of Aaron and job he did," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said according to ESPN.com. "(He) had a couple of things go not exactly the way he wanted them to go. Had a couple of picks early. Just hung in there, very resilient and finished."
It was a great way to close out the 2012 season after Georgia came within five yards of winning the SEC Championship Game. It sent the seniors out on a high note and set the stage for Murray to shed the label that he can't win big games for one that was more appropriate.
7. Setting the SEC's All-Time Passing Yardage Record
There were plenty of opportunities for Aaron Murray to cement his legacy in 2013, and he capitalized on one Oct. 5, 2013 in Knoxville, Tenn.
On a 4th-and-4 from the Tennessee 39-yard line, Murray found wide receiver Chris Conley on a slant for a gain of 24 yards. The play moved Murray past former Georgia quarterback David Greene as the SEC's all-time leading passer. Greene (2001-04) held the career record with 11,528 yards.
Murray would throw for three touchdowns in the 34-31 win, including a two-yarder to Rantavious Wooten with five seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Murray finished his Georgia career with 13,166 career passing yards.
6. Auburn 2013
The Auburn game two weeks ago will go down in history as one of the most remarkable games in college football history due to Tiger quarterback Nick Marshall's 73-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis with 25 seconds left to hand Georgia a 43-38 loss.
But the Bulldogs were in position to win because of Murray's heroics.
Down 20 points in the fourth quarter, Murray tossed touchdown passes to Rantavious Wooten and Arthur Lynch to cut Auburn's lead to six with just under six minutes to play. After getting the ball back with 4:47 remaining, Murray led his team on a nine-play, 45-yard drive, culminating with a five-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-goal with 1:49 to play to give his team a one-point lead.
Even after Louis' miracle touchdown, Murray didn't let his team quit.
He led his team all the way to the Auburn 20-yard line with three ticks on the clock before getting sacked by Auburn's Dee Ford to end the game.
Murray didn't quit, and his team rallied around him to mount one of the most remarkable comebacks of the year. The Bulldogs just didn't get the ball to bounce their way in the end.
5. Reversal of Fortune
Georgia's loss to Florida during Aaron Murray's freshman season in 2010 marked the 18th loss in 21 tries to the Gators and continued a trend of Florida dominance in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
By the time Murray exhausted his eligibility, that trend would be reversed.
With Florida native Murray taking the snaps, the Bulldogs have won three straight over the Gators, all of which came against Florida head coach Will Muschamp—a former Bulldog safety.
Sure, some of Murray's performances in those rivalry games weren't great. In fact, the 2012 win over the Gators was downright ugly at times. But in this rivalry, all that matters is making a dent in the win column, and Murray did that three times.
Beating the Gators become more than just the exception. Murray helped make it the norm. It's been more than two decades since Georgia fans could say that.
4. Career TD Record
Aaron Murray set the University of Georgia career record for passing yardage in early October at Tennessee, but had one more record to top before the end of his collegiate career.
He entered the Nov. 9 matchup with Appalachian State one touchdown pass behind former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel's (1993-96) SEC career touchdown-pass record of 114. He'd leave the game with the record all to himself.
He hit Rantavious Wooten for a 35-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter to tie Wuerffel and hit Michael Bennett on a 23-yarder early in the second quarter to again etch his name in the SEC history books.
"It is a huge honor to be out there and be lucky enough to play four years here and that's the biggest thing," Murray said in postgame quotes released by Georgia. "You have to be able to go somewhere and play for a significant amount of time, and I've had that opportunity here. I get to play in a great offense that really allows me to move the ball around and make plays with great [players] around me."
Murray threw two touchdowns against Auburn the next week and four against Kentucky in his final collegiate game to set the new conference record with 121 touchdown career touchdown passes.
3. The 2012 SEC Championship Game
Georgia and Alabama squared off in the 2012 SEC Championship Game with a berth in the BCS National Championship Game on the line. Sure, Georgia fell five yards short in the 32-28 loss.
But it wasn't due to lack of effort from the Bulldogs' quarterback.
Murray threw for 265 yards and a touchdown in the loss and led his team on a feverish eight-play drive in the final 1:08 that fell five yards short. His final pass was tipped by Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley and caught by Chris Conley on the five-yard line as time ran out.
"I can't sleep at night," Murray told ESPN.com's David Ching in December 2012. "I literally replay the entire game pretty much every night before I go to bed. It's stressful. It's a game that will probably haunt me the rest of my life, honestly."
That game was used as evidence that Murray couldn't win the big game, but it wasn't Murray's fault. He did everything he could to lead his team to victory.
Had the coaching staff managed the clock properly and spiked the football with 15 seconds left, perhaps Murray would have won an SEC title and played for the crystal football.
2. South Carolina 2013
It was unfair, but Aaron Murray wasn't known as a big-game quarterback heading into the 2013 season. He quickly changed that perception with a sizzling performance against South Carolina in the second week of the season.
He completed 17-of-23 passes for 309 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in the 41-30 win over the Gamecocks, including an 85-yard touchdown pass to Justin Scott-Wesley with 13 minutes to play in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
The win broke a three-game losing streak to the Gamecocks, and at the time, gave Georgia a critical head-to-head tiebreaker over a team that's still in contention for the SEC East title.
1. LSU 2013
So what would Aaron Murray do for an encore after his performance versus South Carolina? Just light up LSU three weeks later in an even bigger game.
When the Tigers came in to play between the hedges, it marked the return of Tiger quarterback Zach Mettenberger—whom Murray beat out for Georgia's starting quarterback job in the spring of 2010.
The two former teammates put on a passing display for a full four quarters, with Murray getting the last laugh.
Murray completed 20-of-34 passes for 298 yards, four touchdowns and one interception—including a 25-yard touchdown pass to Justin Scott-Wesley with 1:47 to play to give the Bulldogs a 44-41 win over the Tigers.
"That was awesome," Murray said in postgame quotes released by Georgia. "I'm so proud of the entire team and how we came out today. It's been a tough start to the season, playing three top 10 teams in our first four games, and I am so proud of the way our team has gotten through it. We knew that today was going to be a fight, and we were up to it."
The win kept Georgia in the thick of the SEC East and national title races and solidified Murray's legacy as not only one of the most prolific quarterbacks in conference history but as a true "big-game quarterback."