If Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger were one quarterback, they’d be the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Murray’s mobility outside the pocket, mental acuity and ability to run a pro offense, in addition to Mettenberger’s big arm and towering size would have scouts salivating over them at the top of the first round.
Les Miles has a reputation of not developing quarterbacks. Mettenberger’s evolution has been a shocking development that Cam Cameron gets the credit for. Murray's been a top-flight quarterback since his freshman year. At one time, Mark Richt had them both on his depth chart at UGA competing for the starting job before Mettenberger was dismissed from the program Saturday afternoon’s shootout between the two former roommates was the emotional equivalent of The Game and 50, Walter vs. Hank or Obi-Wan vs. Anakin.
Both quarterbacks threaded the needle and third and longs were the equivalent of 2nd & short in a regular SEC showdown.
Mettenberger got the party started by standing in the pocket, taking the hit against the pressure and delivering a tight spiral to Kadron Boone for his first touchdown of the night. Mettenberger took the Google Earth route to the endzone whenever LSU got possession of the football. Aside from a lazy short pass that was intercepted by defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, Murray had an impeccable performance.
With just over 13 minutes remaining in the fourth, Mettenberger completed a laser through triple coverage that put the Tigers in position to tie the game up at 34.
Murray marched right back down the field, converted a fourth and kicked a field goal.
After Mettenberger fumbled a snap on second down to put the Tigers into a 3rd and 23 hole, Mettenberger dug them back out with a 24-yard completion and ended the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Hill.
For a moment, it appeared like déjà vu for Murray in another big game loss. LSU left Murray with too much time. It’s not like he needed it. It took UGA fewer than three minutes to matriculate the ball down the field and take a 44-41 lead with 1:47 remaining. The Bulldogs waited until their final defensive stand to show up and force the LSU offense off the field.
Before Mettenberger left UGA three years ago, many thought he was in the lead to win the starting job. For one night, Murray finally beat out Mettenberger. After throwing for 298 yards and four touchdowns, Murray is fewer than 600 yards from rewriting the SEC record for total career yardage held by Tim Tebow. Of course Tebow still has something Murray doesn’t – a national championship. While Todd Gurley missed the second half, the LSU win will be remembered as a victory led by Murray.
Now 3-1, UGA is now in position to win the SEC East for the third consecutive year and give Murray another shot at the national championship. All they need is a win over the Florida Gators on Nov. 2. The defense is a sieve but as long as Murray is directing the offense with a healthy Gurley in the backfield, the Bulldogs will always have a chance.