Injuries forcing Georgia’s Murray to do more (with Missouri PODCAST)

Aaron Murray of Georgia is one of the top quarterbacks in the country.

Aaron Murray of Georgia is one of the top quarterbacks in the country. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The onus falls on the shoulders of Aaron Murray.

Georgia’s senior quarterback looks to keep his Heisman Trophy aspirations and the Bulldogs’ national title hopes alive when they host Missouri in a matchup of ranked teams Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN-TV).

It’s become a tougher task than expected for Murray, who must lead an injury-depleted offense against the rising Missouri Tigers (5-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), ranked 25th in the Associated Press poll.

No. 7 Georgia (4-1, 3-0 SEC) will be without three of its top receivers — Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett — and likely its two best running backs — Todd Gurley is doubtful with an ankle injury and Keith Marshall is done for the season.

That’s why the pressure falls squarely on the shoulders of the decorated signal-caller.

“They’ve got a real experienced quarterback whose done a lot of damage to a lot of teams,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. “He’s got some great stats. I don’t care who you have in there at receiver.”

Murray certainly has the experience. In his fourth year as Georgia’s starting quarterback, Murray has compiled a 32-14 record. Half of those losses came during his freshman season, a 6-7 campaign.

Murray is 26-7 since then, including 20-2 at Sanford Stadium, and is coming off a 12-2 season in 2012 that ended just shy of a berth in the national championship. Georgia fell 32-28 to Alabama in the SEC title game last December. Murray put up huge numbers during his junior campaign, throwing for 3,893 yards with 36 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

The Heisman hopeful appears to be on track to put up similar statistics in 2013, having thrown for 1,534 yards with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions so far.

“He’s a great quarterback. We’ll see him play on Sundays next year,” Missouri defensive lineman Lucas Vincent said. “We just have to get pressure in his face, hopefully he’ll make some bad throws.”

Murray broke the record for career passing yards in SEC history while leading Georgia to a comeback 34-31 overtime victory against Tennessee last Saturday. The benchmark now sits at 11,625 yards and counting after surpassing alumnus David Greene, who threw for 11,528 yards from 2001-04.

That sort of illustrious career draws rave reviews.

“He’s got very good accuracy, he’s very well-coached,” Pinkel said. “He obviously can deliver the ball, make plays, make plays in critical situations. He’s had some great games this season, you’ve seen him mature. He just quarterbacks well, is a good athlete, moves well, moves in the pocket. His accuracy and ability to make plays when things break down.

“It’s going to be a real challenge for our defense.”

A challenge Missouri is ready for.

“It’s just fun to go against guys like that, that you know are looked around the world as one of the best quarterbacks in the NCAA,” Missouri defensive lineman Markus Golden said. “It’s just great, we can’t wait to play him.”

How can Missouri stop somebody like that?

“We’re just going to go hard like we always do and just keep getting hits on him and sack him as much as we can,” Golden said. “We just have to get pressure on him.”

As demanding as that may sound for the Missouri defense, there’s also a burden on the Tiger offense to keep up with Georgia’s point-scoring machine.

The Bulldogs are 24th in the nation and fourth in the SEC with 39.8 points per game. Missouri, meanwhile, is eighth in the country and second in the SEC at 46.6 points.

There’s a bit of disclaimer with that stat, as Georgia has already faced a trio of top-10 teams — Clemson, LSU and South Carolina — while this will be Missouri’s first test against a ranked opponent.

While Missouri quarterback James Franklin knows his offense needs to put up some serious points in order for the Tigers to have a shot, he doesn’t feel the need to match Murray’s performance play for play, drive for drive.

“No sir, not really,” Franklin said. “I just need to go out and make sure I’m doing the offense well and making plays and getting the ball to the playmakers.”

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