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August 31, 2011
ATHENS, Ga. -- Aaron Murray knows what kind of quarterback he wants to be at Georgia.
The kind who brings the same effort and enthusiasm to every workout, every practice, every game. The kind who always seems to make the right call. The kind who inspires confidence in his teammates and spurs them on to greater heights.
Most of all, he wants to be a winner.
You know, someone just like Boise State's Kellen Moore.
"He's consistent game in and game out," Murray marveled Tuesday. "He does all the right things on and off the field, with the way he works and how responsible he is, the kind of leader he is. He's a tremendous leader. Those are all the things I'm striving to be myself. He definitely has a couple of years on me, but I hope when I'm in his situation -- going into my senior year -- I'll be in the same sort of spotlight that he is."
Moore still has one more season to go with the fifth-ranked Broncos, but all he's doing now is piling on to an already brilliant career. By the time he's done, he'll likely be the winningest quarterback in major-college history and could hold a slew of other records, everything from completion percentage to touchdown passes.
Murray's resume is still very much a work in progress, but he's coming off a brilliant debut season with the Bulldogs, one that was largely overlooked because his team struggled to its first losing year since 1996. If No. 19 Georgia is to reclaims its spot among the nation's elite programs, Murray will have to lead the way.
First up, Moore and the Broncos.
What an enticing matchup for the opening Saturday -- the champ vs. the challenger.
"This will be good for Aaron," said Georgia defensive back Sanders Commings, one of those who'll be trying to stop Boise State's star. "Kellen Moore has all the hype coming into this game. He's the Heisman candidate. Aaron is a good quarterback, a good SEC quarterback, but people don't think he's Kellen Moore. This is a great opportunity for him to show he can be that guy."
Nothing would show it better than a victory Saturday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
While Murray's individual numbers as a redshirt freshman were impressive -- 24 touchdowns, just eight interceptions, 61 percent completions, more than 3,000 yards passing -- the results of his team were not. Georgia finished 6-7, an unacceptable record that has put the heat on longtime coach Mark Richt.
"At the end of the day, the only that matters is wins and losses," Murray said. "If I had thrown five touchdowns and three interceptions and we have gone undefeated, I would've been the happiest man in the world. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what kind of stats you have. I just want to win football games."
Winning has never been an issue for Moore, who was skipped over by nearly everyone coming out of high school and wound up at Boise State because, essentially, he had no other options (Idaho was the only other Football Bowl Subdivision school to offer a scholarship).
Since taking over the starting job as a redshirt freshman, Moore has guided the Broncos to a 38-2 record and transformed a Cinderella program into a true national powerhouse. Boise State comes into the season with the second-highest preseason ranking in school history, its quarterback virtually assured of passing Colt McCoy's 45 wins at Texas unless there's an injury or some unforeseen collapse.
Coach Chris Petersen chuckled when someone asked this week if he knew Moore would turn out to be THIS good when he walked on campus in 2007.
"Absolutely," the coach said facetiously.
Then, he turned serious.
"He was one of those under-recruited guys," Petersen said. "I don't think anybody would have predicted this. He's just got a great feel for the game. He's an accurate thrower and he does such a great job for us. I'd like to say I had predicted it. He just came out of the gate and played at a high level right from the start."
Well, not right from the start.
Moore and Murray both spent a year on the sidelines, giving them a chance to soak up the intricacies of college game without having to produce results on game day. When they finally got on the field, both looked a lot more seasoned than someone making the jump straight from high school, though there was still plenty of learn.
Murray, for instance, knows he was a little too eager to run as a redshirt freshman because he wasn't always sure where to throw the ball.
Moore can relate.
"Bottom line, a lot of it is just experience," Moore said. "The first time you did it, you got antsy and you threw it away, or you got antsy and you scrambled. Then you watch it on tape and see you've got a little more time and get better and better. And eventually you get a comfort zone and you get almost this force field, where you get the sense that this is my little box and I can maneuver right in here and we'll be fine."
There's still things he wants to work on, like getting a little more accuracy on his throws. If the receiver can take it in stride, he'll have a chance to go for even more yards after the catch. Moore rarely gets sacked, but he's looking to cut those numbers down to nothing. Sacks, as he says, "are killers."
"Every year we raise the bar," Moore said. "Whatever the numbers are from last year, the one's we really care about, we try to elevate those and improve those."
That's what Murray's trying to do, too.
He wants to be just like Kellen.
"Aaron is getting there," Richt said. "But I don't know if he's there yet."