Georgia’s regular season recap: Injuries and lackluster defense halted championship run

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Georgia

SDS recaps every team’s 2013 regular season:

Georgia Bulldogs

Final Record: 8-4 overall, 5-3 SEC

The biggest recruit Mark Richt signed last season was QB Aaron Murray returning for his senior season. Georgia’s senior leader had several records he was set to break, and he returned to win a championship, especially after coming up just five yards short in 2012.

Related: SEC final regular season standings

All total, Georgia lost WR Justin Scott-Wesley and RB Keith Marshall due to season-ending knee injuries. WR Michael Bennett missed two games due to a knee injury, and WR Chris Conley missed time due to injury. Todd Gurley missed an equivalent of five games due to an ankle injury suffered against LSU. And the worst of all, Aaron Murray was lost for the season on a career-ending knee injury against Kentucky.

Aaron Murray had another fabulous season until his season-ending injury. Murray led the SEC’s fifth best scoring offense with 3,075 yards, 26 TDs and nine INTs. Murray became the SEC’s all-time leading passer, and he became the only QB in conference history to throw for 3,000 yards in four seasons. His backup, Hutson Mason, looks like a great player, and he threw for 648 yards, four TDs and two INTs in three games played. No kidding, Mason looks like he has a stronger arm than Murray, and Georgia’s offense looks in great hands for 2014.

Related: Aaron Murray hopes to be back for UGA Pro Day

Todd Gurley led a violent rushing attack with 144 carries for 903 yards and 10 TDs, while Keith Marshall finished with just 246 yards and one TD after injuring his knee against Tennessee. Gurley didn’t escape injury either, and he missed an equivalent of five games. JJ Green and Brendan Douglas picked up the slack and combined for 702 yards and six TDs. The offensive line struggled at times, but for the most part, they were a solid group as five returning starters. They did struggle against Clemson and Auburn.

But along with an explosive offense, Georgia would be replacing seven defensive starters, including both nose guards and All-Americans Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree. So, we knew the defense would take a step back, but I anticipated them to actually be better than 2012’s defense, knowing how they struggled against the run.

Georgia’s defense drastically improved against the run, but replacing three veterans in the secondary took its toll. There were communication issues with a young secondary, and it started week one against Clemson and continued through Georgia Tech. Safeties Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons are going to be NFL players, and all they lack is experience. Harvey-Clemons nabbed 66 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss, while Matthews recorded 36 tackles. LBs Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd are going to be forces next season, and Jenkins racked up 11 tackles for loss and four sacks, while Floyd recorded 8.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. LB Ramik Wilson led the team with 128 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and four sacks, while LB Amarlo Herrera racked up 107 tackles and five tackles for loss. But one of the biggest breakout players in 2013 was Ray Drew. The former five-star finally broke out and tabbed eight tackles for loss, six sacks and 12 QB hurries.

Aside from an inexcusable loss to Vanderbilt and a Nick Marshall prayer, Georgia had a solid season. For a team that was expected to compete for a national championship, injuries and a lackluster defense really prevented it all from happening.

Here’s a look at the team stats:

  Category (SEC rank)
Scoring Offense 38.2 PPG (5th)
Rushing Offense 176.08 (11th)
Passing Offense 313.8 YPG (2nd)
Total Offense 489.8 YPG (4th)
Scoring Defense 29.4 PPG (11th)
Rushing Defense 148.5 YPG (5th)
Passing Defense 232.8 YPG (10th)
Total Defense 381.3 YPG (8th)

One that got away: There were technically three games that got away from Georgia, but the toughest loss came against Auburn. The Tigers had 17-point leads twice against Georgia, but they never could put them away. Auburn took a commanding 37-17 lead in the fourth quarter before Georgia, led by Aaron Murray, came roaring back, scoring three unanswered TDs to take the 38-37 lead with less than two minutes. And then Nick Marshall threw up a prayer 73-yard TD with 25 seconds left. And the rest is history. What a way to lose the game, and what a way to win it for Auburn!

Offensive Stud: Although Todd Gurley is the best running back in the country when he’s healthy, Aaron Murray was the heart and soul of the offense in 2013. With Gurley out, Murray led the Bulldogs to wins over LSU and Tennessee. Murray is the best Bulldogs’ quarterback in the history of the program. That’s saying something. Murray finished his career with 13,166 yards, 121 TDs and 41 INTs.

Defensive Stud: Although I think Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd and Josh Harvey-Clemons have a much higher ceiling, Ramik Wilson was a force this season. Wilson led the SEC with 128 tackles and racked up 11 tackles for loss. He was the man controlling the middle for a better-than-advertised run defense. This group is going to be very strong next season.

What’s Next: Hutson Mason will be getting his second career start and first bowl game start against Nebraska, and it’s another time a young team overall can gain more experience and confidence heading into the offseason. Georgia has a chance to be very good again next season, and Mason’s progression and extra snaps during bowl practice is so important for development and confidence.

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

COMMENTS

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  • Missouri is the only team that beat Georgia soundly this year. As bad as our D was and considering the injuries, I think being so close to only having 1 loss is huge. Of course, I know reality is that we lost 4 games. I don’t have any faith in Grantham, but here’s to hoping our defensive talent shines in spite of him (or that he somehow remembers how to coach in the offseason). If our D steps up, our only concern will be at QB and, if Mason can just be steady, we can make a run at it (barring injuries and our mandatory suspensions, of course). Already can’t wait for next year’s home opener.

  • I’m not concerned with Mason at QB. Not sure why anyone is really until he shows some reason to be. He’s been in the system for four years so there shouldn’t be much of a drop off if at all

  • Jon: ya gotta include losing Malcom Mitchell for the season in the opener. People have forgotten what kind of player he is. He was undoubtedly our biggest weapon at WR. Artie lynch missed some time as well. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    • Also: our special teams are undoubtebly the worst in the SEC….will CMR continue to neglect this issue? What about the lack of fundamentals at CB? In my opinion our success in 2014 will depend on this.

    • My defensive stud is coach Chris Wilson. How did Herrera and ramik get all of those tackles? Because we kept the O lineman off of them. We also were able to get a pass rush going on the inside and from multiple guys instead of just on the edges. Vast improvements up front were kind of lost because of the horrible secondary.