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September 8, 2013
ATHENS - For over three years Aaron Murray has taken the lion's share of the blame for Georgia's shortcomings. The Bulldogs' 1-9 record against top-15 opponents became his record against top-15 opponents. With every loss his demeanor under pressure was questioned, his guts doubted, and his ability to lead at a high level discounted. But Murray took it all in stride.
And when it was finally his turn to take some credit, to be recognized for his accomplishments, Murray was content to let the win be all about the team.
"I'm not worried about what other people say," said Murray, just minutes after leading Georgia to a 41-30 upset victory over No. 6 South Carolina. "We play as a team. We don't play as individuals."
Murray had perhaps the best game of his four-year career as Georgia's starter Saturday night, completing 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns, but remained adamant the night belonged to the team as a whole.
"It was a huge win," Murray said when asked about his individual performance. "I'm very, very happy right now with the way we played as a team."
Murray said the win relieves a lot of the pressure and stress Georgia has experienced over the past few seasons after losing to South Carolina, but that the Bulldogs have to keep their noses to the grindstone to make a third-straight trip to Atlanta.
"It feels great to be ahead in the SEC East; that's a huge thing," Murray said. "It was tough for three years hoping they (South Carolina) lose and that way we can get to Atlanta. It's great to be 1-0 in the SEC East. Great feeling. It's a long season though; we've got to keep grinding.
"It's great to finally beat these guys, but most of all to be 1-0 in the East and to control our own destiny," Murray said. "This is a great feeling."
Murray and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley were both happy about how their team handled adversity before and throughout the game.
"We didn't quit, and that's one thing I'm proud of," said Scott-Wesley. "That's one thing the coaches really harped on...and we came out and finished the drill.
"I'm just proud of the way we stepped up, fought and didn't give up."
Scott-Wesley, a sophomore and former 100-meter state champion on his high school track team, was responsible for putting the game out of reach when he hauled in a deep ball from Murray with 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter and scampered into the end zone for a 85-yard touchdown. Scott-Wesley said the play wasn't in the game plan, but rather an adjustment Georgia's offensive coordinator made to take advantage of South Carolina's secondary.
"When coach Bobo saw the weakness up top, we exploited it," Scott-Wesley said. "It's really the first time since I've been here that I could open it up and show how fast I was. So when the opportunity presented itself, I made the most of it."
It wasn't just the offense that got credit after the game, though. Senior defensive end Garrison Smith said Georgia's defense improved from last week's performance against Clemson.
"I just saw the defense really flying around and gang tackling," said Smith, who finished with four tackles and half a sack. "Everybody was flying to the ball, especially on the goal line. That was a big-time stop and one of the critical turning points of the game that really helped us."
Smith said the most difficult aspect of stopping South Carolina's offense was containing Connor Shaw because of the senior quarterback's speed and ability to escape the pocket quickly.
"We just kept getting after it," Smith said. "He's the heart and soul of the team. Since Lattimore's gone, Connor Shaw's the leader of that team. He gives them all the energy and momentum, so to stop him is the key."
Junior linebacker Amalo Herrera, who registered a team-high 12 tackles and half a sack, said the defense did well containing Shaw and the rest of South Carolina's offense, but that there was room for further improvement.
"It was a little improvement (from the Clemson game), but we still got a long way to go," said Herrera.
Mark Beard, Georgia's backup left tackle found himself in a precarious position in the fourth quarter when the starter above him went down. He was assigned the job of blocking Jadeveon Clowney.
The junior said he'd seen "The Hit" about 20 times on ESPN during the offseason, and was admittedly anxious about trying to keep the All-American out of the backfield.
"I was nervous being cold off the bench, but it all worked out for the better good," said Beard. "If I would have been matched up with him the whole game I think I would have done better than I did, but for coming off fresh into the game like that, there were a lot of nerves."
Michael Bennett, the senior wideout who tore his ACL just days before the South Carolina game last season, was just happy to finally play in his home stadium again.
"It felt really good to be between the hedges for the first time in a while, and I'm glad it worked out well," said Bennett, who pulled in three clutch catches for 47 yards. "[Being out] was tough last year but it helped me get mentally and physically prepared for this year. It felt good getting out there and doing well."
Chris Conley, a junior wide receiver who caught two passes for 12 yards, said the work isn't finished with the win against South Carolina tonight.
"It means a whole lot to be back where we want to be in terms of this season," Conley said. "It means we have to work harder. It means we have to be prepared for any situation, and it doesn't get easier. Georgia always gets every team's best shot because of who we are, and we have to be ready for that shot."
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