New world order in the SEC is racking up yards and points and doing just enough defensively to win.
Fittingly, Georgia QB Aaron Murray, maligned for performances in big games, played masterfully in leading the Bulldogs to a critical, thrilling 44-41 victory.
Murray and LSU QB Zach Mettenberger went throw-for-throw and score-for-score for virtually the entire contest rendering a pair of storied, traditional, proud defenses helpless.
Ultimately, Murray threw his fourth TD pass to WR Justin Scott-Wesley with 1:47 remaining to vault the Bulldogs past the Tigers.
Mettenberger generated many of the headlines this week because of his history with Georgia. The senior performed very well, completing 23 of 37 passes for 372 yards and 3 TDs.
However, Georgia learned from earlier schematic mistakes to salvage the game. The Bulldogs put Mettenberger under siege on the final drive after falling into a prevent defense on the previous series.
Mettenberger generated a first down but then missed on four consecutive throws, including one on fourth down under heavy pressure that iced the game for Georgia.
The nation’s spotlight game this week was billed as being about two high-profile offenses. Georgia RB Todd Gurley left in the second quarter with an ankle injury and LSU’s run game never fully found its usual rhythm.
That left the quarterbacks to run the show. Both lived up to the considerable billing.
Murray and Mettenberger carved up the defenses of LSU and Georgia, respectively. Neither team applied steady pressure. Neither secondary appeared competent on a regular basis.
In other words, this wasn’t a display of your daddy’s SEC. Here to stay (for now, anyway) is the high-scoring, defense-optional SEC.
Both defenses blew numerous coverages sure to leave DBs coaches with sleepless nights tonight. Defenses can get away with that against certain competition. Not against Murray or Mettenberger.
The two found open receivers, holes in defense and blown assignments with great precision.
Ultimately, Murray landed the final shot to keep the Bulldogs’ BCS National Championship Game hopes alive.
Murray finished 20-for-34 for 298 yards, 4 TDs and an INT. He also rushed for another score.
As Georgia coach Mark Richt said this week, the game featured more national implications than SEC ramifications. Both teams could have lost today and still advanced to the SEC Championship Game by winning out.
A Bulldogs loss would have sunk their national title hopes.
That didn’t happen, despite the best efforts of former Bulldogs QB Mettenberger, because Murray simply played too well and LSU couldn’t make the key defensive adjustments.
Both teams are still alive in the two races. They would be well-advised to immediately start trying to solve the secondary and pass-rush issues that have become a full-on epidemic in the SEC this season.