Cotey: Same old story for Murray

TAMPA — It ended, again, with Plant quarterback Aaron Murray on his back.

A pass attempt wobbled high into the air thanks to a timely whack to his right arm by the onrushing Ryne Giddins.

The interception, by Angelo Hadley.

The return, it seemed, by all of Seffner — take that, South Tampa! — and finally, just one man left to stop another touchdown.

Aaron Murray.

Whether fittingly, as the Armwood fans would tell you, or sadly, as the Plant faithful might put it, Murray was bowled over by Hadley.

It might have been the only time someone from Plant was able to stop the Hawks defense.

Murray walked back to the sideline, slightly limping, no doubt grimacing and disappointed that another game against mighty Armwood turned out the same as it always does.

The score was only 9-2, and maybe, had the Panthers taken some of the gifts the Armwood offense tried to hand them and kick field goals when the opportunities were there, the result is different.

But the Panthers are too used to scoring touchdowns to settle for three. So they settled for another loss.

"It's tough," said the all-world Georgia-bound quarterback, now 0-3 against Armwood but perfect against everyone else in Tampa Bay.

"This is all we've been working for the last 200 days, beating Armwood."

Murray may get another chance, in the playoffs, like he did last year.

He wants one. Badly.

Friday's loss, like the two before it, will hang over Murray, though it's hardly fair he shoulder all the blame.

He has new receivers, a group not as sure-handed as last year's fleet.

A new offensive line, which will hold its own in the coming weeks but was no match for Hawks like Giddins, Man-Man Jackson, David Tinsley and Alton Bailey.

And the chemistry is obviously not there. Making matters worse on Friday night was this simple fact: Plant isn't as good as last year, and Armwood is much better. Especially on defense, where the Hawks are experienced.

Bigger, faster, stronger.

Meaner.

"He saw Armwood football again," said coach Sean Callahan.

Murray saw passing lanes shut off, and running lanes close down. He had to make quick decisions, without even a second to do so sometimes.

"They just get after you," he said. "They are just extremely disciplined and they fly to the ball."

The guy holding the ball was knocked around again, sacked a half dozen times, bringing his total to almost 20 in three games against the Hawks. He has yet to throw a touchdown pass.

Considering the stats — 51 touchdowns last year, more than 4,000 yards passing — and the way he has carved up other solid defenses, that is stunning.

That is how good the Armwood defense is.

Had the new Armwood spread-option offense, which by many accounts on the Hawks sideline should be packed away and never used again, not been just as woeful as Plant's, the game would have been as lopsided as many were predicting.

Whether it was lockdown coverage by the corners, or a pass rush that was devastating all night, or linebackers that filled every hole, the Georgia-bound Murray never got a chance to showcase his skills.

The next nine weeks, he will.

He will have better nights. He will have bigger games.

If he has his way, he'll have one more chance to prove what is seeming more and more impossible.

Cotey: Same old story for Murray 09/06/08 [Last modified: Sunday, September 7, 2008 9:50am]

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