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Georgia’s, Tech’s QBs quite different — but quite effective

Georgia Tech QB Tevin Washington has been most dangerous with his feet this year as he leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 849 yards and 14 TDs.

Georgia Tech QB Tevin Washington has been most dangerous with his feet this year as he leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 849 yards and 14 TDs.

ATHENS — Aaron Murray chuckles when someone asks if he’d like to run the ball as much as Tevin Washington.

“I would not enjoy that at all,” said Murray, Georgia’s record-setting quarterback. “I don’t mind getting hit here and there, but he gets hit a little bit more than I would enjoy.”

Talk about a contrast. Murray has thrown more touchdown passes in a season than any quarterback in school history, while Washington is putting up some huge numbers running the ball out of Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense.

Yet, for all their differences, the end result is largely the same: Both Murray and Washington have played key roles in the success of their respective teams, and that doesn’t figure to change Saturday when No. 13 Georgia (9-2) travels to Atlanta to face No. 25 Georgia Tech (8-3) in the showdown for state bragging rights.

Washington is listed at 6-foot tall and a shade over 200 pounds, which may be stretching it on both counts. Still, he’s managed to stand up to the brutal pounding that any quarterback must take when running the option. After taking the snap, he can hand the ball off, make a pitch or carry it himself, but any of those choices usually requires absorbing a hit from a much-larger defensive player.

Murray is impressed by Washington’s toughness.

“I feel bad for him,” the Georgia quarterback said. “Every now and then, I’ll pull it down and run for 5 or 10 yards. But that’s very rare. I’m not trying to get killed.”

Murray is cut from the mold of the NFL-style, dropback passer. Despite losing top receiver A.J. Green to the pros and enduring some up-and-down performances, this has been a largely productive season for the third-year sophomore. He’s already broken Matthew Stafford’s school mark for TD passes in a season (28) — not bad, considering Stafford went on to be the first overall pick in the NFL draft.

But for all the impressive individual numbers, Murray prefers to talk about the team’s success. The Bulldogs have won nine straight games — their longest run within a season since 1982 — and clinched a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game. That’s a whole lot better than last year, when Georgia went 6-7 for its first losing mark in 15 years.

“Stats are awesome. Stats are fun to look at. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is wins and losses, and winning championships,” Murray said. “We’ve set ourselves up to win an SEC championship. That’s the most important thing.”

Washington had some huge shoes to fill at Georgia Tech, taking over for Joshua Nesbitt. But the transition has largely been a smooth one.

The Yellow Jackets made a run at the ACC title game until they were knocked off by Virginia Tech, and they’ve still got a shot at only their fourth 10-win season in the last 55 years. The Washington-led offense has the nation’s second-most prolific rushing attack and is on pace to produce 6,000 total yards for the first time in school history.

Georgia coach Mark Richt noted that Washington actually took over the starting job late last season, after Nesbitt went down with an injury.

“I’m sure those games helped him coming into this season as far as being more prepared,” Richt said. “He hit the ground running.”

Running indeed.

Washington leads the Yellow Jackets with 849 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. He’s also been efficient on those rare times when he goes to the air, tossing 10 touchdown passes and posting the second-best efficiency rating in school history.

“He’s a whole lot better now than he was a year ago, just by virtue of his experience,” Richt said.

One thing still bothers Washington, though. He started against Georgia a year ago and guided the Yellow Jackets on a staggering 92 plays that totaled 512 yards and possession of the ball for nearly 38 minutes. Normally, that would be enough to win easily. Instead, Georgia Tech was doomed by three fumbles, each of which led to touchdowns for the Bulldogs.

The Jackets had a final chance to tie the game, but Washington threw an interception that sealed Georgia’s 42-34 victory.

“It’s a big deal to beat Georgia,” he said. “I mean, that’s the biggest rival Georgia Tech has and the biggest game of the year. We’ll hear about it all next year.”

Murray expressed a similar sentiment on the red-and-black side. For all Georgia’s success this year — and the prospect of a huge game back in Atlanta the following week for the SEC title — a loss to the Yellow Jackets would put a real stain on this season.

“I haven’t lost to them since I’ve been here, and I don’t want to go into the offseason having to hear all the trash talk,” Murray said. “If you can’t get motivated and pumped up to play Tech, you really shouldn’t be playing for the University of Georgia.”