Murray earns starting nod against Express

By Jaylon Thompson/ The Alliance

ATLANTA– Atlanta Legends quarterback Aaron Murray spent a few minutes throwing over a soccer goal on Thursday afternoon.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – FEBRUARY 24: Aaron Murray #11 of Atlanta Legends warms up prior to the Alliance of American Football game between the Atlanta Legends and the Birmingham Iron at Georgia State Stadium on February 24, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/AAF)

After practice, Murray grabbed fellow quarterback Peter Pujals and consistently whistled the football over the crossbar.

Murray had 10 throws remaining. He started the session with a couple of warm-up tosses before getting into a rhythm.

The Atlanta Legends (1-3) return home to start a three-game home stand against the Memphis Express (1-3) this Sunday, March 10, at 4 p.m. ET at Georgia State Stadium. The game can be seen on the CBS Sports Network. Tickets to all Legends games are available here.

His eyes lit up after each throw. After the drill, he looked up and unearthed his signature smile that made its long-awaited return in last week’s win over the Arizona Hotshots.

Aaron Murray was back in the saddle.

On Sunday, Murray will return home to lead the Legends against the Memphis Express. It will be his first start since his senior season at the University of Georgia.

“I haven’t started a game since the 2013 season,” Murray said. “There is a lot of excitement. I thought last week was a good start. There is a ton to work on and with coach (Ken) Zampese’s knowledge, I feel like I am a better quarterback.”

Last week, Murray relieved incumbent starter Matt Simms against the Hotshots. Simms left the game with a right-hand injury and forced Murray into action.

Murray responded by leading the Legends on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. He helped set up a 33-yard field goal from kicker Younghoe Koo as the Legends won their first game in franchise history.

The veteran signal-caller was 20-for-33 and threw for 254 yards. He also added 54 yards on seven carries.

The Legends hope Murray can replicate his success against the Express. Murray has gotten the first-team reps in practice and thrived along the way.

“He has the opportunity to start the game at home,” Legends head coach Kevin Coyle said. “A lot of fans will be there pulling for him. The most important thing is that he’s preparing exceptionally well. He is a great teammate and will be ready to execute the game plan.”

Several fans are expected to be in attendance. Many want to catch a glimpse of the former UGA standout in action.

The Legends’ faithful could be in for a great game. Murray will line up against a stingy Express defense led by head coach Mike Singletary. The Express play efficiently and are guided by quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

Murray and Mettenberger were college teammates during their freshman season at Georgia. Both were top recruits for the Bulldogs.

Murray went on to earn the starting job and Mettenberger transferred to LSU. In 2013, the duo faced each other in an epic 44-41 Georgia victory.

On Sunday, both quarterbacks will square off again. Murray is excited about his success and feels that the matchup will be another classic game.

“He is playing faster and playing quick,” Murray said. “You can see it on the field. We all know that he is a great player with a big arm.”

The Legends plan to limit his possessions on Sunday. The offense hopes to control the ball and wear down the Express defense with first downs and completions.

“It starts with us running the football,” Murray said. “I think we did that well last week and it opened the offense. It helped with the ability to use play-action and throw the ball down the field.”

In practice, Murray has worked diligently on getting the ball out quicker. He wants to get the ball into the hands of his skill players. On Sunday, his target goal is to complete 70 percent of his passes.

“Its little details like that are a split second faster,” Murray said. “It is sometimes the difference from a guy being open or covered against defenses.”

If all goes to plan, the Legends can walk away with a home victory. It will go a long way towards moving up the Eastern Conference standings.

“Guys are ready to get out there Sunday and show we can drive the football,” Murray said. “We can also score some points, and this is the weekend to do it.”

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Jaylon Thompson covers the Atlanta Legends for The Alliance of American Football. Follow him on Twitter JaylonThompson.

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