Kyler Murray’s first grade as a starter is pretty impressive
The month of October brought about some significant concerns at the quarterback position for Texas A&M. Following a Week 8 dismantling at Ole Miss and starter Kyle Allen’s second poor performance in a row (-7.2 over last 2 games), head coach Kevin Sumlin announced that the quarterback competition in College Station had been reopened. True freshman Kyler Murray (a five-star prospect and A&M’s prized recruit this past offseason) seized the opportunity, earning the first start of his young career and grading out extremely well (+5.2) as he led the Aggies to a 35-28 victory over South Carolina on Saturday.
With his first outing now behind him, we take a look at the PFF numbers to break down Kyler Murray’s debut:
Where he succeeded
Overall, Murray had a productive day passing the ball (+1.5) against South Carolina, completing 20 of 28 passes for 223 yards for one touchdown and no interceptions. His completion percentage (74.1) and NFL QB rating (106.7) were good enough to rank him in the top 10 among quarterbacks with at least 20 pass attempts in Week 9. Two of the more encouraging stats found when evaluating Murray’s performance, however, were his accuracy under pressure and ability to get rid of the ball quickly — areas where former starter Kyle Allen had been struggling. Though a small sample size, Murray completed 100% of his passes when pressured by the Gamecocks defense. Perhaps even more impressive though was his quick release – Murray spent less than 2.5 seconds in the pocket on 75 percent of his dropbacks (completing nearly 80 percent of these attempts) and on average took only 2.03 seconds to attempt a pass — the second-quickest rate in the nation.
Regarded as the best dual-threat QB in the nation coming out of high school, it should be no surprise that Murray was as impressive with his legs as he was with his arm on Saturday. His PFF rating of +3.6 when running the ball was the highest in the nation among QBs in Week 9. Averaging 7.8 yards per carry, Murray ran the ball 20 times on his way to 156 yards and a key rushing touchdown late in the third quarter that would give the Aggies a 28-21 lead. Murray also demonstrated the knowledge of when to slide and how to avoid unnecessary hits — an often underrated skill for a QB, but one that will help him prevent injury in the future.
Where he struggled
To Murray’s credit, there weren’t many glaring shortcomings in his debut. However, as successful as he was on the day, there are certainly some areas that he can improve. The true freshman did not complete a single deep ball all game, going 0-3 on passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield. Additionally, of Murray’s 223 total passing yards, only 77 of them (34.5 percent) came in the air — meaning the vast majority can be attributed to yards gained after the catch by Aggie receivers. If Murray expects to succeed against tougher defenses, he will have to show he can do more of the heavy lifting in the passing game, rather than relying on his receivers to churn out the yardage.
It was only one start and there are areas of his game that he’ll need to continue developing, but Kyler Murray looked the part in his debut on Saturday. It will be worth watching if he can find the same kind of success against stouter defenses, but so far Murray has shown the kind of accuracy, speed and decision making ability that will help him succeed in the SEC. Given their recent struggles at the position, Murray and his performance on Saturday should provide Texas A&M and their fans with plenty of optimism for the remainder of the season.