SEC football is used to seeing big names in the NFL, but two former conference standouts renewed a college rivalry in the AAF this week.
Turn back the dial to 2013, when Georgia and LSU had a crucial SEC football matchup which carried a compelling storyline. Then-UGA starting quarterback Aaron Murray was set to match arms with former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger who had been dismissed from the program and was then the starter at LSU.
Winner had the inside track to a high BCS ranking (for what it was worth at the time).
It was an SEC football storyline few could resist, and the game lived up to the hype. Both quarterbacks put on a show, with Murray getting the final say, throwing a late touchdown pass to lead the Bulldogs to a 44-41 victory.
Following their college careers, Murray was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, while Mettenberger was selected by the Tennessee Titans, both going in later rounds. Both showed a lot of promise as possible development projects for their respective NFL teams, but the promise that showed in college never materialized in the pros.
That was then.
This is now.
The two former SEC standouts are now spinning the ball in a different league, the upstart Alliance of American Football, which is being compared to a kind of developmental NFL league. As fate would have it, the two former teammates and rivals would meet on the field once more – this time, with much less at stake.
Murray has taken over the starting duties for the Atlanta Legends AAF franchise, while Mettenberger is under center for the Memphis Express. The two teams met at Georgia State Stadium, with much less hype than the first on-field tussle for the two quarterbacks.
Sparse crowds and unrecognizable names aside, this matchup of former premier SEC quarterbacks was good for the AAF. Fans in Atlanta had the opportunity to see Murray start a game at home for the first time this season, and among the fans in attendance, I even spotted a Mettenberger LSU jersey.
Football is king in the south, even football played in spring with a lot of unknown players.
The two quarterbacks didn’t quite have the arsenal of weapons around them which they did in college, and the two offensive lines barely passed for mediocre, with both quarterbacks being sacked seven times in total (3 for Mettenberger, 4 for Murray). But it was fun to watch, just the same.
Murray is still one of the smartest quarterbacks never to start an NFL game, and Mettenberger still has the uncanny ability to improvise when his protection breaks down (which was often).
In the end, just as in 2013, it was Aaron Murray leading his team to a win, throwing for 306 yards and a touchdown, while Mettenberger only completed nine passes for 181 yards and an interception.
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On the surface, Murray vs Mettenberger 2.0 wasn’t the impactful game that it was in 2013, but it was good to see both quarterbacks still fighting to play football on a professional level. Dreams once held on the SEC football fields still continue today, even if not quite as lustrous.