The ball was underthrown by USC quarterback Cody Kessler and Oregon State’s Ryan Murphy plucked it out of the air.
Instead of trying to weave his way through traffic, Murphy was decisive. He headed directly down the sideline for the end zone.
“He’s a tremendous athlete and when he made the interception, I knew automatically it was going to the house,” linebacker Jabral Johnson said. “So my first thought was try to get a block and I got a block and he went to the crib.”
The touchdown was a showcase for Murphy’s ability as a 6-foot-3, 211-pound safety.
There’s the blend of size and speed that can take a player to the next level and Murphy has range and a nose for the ball.
“He’s got a really high ceiling. I think the sky’s the limit for him,” defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. “He can do whatever he puts his mind to. He has the physical tools, he has good football instincts and then it’s just a matter of detailing what he does day in and day out. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the classroom, the weight room, on the football field.”
Expectations are high for a player with those physical attributes.
Murphy is still a work in progress but has made significant strides as a junior.
“He’s grown a lot since he’s been here,” Banker said. “We want more out of him because we know he can get more out of himself and he can give more to the scheme of things.”
He is third on the team with 49 tackles, has six stops for loss and 1.5 sacks.
The interception against USC was his third of the season and he has also forced a fumble.
“I feel like I can play every play, meaning I feel like I should play every play like it’s the last play,” Murphy said. “Even if, let’s say, a ball isn’t thrown to my side. I hustle to the opposite side of the field and I try to just be there because you never know. When you hustle to the ball, good things happen.”
Learning has been a big part of Murphy’s life.
He spends plenty of time in the classroom in a quest for education.
Football comes on the field and in meetings with his teammates and coaches.
Life experiences have been plentiful since Murphy was a youth growing up in Oakland, Calif.
“He’s been through a lot,” Banker said. “Even before he got here, growing up, tough situation, tough area that he grew up in.”
Nearly two years have passed since Murphy lost his longtime friend, teammate and roommate Fred Thompson.
Thompson was playing basketball at Dixon Recreation Center when he collapsed. Murphy was with him on the ambulance to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.
Thompson’s passing stunned the campus and community, but it crushed Murphy.
“That’s like my brother,” Murphy said. “As far as hanging out with each other all the time, sharing experiences with each other, that was like my brother.”
Since then, Murphy has been working through emotional fallout and going through the healing process.
He keeps in touch with the Thompson family and they consider him a member, asking about school and other aspects of his life.
Football helps as well. Murphy said he keeps Fred in mind every time he takes the field.
“But I try not to let it overwhelm me in a bad way to where I’m just worried about trying to make a big play, trying to make a big play, where I could just go out and just play,” Murphy said.
“He’s in my mind all the time, but I just try not to let that interfere with my play.”
Johnson said Murphy has inspired his teammates with his play in the past two seasons.
Murphy just wants to lead by example.
“He lives through that day in and day out,” Banker said. “You saw that really spur him on last season, even. Life continued to take on new meaning for him. Very, very real. I don’t think he has any false images of anything and he knows what reality is and I think it can only help him grow and mature as a person and as a player.”