Maybe it’s because I grew up in Athens, where we were pretty much immersed in all things UGA 365 days a year, but I never understood why a lot of folks in the Bulldog Nation don’t get too excited about the spring G-Day game.
OK, granted, it’s really just a glorified scrimmage and the plays called are either ultra-vanilla or throwaway bones for the crowd you’ll never see during the regular season like Mike Bobo briefly trotting out the wishbone a few years ago.
And quite often the “stars” that shine the brightest in the intrasquad game don’t go on to make much of a mark that fall when the competition is real. Remember Carlton Thomas tearing it up at tailback a couple of springs ago?
Still, I love the G-Day game and always have.
The main reason can be summed up in three words:
Georgia. Bulldogs. Football.
Doesn’t matter what time of year it is or whether everyone’s wearing the school colors. It’s a chance to watch the Dogs play in Sanford Stadium (where you can sit on the 50-yard-line if you get there early enough!). It helps if it’s a glorious spring day like the past couple of years, but even the cool, drizzly G-Days I’ve sat through (and there’ve been several) have been mostly enjoyable outings.
Of course, some G-Day games are more interesting than others. Last year everyone was focused on the quarterback battle between Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray, though even then the spring results (Mettenberger looked like he ought to be the starter) didn’t pan out in the long run.
Vince Dooley used to like to gimmick it up on G-Day, with the Dogs playing against alumni teams sometimes, while Mark Richt has mostly kept his games akin to a controlled scrimmage in the past. Sometimes that produces a snoozefest, like the ESPN-televised game two years ago, and other times you get a lot of scoring like when Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno led the Reds to a 34-21 win over the Blacks in 2007.
This year, however, Richt has dumped the No. 1 offense vs. No. 2 defense and No. 1 defense vs. No. 2 offense approach he’s used in the past and allowed the teams to be drafted by players.
Unfortunately, some of the fun of that approach has been dampened by all the injuries, with 10 players — including tailback Washaun Ealey — unlikely to make it onto the field Saturday. The plan is for them to play 12-minute quarters, but the last time the Dogs had a G-Day game with severe depth problems in 2008, the announced 10-minute quarters got cut back to just 8 minutes. Hope that’s not the case Saturday.
Richt has said the teams are free to use any plays Georgia has already used in the past and the defense can blitz as much as it wants, but there’ll be no hits on the quarterbacks, of course, and no live kickoffs or rushing the kicker on field goals and PATs.
Still, we will get to see whether Hutson Mason really looks like the clear choice as backup to Murray over Christian LeMay, and the wide-open competition at receiver is of interest. Marlon Brown, here’s your latest chance to show some sign you’re finally going to live up to your advance billing.
G-Day never has been a stadium-filling proposition like the spring games at Bama, but since they went to free admission (with canned food donations encouraged) a couple of years ago the games have drawn in the 40,000 range.
And if you’re looking for a family outing, springtime in Athens is hard to beat, plus you can make a full day of it as part of the “It’s Great to be a Bulldog Weekend.” The stadium gates will open at 11, the lettermen’s flag football game with great Bulldog names from the past is set for 11:15 and the Red and Black teams will play at 1 p.m., with former UGA quarterbacks Stafford, D.J. Shockley, David Greene and Eric Zeier participating in a skills competition at halftime. Then there’s a softball game at 2:30, an open house at the renovated Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall from 3 to 5:30, a tennis match at 3:30, and the Diamond Dogs take on Florida at 5 p.m. at Foley Field.
If you still can’t get motivated to join me in making the trip to Athens despite all of that, the G-Day game will be televised live by CSS and will be available online via ESPN3 in areas outside the CSS footprint. It’ll also be carried on most of the usual Georgia Bulldogs radio network, including WSB-AM.
Big deal or not, I’m looking foward to it.
Find me on Facebook.
Follow me on Twitter.
— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg