G-DAY GAME REPORT
By CHIP TOWERS & TIM TUCKER
Reuben Faloughi slapped the ball loose from quarterback Parker Welch and outside linebacker Ricky Lowe snatched it out of the air in mid-stride and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown.
“Ricky Lowe making a play,” Georgia coach Mark Richt marveled afterward. “That was awesome!”
Executed with just 1:40 left in the fourth quarter, that proved to be the game-winning play as Lowe’s Red team held on to defeat the Black 32-31 before 44,117. Made by one former and one current walkon, it was AJC Play of the Day for G-Day.
“That was more contact on the quarterback than we’ve had all spring,” Richt said with a laugh. “ . . . But the ball got hit, pops up and Ricky made a play and takes it to the house.”
That play represented one half of a surprisingly exciting ending to an otherwise dull intrasquad scrimmage. On the ensuing possession, tight end Jay Rome hauled in a pass in the flat from Christian LeMay, split two diving defenders and rambled 66 yards for a touchdown. But Black team coach Todd Grantham elected to go for the win and LeMay’s two-point conversion pass failed.
Jarvis Jones confident in D
At halftime of Saturday’s G-Day game, Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was presented a huge crystal trophy from College Sports Performance Awards, which named him their linebacker of the year for 2011.
“Fifty-five pounds,” Jones said the trophy weighed. “When they handed it me, I went ‘ugh.’”
That could serve as a metaphor for Jones as he’ll be carrying a heavy load during the Bulldogs’ first few games of the coming season. Georgia is expected to be without several defensive players due to suspensions and dismissals.
That’s particularly disappointing for Jones, who immediately bagged the idea of entering the NFL draft and convinced several of his draft-eligible teammates to stay with him. But the All-American from Columbus said the attrition may end up being a blessing in disguise for Georgia.
“Situations happen, like they’re always going to happen,” said Jones, who led the SEC in quarterback sacks. “So we just have to deal with it and build off it. We’re going to continue to get better and I’ve seen a lot of the young guys stepping up and improving their games.”
Several of those “young guys” stood out Saturday, including sophomore linebacker Ramik Wilson (7 tackles, 1 INT), safety Quintavius Harrow (5 tackles, sack) and cornerback Devin Bowman (4 tackles).
New targets for Murray
Georgia has a largely veteran receiving corps. But there were two new players who stood out during Saturday’s G-Day Game.
Justin Scott-Wesley, a redshirt freshman split end from Camilla, led the Red team receivers with three catches for 46 yards. Rome, a redshirt freshman from Valdosta, led the Black team in receiving yards with 73 yards on two catches, including a spectacular 66-yard touchdown.
Interestingly, both players joined the team late this year as they were competing in other sports. Rome is a forward on the basketball team and Scott-Wesley is a sprinter in track.
“Those guys have definitely gotten better all spring,” quarterback Aaron Murray remarked. Hopefully they’ll both be fully back for us now and continue to get more reps. That’s the biggest thing: They were behind the 8-ball just timing wise since they were unable to work with us in January and February and March. But they’ve picked it up fast and, now that we’ve got them to ourselves, they should get even better.”
New pecking order for running backs
It has been nothing but rave reviews for tailback Ken Malcome all spring and those assessments were validated Saturday as the sophomore from Decatur started with the No. 1 offense.
Malcome responded with 32 yards on 8 carries and scored two of the three rushing touchdowns on the day. One came on a 10-yard touchdown run in which he broke three tackles to get into the end zone.
Malcome alternated first-half series with sophomore Isaiah Crowell, who finished with 39 yards on 10 carries.
“Ken Malcome ran hard and ran through some tackles on both touchdown runs,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “The growth and maturity of those young backs — and Isaiah and Ken are both young — has come a long way.”
Crowell was most pleased to get through the spring healthy after an injury-plagued freshman season. “I stayed out there every day [this spring],” he said. “I think it was a good thing for my coaches to see.”
The quarterback picture
Hutson Mason, a quarterback who might not play at all in the fall, played for both sides in Georgia’s spring game.
Georgia’s plan, if all goes well, is to redshirt Mason in order to put a year of separation between the end of his eligibility and that of Murray. But for purposes of spring practice, coaches emphasized that Mason had to prepare as if he’d play this season, as he undoubtedly would in the event of an early injury to Murray.
Mason completed 9 of 12 passes for 133 yards in the G-Day game — 5-of-8 including a touchdown throw for the victorious Red team and 4-of-4 for the Black team. Afterward, he expressed satisfaction about his spring and the coaches’ plan for him in the fall.
“It really just depends on how comfortable they are with other guys [as backup quarterbacks] and if Murray gets hurt,” Mason said. “As long as Murray stays healthy, I’ll probably get my redshirt.”
The coaches showed what they thought of Mason’s progress by naming him and Murray co-MVPs on offense for spring practice.
“To think these coaches think highly enough of me [to share the honor] with a quarterback who is known as one of the best in the SEC, I think that speaks volumes to my development and potential,” Mason said. “All I can do is wait and try to be as prepared as possible when I get my opportunities on Saturdays.”
Richt said after the G-Day game that Mason showed why the coaches regard him so highly: “Fans by the end of the game got to see what we like so much about Hutson. . . . He just has an uncanny ability to stand in there and cut that ball loose under pressure and find the right guy.”
In the stands
An announced crowd of 44,117 showed up on a beautiful, sunny, 75-degree afternoon at Sanford Stadium.
It should be noted that, since tickets were not sold (admission was free) and fans were not counted as they entered the gates, the announced attendance was basically a ballpark figure.
The crowd was sizable enough to blanket most portions of the lower deck in red during the first half.
The announced attendance for the previous four G-Day games: 43, 117 last year; 38,742 in 2010; 42,458 in 2009; and 19,874 in 2008, when rain held down the crowd.
Murray, solidly entrenched as Georgia’s No. 1 QB, completed seven of 17 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown on the Red team. Murray praised the progress of the rebuilding offensive line through spring practice.
“The first week, it might have looked like, ‘Man, they’ve got a lot of work to do,’ but those guys have done unbelievably from from Week 2 to Week 3 to now,” Murray said. “The progress they have made is tremendous. . . . They’re doing a great job against probably one of the best defensive lines in the country and one of the best defenses in the country.” . . .
Quarterback Christian LeMay completed seven of 10 passes for 154 yards for the Black team. “He showed some really nice touch at times,” Richt said. . . . Tailback Brandon Harton caught six passes for the Black team. . . There were only six penalties for 25 yards in the game, three infractions by each side. . . . Richt, summing up the day: “It was just good for our fans to see guys make plays, [fans] who normally don’t get to see it everyday at practice.”
“I think we definitely made strides in every facet of our team this spring — offensively, defensively, special teams. I think we had another great day today. Offensively, specifically, I thought we made some great plays. . . . It was our goal to get better this spring, and I think we definitely exceeded our goals and expectations with how good we could become. ”
– Quarterback Aaron Murray
T. King 2-47-1