ATHENS — Georgia coach Mark Richt was having way too much fun with this whole “practice game” theme on Wednesday. He excitedly announced that the Bulldogs’ “won” Wednesday’s scrimmage at Sanford Stadium 49-48 over “Buffalo” in overtime.
That may sound somewhat distressing to UGA fans until they realize that Georgia played just one half and its traveling squad spotted the scout team (aka Buffalo) 35 points. Also, one of the Bulls’ touchdowns came after Richt placed the ball on the Georgia 11-yard line.
“But we could have stopped them or forced a field goal,” Richt said with a grin.
Fictional scores aside, Wednesday’s “dress rehearsal” scrimmage was an important component in the Bulldogs’ preparation for the Sept. 1 season opener. Georgia went through their entire pregame routine, including bussing to the stadium and playing under all the constraints of a regular game, with a working clock, referees, substitutions and live kicking.
“To be honest, it was like a real game,” said senior wide receiver Marlon Brown, who led the Bulldogs with 98 yards on 7 catches. “We left from the Butts-Mehre, went to the stadium, went to the locker room, did the team and individual warm-ups, listened to Coach Richt’s speech and went out there and played. It’s good because it’s Georgia versus somebody else instead offense against the defense all the time.”
It was a closed scrimmage but UGA’s Sports Communications staff kept statistics. According to them, quarterback Aaron Murray had a huge day, completing 20-of-25 passes for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Freshman tailback Todd Gurley was the leading rusher for the third straight scrimmage with 54 yards on six carries and a touchdown. Sophomore Ken Malcome added 50 yards on six carries, freshman Keith Marshall had three for 17 (with a 30-yard TD called back due to a holding penalty) and Richard Samuel had three for 10. Marshall and Michael Bennett each had touchdown catches and Georgia had no fumbles or interceptions.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were led my linebacker Mike Gillard with 4 tackles and Amarlo Herrera had 3 stops and returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown.
“I didn’t like that they got spotted so many points,” Herrera said. I don’t like seeing 48 points up there from anybody; that’s way too many. Nobody’s scoring 48 on us.”
Richt said “Georgia” had a chance to win in regulation. But freshman place-kicker Marshall Morgan missed a 57-yard field goal, his only attempt of the day. Murray scored the winning touchdown on a two-yard quarterback sneak.
“But it was kind of unfair I guess because they can’t tackle me,” Murray said.
“Buffalo” scored on its ensuing overtime possession but lost the game when on the attempted two-point conversion.
“It’s always fun to go out in Sanford Stadium and play and go through the whole routine, do all that,” Murray said. “It was fun. I thought it was a great day.”
Malcome likely starter at tailback
Richt was hesitant to discuss the pecking order of the tailbacks or which one might start the opener. But after some cajoling he admitted to reporters after the scrimmage that Malcome most likely will get the nod against Buffalo.
“I’m pretty sure Ken Malcome is going to start,” he said. “But something could change between now and then.”
Richt said he might not make an announcement until the night before the opener and then it may be only to the team.
“I don’t know for sure,” he said. “I even haven’t talked to the staff yet about how we’re gonna do it. Even when we do that I doubt I’ll announce the thing because I don’t even want them to know. I want them to keep fighting and competing. We’ll tell them the night before the game maybe.”
Informed after the scrimmage that Richt was leaning toward starting him, Malcome was unmoved.
“I mean, it’s not that I don’t care,” he said. “That’s what I was already thinking anyway. But I’m gonna keep pushing. I’m not going to let that one little statement go to my head.”
For what it’s worth, here are the tailbacks’ rushing stats in the three scrimmages: Gurley — 19 carries for 199 yards with 4 TDs; Malcome — 16-117-1; Marshall 15-63-1; Samuel 9-50-1.
This & that . . .
Richt said he was misunderstood and did not close the rest of the Bulldogs’ practices this week because he was mad at the media.”If anything I’m mad at myself,” he said of having a competition period opened Tuesday in which reporters saw Marshall get shaken up on a hard hit. Richt said only Thursday’s “situational scrimmage” at Sanford Stadium is off-limits. There will be designated media observation periods as per normal routine for Friday’s and Saturday’s workouts. . . . Though the Bulldogs’ starting lineups are pretty much set for the opener, Richt wouldn’t say who the starting safeties are going to be. All-American free safety Bacarri Rambo is thought to be suspended for the opener but Georgia hasn’t made an announcement to that effect. Same for starting inside linebacker Alec Ogletree.