Despite bowl loss, QB Mason says late-season starts invaluable for 2014



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hutson Mason may only have two starts under his belt, but Georgia’s new quarterback has already endured a whirlwind of emotions.

The redshirt junior nearly replicated the come-from-behind feat he led at Georgia Tech in Wednesday’s Gator Bowl before the Bulldogs fell short on fourth and three, just 16 yards from the end zone in their 24-19 Gator Bowl loss to Nebraska.

Mason finished 21-of-39 for 320 yards with a touchdown and interception. Comparable to Georgia’s outing against Georgia Tech, Mason and the Bulldogs started slower than he would’ve liked, he said. Georgia crossed midfield five times in the first half but yielded just three field goals before taking a one-point deficit to the locker room.

Mason said he had some trust issues in his offensive line and receivers, which he also endured against Georgia Tech. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo believes that those are natural jitters for a young starter, especially at quarterback.

“He’s an instinctive player and, a little bit, wouldn’t pull the trigger the last couple games,” Bobo said. “You’ve got to trust your guys to go make plays because when you throw it late or don’t trust it, that’s when sacks come. You’ve got to trust it and rip it. But that comes with playing. That comes with taking those live reps, the timing with the 1’s.”

Bobo also believes that Mason will improve on his play at the line of scrimmage, particularly in playcall adjustments. The coach also noted that Mason’s offensive makeup is much different than Aaron Murray, who was known to shout audibles. Mason’s game doesn’t necessarily allow for that, Bobo said.

“You don’t want to give a new starter so much that he doesn’t feel comfortable,” Bobo said. “You want him to just go play. That’s our goal for him. ... He likes to go fast pace, where there’s not a lot of checking.”

Mason responded in the second half with only ten completions, but those went for 171 yards and Georgia’s first touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter. The score brought the game to within five points and swung momentum before Mother Nature dropped the heaviest rain of the afternoon.

The Bulldogs got the ball back another three times after the score, butwere stopped short on fourth down plays.

Mason and the Bulldogswere disappointed with the loss, but the quarterback sought positives in heading to next year. He believes that earning two starts before the 2014 season opener made a lasting impact on his teammates as well.

“It’s huge for going into next season,” Mason said. “It’s huge when you talk about (if) guys believe in you. For my career here, I’ve been kind of known as a practice player. For guys to see me perform in two games, I believe they believe in me.”