ATHENS, Ga. — Draw conclusions at your own risk when it comes to spring football games.
Proceed with caution about what transpired at G-Day on Saturday and what you saw out of coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s defense.
The first-team offense went up against the first-team defense and would have gotten points on the first four drives of the scrimmage if Todd Gurley didn’t fumble off the pylon on a pass play for a touchback on the first drive of the game.
Quarterback Hutson Mason threw for 188 first-half yards before a G-Day record crowd of 46,073 at Sanford Stadium.
The Red team held off the Black team 27-24. The Red team was coached by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and had the offensive starters. The Black team had the defensive starters and was headed up by Pruitt.
“In my opinion, I wouldn’t take too much into it just because we don’t do a lot offensively and defensively,” said Mason who finished 18 of 27 for 241 yards and a 10-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Davis on a back-shoulder throw. “We know teams as far as Clemson (which opens in Athens on Aug. 30) can come get our film. We’re not trying to let the cat out of the bag of what we have going into the off-season, but it’s still an opportunity for guys to go and play and for people to see backups.”
Faton Bauta helped his cause in the race to be the backup quarterback.
He completed 16 of 28 passes for 232 yards with two touchdowns and an interception and 35 rushing yards, all for the Black team.
The Red team got a big day from receiver Chris Conley (six catches, 124 yards) and a workmanlike day from Gurley, the junior star tailback.
He elicited a collective “ooh” on 7-yard run as he jumped past a would-be tackler in the second quarter and then went untouched on right side for a 2-yard touchdown. He had 32 rushing yards on six carries and 38 receiving yards on three catches.
“We’ve still got work to do,” inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “We’ve got a long time before we play our first game. We’ve got to keep working.”
Said Ramik Wilson, the other starting inside linebacker: “We’ve got to hold them to field goals and get more three-and-outs. That’s what we’re going to look forward to this summer working hard and doing 7-on-7.”
The Red team had 405 total yards, 314 passing, much of it against the first-team defense that was missing starting nickel back J.J. Green (ankle) and safety Tray Matthews (hamstring).
“I thought they did fine,” coach Mark Richt said of a defense that has an entirely new coaching staff for the first time in 50 years. “I think the offense is ahead of the defense right now and it makes sense that it does. The entire offensive staff is back, the entire system is back, many veterans that know exactly what to do.”
Pruitt and Bobo weren’t available to the media after the scrimmage. Pruitt was greeting recruits in the locker room.
Herrera said Pruitt told the Black team defense at halftime not to worry about the score, but focus on effort and technique and they would get stops.
“He wasn’t trying to win the day today,” Richt said. “He was trying to put guys out there and just evaluate where he is. I think our players obviously are battling learning everything and getting comfortable with it.”
There were 64 points and a combined 773 yards in last year’s spring game at Florida State when Pruitt debuted as defensive coordinator. Florida State ended up leading the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 12.1 points per game in its national championship season.
Conversely, Georgia’s starting defense forced the starting offense last year to four consecutive three-and-outs in the first half of G-Day. That same defense finished ninth in the Southeastern Conference in third-down defense.
Pruitt’s defense gave up a pair of third-and-long conversions in the first half: a 22-yard completion to Quayvon Hicks and a 26-yard reception by Michael Bennett.
Cornerback Aaron Davis and safety Lucas Redd, both walk-ons, started in the secondary.
Davis had an interception, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and three tackles to continue to be a big spring story for Georgia.
G-Day went down as the 13th practice, “the hottest practice of the spring,” Richt said. “I like the sunshine but it was probably a little bit warmer than what they’re used to playing in. I thought they fought through it pretty good.”
Cornerback Damian Swann said the Black Team defense showed mental toughness after trailing 24-10. A.J. Turman scored two touchdowns for the Black Team, including a 4-yard touchdown catch with 42 seconds to go.
“It was hot out there, guys were tired, guys were getting a lot of reps and guys still played hard,” Swann said. “The game ended up being close, and I think we’re going to be good.”
There are still two more practices to go this spring. Two more practices for players to make a move on the depth chart.
“It’s going to take time,” Richt said, “before we really can sit here and say who ought to line up as the No. 1 this or that on defense.”