- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- For Hutson Mason, it’s not so much that Georgia’s offense had a bad day in its first spring scrimmage. It’s the plays that he believes the group should have made that stick with him.
“My first pass from scrimmage was a takeoff to Reggie [Davis] and I overthrew him. I told him, ‘There’s no way my noodle arm can outrun your speed, dude, so run.’ But I just missed him -- barely, barely missed him,” Mason said. “It might have been a touchdown if he would have caught it. So there’s always room for improvement. There were a couple throws that I missed that could have made it a better scrimmage.”
It was that kind of day for the offense. A couple of near misses, a sluggish start and six interceptions -- three by starting quarterback Aaron Murray -- made it a bit of a disappointment for Mike Bobo’s group, which returns 10 starters from last season’s high-scoring bunch.
Not that it was a disaster.
Keith Marshall broke a 75-yard touchdown run against the second-team defense. Todd Gurley ran 12 times for 59 yards and a score. Tight end Arthur Lynch (four catches for 91 yards and a touchdown) and receivers Malcolm Mitchell (4-64), Justin Scott-Wesley (4-53) and Jonathon Rumph (4-53) all made four catches and Lynch and Rhett McGowan caught touchdown passes.
And Murray and Mason were a combined 25-for-36 with a touchdown apiece (13-for-18 for 198 yards for Murray and 12-for-18 for 197 for Mason) with Murray accounting for the only interceptions between the two veteran signal-callers.
It was just that it wasn’t the crisp opening effort that they would have liked.
“I thought the guys looked kind of tired,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I think they were trying to fight, but for the first time didn’t see as much juice. It was a little disappointing to me, quite frankly, being that it was a scrimmage. But practice No. 8, it was the first day after the first two-a-day, I’m sure they are worn out.”
Nineteen players were listed on the Bulldogs’ Wednesday injury report -- including starters like receiver Michael Bennett (hamstring strain), right guard Chris Burnette (shoulder) and safety Tray Matthews (shoulder) -- so the starters mostly faced makeshift second-string units.
That will show up on film when he reviews the scrimmage, Richt said.
“When I sit and watch the film, I’m going to see the No. 1 units have their way most of the day, and there’ll be some spurts of individuals making some plays with the twos,” Richt said. “But the twos as a group, they didn’t really have a great day, other than the interceptions were big with that No. 2 defensive unit.”
Sheldon Dawson made two interceptions, including one in a one-minute situational drill that he returned for a touchdown. Damian Swann, Brendan Langley, Shaquille Fluker and Austin Herod also picked off passes.
“It was just great being able to move fast, knowing how crucial the game was at the time,” Dawson said. “It was all about being in the right place at the right time.”
Freshman inside linebacker Reggie Carter and sophomore outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins led the team with six tackles apiece, with Jenkins also notching three sacks. Outside linebacker T.J. Stripling had three tackles for a loss and a sack and outside linebacker/defensive end Josh Dawson had two sacks.
“We both had big plays,” Josh Dawson said. “I’d say it was a draw. The offense made some big plays, but we made some big plays, also. The offense made some errors and so did we. It was the first scrimmage so you’re going to have those type things.”
The starting offense managed to convert 100 percent of the time in third-down situational work and was efficient when working on the goal line. And the group ran its no-huddle at a blistering pace according to player from both sides.
But Mason said the Bulldogs’ veteran players need to do a better job of emphasizing to the team that scrimmages are a time for urgency. He didn’t see enough fire from his teammates on offense and he thinks the group’s results on Wednesday were a result of that issue.
“We’ve got to be able to push those guys whether you’re a starter or whether you’re a backup,” Mason said. “The defense played better than us today. Some days you have that. Not every day’s going to be great. But you’ve got to come back out and we’ll fix it and we’ll be ready for the next scrimmage.”
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