The Georgia offense shined through cold conditions at Sanford Stadium as the Georgia Bulldogs battled themselves in the annual spring G-Day game. Georgia put up 55 total points and 642 yards of total offense between the red and black teams which is unusual for a spring games that are often dominated by the defense.
"There were more big plays than you would like to see on defense. Every once in a while that will happen and when I was coaching at Florida State every fifth or sixth year the offense would score a couple of points in the spring game. This happened to be that spring," said head coach Mark Richt after the game.
Overall the red team offense which featured the first string offense was consistently impressive posting a 26.3 yards per completion average passing and a 7.3 yards per offensive play average. Sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford led the way for the red team with 155 yards in the air and two touchdowns on just 12 passing attempts.
Coach Richt thinks Stafford has improved significantly since last spring when he was a green true freshman quarterback trying to earn time of the field.
"A year ago Matt was trying to learn what to do. He was trying to fit in. He got so much attention going in and he did not like all the attention going in coming in. He did not want his teammates to think he was some cocky superstar coming in to take over. He wanted to earn the respect of his teammates and not be too brash or bold. Now that he is in the role of the starter everybody expects him to be the leader and step-out and make plays. He is beginning to do that and he understands everything extremely well as far as the scheme is concerned and I think he learned a great lesson on how valuable that ball is. We have to make sure not to turn it over. Once he stopped turning it over we began to win again and if he remembers that in the fall we will be in good shape," said Richt about his sophomore quarterback.
Overall the Georgia quarterbacks completed 23 of 38 passes for 443 yards and four touchdowns.
"I think each quarterback when he had the time to make throws put it on the money. We had some very fine throws and some receivers made some plays for them. There were a lot of very precise shots out there when we hit guys on the run. When guys were covered they put it in a place where they had a chance to make a play and they did. I thought they played very well. It was a good day for the quarterbacks and even Jonathan deLaureal went out there and threw a nice fade pass in his first opportunity to play between the hedges and I was real happy for him," said Richt.
Stafford had several impressive passes including hitting Brannan Southerland for 43-yards and Mohamed Massaquoi for a 21-yard gain to setup a short touchdown for the first touchdown of G-Day.
Stafford also connected with Mikey Henderson for a 60-yard touchdown in the third quarter and Tripp Chandler for a six-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Backup Joe Cox was extremely accurate connecting on seven of nine passes for 156 yards and one touchdown for both the black and red teams. Cox connected with wide receiver Kris Durham on a 60-yard touchdown to cut the red lead to 27-21 with less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Third string quarterback Blake Barnes got into the action as well hitting Durham for a 22-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Midway through the second quarter the black team mounted their first offensive drive. Blake Barnes hit Mike Moore for a gain of seven yards, Fred Munzenmaier for a gain of seven, and Kris Durham for a gain of 15 moving to mid-field on three consecutive plays.
"We had pretty good execution as I saw it when the quarterbacks put it on the money. They had enough time to step up in the pocket and hit a guy on the run. We ran the ball decently today, especially the red team," said Richt.
Moreno lives up to the hype
Knowshon Moreno has been one of the most talked about Bulldogs all spring and last fall even though he had never taken a snap in front of Georgia crowd. Moreno got his chance on Saturday and excelled. Moreno had 72 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just eleven carries. Moreno had two long runs and four carries over seven or more yards.
"Knowshon made some very nice runs and we really did not get a chance to see him pick up any blitzes and I am always concerned about that. He ran about like he has been running since he has been here. He has great vision and the ability to get skinny. There might be a stretch play going to the right and then all of the sudden there is a crease and he will hit it. You have to be able to see and get through there and he did a lot of that. He has done a pretty good job of hanging on to the football. I would think if he keeps progressing it will be tough to keep him from getting some totes," said Richt. "I think he will make a big impression on everybody next year."
Joe Cox connected with Tripp Chandler for a big gain to setup first and goal for the red team and that allowed Moreno to score the second touchdown of the day of a short run. Moreno was excited to play in Sanford Stadium for the first time in front of a large crowd.
"I was definitely excited and it was a good day. I had a few butterflies at the beginning, but it always like that for the first time you are on the field, but I think we did a good job overall today. I was great to get in front of the crowd and everyone from Kregg Lumpkin to Jason Johnson ran the ball well," said Moreno. "The offensive line did a great job opening holes and Stafford threw the ball well. Every quarterback threw the ball well today so I think we will be in good shape for the future."
Moreno thinks he can add something different to the Georgia offense in 2007.
"I add something different on the field. I have a variety of different things I can do on the field and I am just trying to help the team well. You always have confidence to come in and score, but I was surprised to see how once we got points on the board we kept rolling," said Moreno.
Kregg Lumpkin got his share of the carries as well and scored when he dove over the pile for the first touchdown of G-Day on the red teams' second possession. Lumpkin ended the day with 56 yards on 13 carries and one touchdown.
Jason Johnson showed his versatility on the black team rushing for 48 yards on 13 carries and connecting with Tony Wilson for a 32-yard touchdown pass on a halfback pass.
"I would love to have the opportunity to throw the ball like Jason did and when they did it I thought they were going to run the ball and he dropped back and I was like wow. It was pretty exciting to watch," said Moreno. Black team offensive coordinator Tony Ball drew up the halfback pass play that was part of three connective touchdowns for the Black team.
"That touchdown to Tony Wilson that Jason threw I was wondering when we could run some plays like that. Can we do some trickery, but it is on television so we cannot do that. It was exciting to see Kris Durham do all that and see everyone do so well in the game," said Henderson.
Moreno credits the offensive line for the running backs success on G-Day.
"They opened holes today and the holes were everywhere. They pushed the line back, but the defense did a good job of pressuring the quarterback, so you see will still have some things to work on," said Moreno.
Moreno scored the third touchdown of the day on a short goal line run to put the red team up 20-0 (Bo Stansell missed the PAT). Moreno had 43 yards rushing and two touchdowns on six rushing attempts at the end of the first half.
Durham carries the Black team
Kris Durham provided much of the aerial assault for the black team catching six passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
"I just made my plays when they gave me the opportunity," said Durham of his performance.
Durham tied Henderson for the longest offensive play of G-Day on his 60-yard touchdown reception from Cox.
"I made a play and had enough run to run and broke a tackle and scored. I did not really pay that much attention because it was just done," said Durham.
Durham played well in 2006 as a true freshman in G-Day, but he thinks this year was much more enjoyable. "It was a lot different this year because I was a lot more confident. Last year I was a little nervous about the plays and was not too sure about myself because it is a big program. This year I had been working for a year and knew the plays and I just went out there and had fun," said Durham.
Durham credits his teammates for his success Saturday.
"The line was blocking, the quarterback was making the throw, and the other receivers were running good routes and that freed me up, "said Durham of his success on G-Day.
Durham had a chance to throw the ball, but he got picked off on a wide receiver pass play.
"We put that play in and I did not see Reshad he came out of nowhere and made a great play. I am going to say that the ball got caught up in the wind and I do not know if it did, but that is what I am going to say," joked Durham about the interception he threw. "If they let me throw another one I'll throw it."
Coach Richt thinks Durham came out of spring slump on Saturday.
"I was happy for Kris. Anytime those guys make plays I am happy for them, but Kris had a couple of times this spring when he had his head down a little bit and was starting to wonder if he could compete at this level. He may not agree with that, but his body language was saying that to me. We had a little talk and I told him to work as hard as he can and reach your full potential. If that is not good enough fine, but I do not think we are seeing the best out of you. Do not worry about the end result, worry about the process and doing the little things right. He started to do that and he had a big day today and made a couple of tough catches. There were some balls that were thrown beautifully to him and he made some runs after the catch, so I would think that has to help his confidence," said Richt of Durham.
Henderson shines again
Senior Mikey Henderson showed the speed that made him one of the top punt returners in the SEC last season when he burned the defense.
"It was a play that we drew up in the dirt yesterday and it was just a new thing we threw in there just like the white team had stuff we had never seen before. We figured we ought to do something ourselves and we did that. It was a little flag route that coach Bobo and Matt drew up and they knew exactly what we would do in a certain set and he did it. I was wide open and ran into the endzone," said Henderson.
Henderson hopes to carry this performance over to the season.
"I think I do pretty well in the spring game. Now I have to try to carry it over for the first time. Being healthy will help. Last year my legs were not healthy at the beginning and doing special teams was too big a load of reps and it got to me. I could not really recover because it kept going. This year keeping my legs healthy will be great and I think that is the main thing," said Henderson.
Tripp Chandler matures into tight end role
Junior Tripp Chandler had a lonely spring as Georgia's lone healthy tight end in spring practice. Chandler caught three passes for 74 yards and one touchdown.
"I gained a lot more confidence in Tripp this spring. Blocking, catching, route running, and everything is better. He got tougher physically and mentally and I am proud of him," said Richt of his tight end.
Chandler thinks the extra work he got this spring prepared him for G-Day.
"All spring I was working really hard with very little reps picked up by any backups, but it all paid off today. All those extra reps, routes, and blocks I was able to get during the entire spring paid off today. The three catches, the touchdown, and making my blocks when we need to break a run out it all paid off. It was a fun day and a day where I could show the Georgia fans that I will be able to fill that spot," said Chandler.
Chandler caught his touchdown on a play when he was not supposed to be in the game.
"I had already been pulled out of the game and Casey (Nickels) was supposed to come in. (Mike) Bobo in all his trickery wanted to go for another touchdown so he put me in, called the play, and it man-to-man. Stafford put the ball where only I could catch it and it was a well-thrown ball where only I could catch it," said Chandler.
Chandler was encouraged by the performance of the offense this spring and he hopes it is a sign of things to come.
"The number one offensive really gelled and I think it something for all the fans to be excited about because the offense is finally pulling our weight again," said Chandler.
Kenneth Harris tweaked his hamstring during Friday night's practice and was scratched from the G-Day roster. Bryan Evans left the game with a minor wrist injury.
"Bryan Evans banged up his wrist some and we do not know how serious that is, but it does not look too serious. The entire spring we have been fortunate to not have too many injuries," said Richt. There were very few injuries, praise the Lord about that."
Other Offensive Notes and Quotes
"I thought today was a great day other than the weather. I cannot find hardly anything to complain about. There was lots of exciting play out there and guys go after it pretty good just like they did last spring. I want to thank the fans for coming out on a cold day and it was nice to see the sea of red here," said Richt.
On the punting situation and how Brandon Coutu figures into the battle to replace Gordon Ely-Kelso.
"Coutu probably could win the job, but I do not know if we want him to win the job. I think we would rather have someone else be the punter. He is as valuable and dangerous as a point scorer on extra points and field goals that if you start over kicking him on punts and field goals it disrupts what he does on extra points and field goals. I think we would be making a mistake there," said Richt. "He could certainly be an emergency number two guy, but I am hoping we can find someone else to win that job."