On a picture-perfect Saturday when temperatures reached the lower 70s, Georgia fans could take away positives from both sides of the ball from the annual G-Day game.
There was reason to be encouraged for a revamped starting defense, which forced the starting offense to four straight three-and-outs in the first half.
There were some bright spots for the offense, too, including a 75-yard scoring drive to open the scrimmage and a pair of touchdown catches for junior-college transfer Jonathon Rumph.
And the Georgia spring game record-crowd of 45,113 in Sanford Stadium got to see a close contest until the final minutes as the Black team kicked a pair of fourth-quarter field goals to pull out a 23-17 win over the Red team.
“Overall, it was just a good game,” coach Mark Richt said. “Georgia won. I love that part.”
Georgia won a lot in 2012 during a season in which it went 12-2 and was Southeastern Conference Eastern Division champions again behind an offense that scored a school-record 529 points.
The expectations are higher now with 10 starters back on that unit.
That’s why the Red team, featuring the starting offense, being held to two touchdowns and a field goal Saturday didn’t sit well with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who directed that team. The Black team, which included the starting defense and was coached by defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, more than held its own despite breaking in eight new starters, giving up only 245 yards of offense.
Bobo said he was a little bit disappointed in the effort, concentration and execution of the No. 1 offense in the the third and final scrimmage of the spring when it was stymied four straight drives after opening with the touchdown.
“We are nowhere where we need to be offensively,” Bobo said. “We’ve got to do a good job as coaching staff and players to finish strong this next week and have a great summer. If we think we’re just going to show up, we’re going to be sadly mistaken and get our tails kicked.”
Murray, a redshirt senior playing in his fifth G-Day game, completed 12 of 18 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Only three of the eight drives he directed ended in scores.
“I think we got the better of them,” said inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera, who had six tackles for the Black team. “You’ve seen the score. We just played football like we normally do, and we stopped them.”
Jarvis Jones, the two-time All-American linebacker at Georgia who could be an NFL first-round draft pick, was on the Black sidelines in the second half.
Inside linebacker Ramik Wilson led the Black defense with eight tackles and a sack, outside linebacker James DeLoach had six tackles and a sack. Kosta Vavlas topped the Red with 12 tackles.
Freshman free safety Tray Matthews, the talk of the spring, had four tackles and strong safety/nickel back Josh Harvey-Clemons had three tackles and a pass-breakup.
“We’ve got so many young guys, that I’m really just pleased with their overall effort and attitude and energy,” Grantham said. “I think we’ll get better the more we play.”
Murray hooked up with Justin Scott-Wesley for a 16-yard touchdown on the opening drive and with Rhett McGowan (3 catches, 55 yards) for a 4-yard score before halftime.
“I think today we definitely made some great plays,” Murray said. “Obviously didn’t make as many as we wanted, but hey, we have four or five months until that first game. We’ll keep working.”
Said Grantham: “I thought there were some guys a little nervous. Our eyes weren’t maybe where they should be. There were also some plays that they hadn’t seen before. Once we got into the normal flow of the game and some things that we’ve repped and things that they kind of knew …I thought we did a pretty good job.”
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Rumph, from Holmes (Miss.) Community College, had a quiet spring up to this point but easily had his best day as a Bulldog. He snagged a 20-yard touchdown from Hutson Mason (16 of 27 for 191 yards, touchdown and interception) and scored on a 47-yard scoring strike from Parker Welch.
Rumph, like the other 12 midyear enrollees, were not made available for interviews Saturday.
“It was good to see Jonathon Rumph make some plays,” Bobo said. “That’s really the first time all spring that he made some plays. That was good to see and hopefully it gives him some confidence.”
How do you know it was G-Day and not a real game? Well, the leading rusher was Kyle Karempelis, who did not get a single carry last season but had 89 yards for the Black. The junior from the Wesleyan School ran hard into the fourth quarter.
Murray reentered the game with a minute left in the third quarter with the game tied at 17 but was sacked by Jordan Jenkins. He came in again to make a pitch to Keith Marshall on fourth-and-1, but Matthews ran him out of bounds with 4:47 to go.
Connor Norman picked off a Christian LeMay pass to preserve the win for the Black, which got second-half field goals of 19 from Adam Erickson, 23 from Patrick Beless and 35 from Thomas Pritchard.
The spring game is over but not spring practices.
“We’ve got two days next week, plus we’ve got the off days to watch tape and get better,” Grantham said.
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