Georgia envisioned winning in Atlanta with Aaron Murray at quarterback on the first Saturday of December at the Georgia Dome.
Given how things unfolded in their topsy-turvy season, the Bulldogs will certainly take Hutson Mason making it 12 out of 13 against in-state rival Georgia Tech on the last Saturday of November at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.
Mason‚Äôs starting quarterback debut for Georgia could be a shot in the arm for 2014 for a team that has dealt with injuries to just about everywhere else imaginable: primarily knees but also ankles and hamstrings.
‚ÄúI really admire our guys‚Äô ability to persevere through some tough times, obviously,‚Äù coach Mark Richt said. ‚ÄúWe had some really close games that we lost that were hard to swallow. No one lost faith in each other or no one quit fighting. That was good. I do look back and think of one play here and one play there, another play here and who knows, we win one, two, three more. We certainly could have lost one or two more if we didn‚Äôt get a certain play done at a certain time as well.‚Äù
Georgia (8-4) rallied from a 20-0 deficit to win 41-34 in double overtime against the Yellow Jackets. It was the second time in three games the Bulldogs came back from a 20-point deficit, but unlike at Auburn, the rally produced a victory.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been a crazy season,‚Äù said tailback Todd Gurley, who had 158 total yards and four touchdowns against Georgia Tech. ‚ÄúWe never get stressed out or pressed over anything. We know what we‚Äôre capable of.‚Äù
Georgia played its first game without Murray, who had surgery last week for a torn ACL in his left knee, since the 2009 season. Entering the season, Murray and Georgia were aiming for a third straight trip to the SEC title game.
Mason had his shaky moments early as the Bulldogs had just 56 yards of total offense before the final drive of the first half, but the redshirt junior finished with 299 passing yards and completed 22 of 36 passes with two touchdowns and an interception.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs just some things you can rep in practice and rep it and rep it, but until you get in the game, there‚Äôs nothing you can do about it,‚Äù Mason said. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got to deal with the crowd noise, just so many factors that you can‚Äôt get in practice. Just experience and time in those situations really is what‚Äôs going to go a long way.‚Äù
Georgia‚Äôs season has included two overtime games and seven games decided by a touchdown or less, including four games where the final margin separating the winner and loser was three points. And there‚Äôs still a bowl game to play, with the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville the likely destination.
‚ÄúTo me, it was a season of a lot of close games,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúI think we learned a lot about ourselves. I think we are gaining some tremendous experience that will help us in the future, help us in the bowl, but also help us down the road with the guys coming back. There have been a lot of good things that have happened this year, but it‚Äôs also been heartbreaking at times.‚Äù