In their 2011 debuts Saturday afternoon, quarterback Hutson Mason and tailback Carlton Thomas both made favorable first impressions in Georgia’s 59-0 pasting of visiting Coastal Carolina.
Playing for the first time since last year’s loss at Auburn, Mason entered the game early in the third quarter and did a credible job directing the Bulldogs’ offense, completing 6 of 9 passes for 68 yards and a 33-yard touchdown strike to Orson Charles.
The 6-foot-3, 196-pound sophomore also posted his first career rushing touchdown, slipping in from the 1-yard line with 4:51 left in the third quarter to cap a 12-play, 53-yard drive and put Georgia ahead 45-0.
"It felt good to finally get out there on the field," said Mason, who before Saturday had played in four games, completing 9 of 17 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. "With all the hard work you put in, it feels good to be rewarded."
"He’s practiced extremely well and we have all the faith in the world in him," said Georgia coach Mark Richt of Mason. "He’s practiced so well that you hate that he hasn’t gotten more playing time.
"That’s no knock on (starting quarterback Aaron) Murray, but when a backup plays well at any position, you want to play him. We were happy to get him in there and let him do what he could do."
Mason added that the aspect of his game that was most pleasing was that he was able to be part of several sustained offensive possessions.
"I was happy that we were able to keep drives going," he said. "Last year, when we’d get out there and a game would already be in hand, it was a lot of three-and-outs. So it was good to get out there and move the ball around the field."
Thomas, who was suspended for Georgia’s game against Boise State and wasn’t called on last weekend against South Carolina, turned in the best game of his career, yardage-wise, rushing 15 times for 71 yards and a 17-yard touchdown to close out the Bulldogs’ scoring with 58 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Suffice it to say that Thomas — who hasn’t played since New Year’s Eve and the Liberty Bowl — was ecstatic to return to the field.
"It felt good just being out there, being with the team and being able to contribute," said the 5-7, 163-pound junior. "I took those two losses personal and I felt like getting back in the game was something I needed to do. I’m ready for the next game — I could play again tomorrow, no problem."
After long snapper Ty Frix recovered a Coastal Carolina fumble on a punt return late in the third quarter on the Chanticleers’ 17-yard line, Thomas got his chance to capitalize, scoring the Bulldogs’ final touchdown and perhaps bringing some closure to a preseason that included his first-game suspension.
"Carlton is a guy who’s been here a while and has always worked extremely hard in practice," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "He wasn’t going to play in that first game, but he’s been a good role model for Isaiah (Crowell) and Richard (Samuel) in how to work in camp. He didn’t pout, he got himself in a position to play and he did a good job."
"He had a tremendous camp," added Richt. "It’s not surprising to me that he performed well. He’s a very good player and is very conscientious, and he’s a veteran player."