Plenty of points but no cause for panic on G-Day

There were 63 combined points scored in Georgia’s spring game Saturday.

Reason for panic or concern for a program expected to boast one of the nation’s top defenses this season?

Not on a G-Day when several players switched sides and played on both the Red and Black teams and deep reserves were on the Sanford Stadium turf in the second half when plenty of points were rung up.

“It doesn’t matter at all,” All-American outside linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “The thing about this game is just going out there and playing and having fun. Most definitely we would love a shutout. It’s just giving everybody a chance to play and have fun and show their ability. At the end of the day, we’re a team.”

The highest-scoring G-Day game since coach Mark Richt has been at Georgia didn’t faze him after the Red team edged the Black team (which wore white) 32-31 before an announced school spring game record crowd of 44,177 on a sunny day. The Red team featured the starting offense and the Black team the starting defense.

“I thought it was a great day for Georgia,” Richt said. “It was great to see the fans out there. It seemed like everybody enjoyed the game. There was probably a little bit more offensive plays than I thought might be made today, but when you look at it, the defense was scoring points, too.”

Garrison Smith recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown for the Black Team after a fumble on the quarterback-center exchange.

Walk-on defensive lineman Ricky Lowe ran 62-yards for a touchdown on a fumble return after Reuben Faloughi knocked the ball loose from quarterback Parker Welch with 1:40 left to put the Red team ahead 32-25.

“That was more contact on a quarterback than we’ve had all spring,” Richt said since the quarterbacks are considered off limits. “Some of these statistics you’re reading might not have happened. You might have had quarterback knock downs, you might have balls picked or tipped.”

The Black team answered back when the redshirt freshman combination of Christian LeMay to tight end Jay Rome hooked up on a 66-yard touchdown pass with 59 seconds left to trim the lead to one, but a two-point conversion pass from LeMay to Rhett McGowen was incomplete.

At the least it created an exciting finish on a day when two attractions were out with pulled hamstrings: cornerback/receiver Malcolm Mitchell and freshman tailback Keith Marshall.

The starters on offense — particularly a line with three new starters — had reason to be encouraged when it marched 75 yards on its second drive, capped by a 6-yard Ken Malcome touchdown run.

“I think the past week and a half, two weeks have been awesome for the offense,” said quarterback Aaron Murray, who completed 7 of 17 passes for 112 yards and hit Tavarres King for a 33-yard touchdown. “I’m very happy with how the spring ended.”

Jones said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham told the starting unit that they were playing too laid back after that drive.

The next time Murray was in, Jones pressured him on an incompletion. Nose guard John Jenkins got his right hand up to knock down a Murray pass. Sanders Commings delivered a crowd-pleasing hit on Marlon Brown and Cornelius Washington dropped Malcome for a 2-yard loss.

“The big thing there were 10 points scored in the first half and three of those on a red-zone stop,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “After that (when the second-team defense went against the first-team offense), it kind of opened up a little bit. It was a good evaluation. We put some guys in some positions and we learned about them.”

Linebacker Ramik Wilson led all tacklers with seven, including two for loss, a sack and an interception.

The Black team got four tackles apiece from safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, who also had an interception that he returned 28 yards.

The surest sign yet from Georgia that Rambo and Ogletree suspensions are coming was the G-Day program. They weren’t on the cover, but the other four players that joined them on the spring media guide still were.

Rambo is facing a four-game suspension that he was appealing, according to his high school coach. Ogletree also reportedly is facing a suspension for multiple games.

Rambo was suspended for the opener last year, but that wasn’t confirmed until after the game and these suspensions might not be confirmed, either.

“That announcement probably won’t be made until gameday,” athletic director Greg McGarity said of any violation of team rules. “We’re going through, ‘When is the appropriate time to do that? Is it after the game, before the game?’ We’ve just got to work through.”

Branden Smith (two tackles) and Commings also played for the Black team but are facing early-season suspensions, too.

“I think today was good medicine,” Richt said about having those players participate.

Despite the points scored Saturday, Georgia’s defense looks to be strong when it’s at full strength.

“We’re going to be a tough defense to deal with,” Richt said. “Everybody’s got to get the gate. Once everybody’s up and running, I think we’ll be very stout, but you’ve got to prove it.”

Check out more photos from G-Day.

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@JeffSchultzAJC @SethEmerson @BizWriterKristi Less than 3 weeks until basketball opener. Not that we are counting down.

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