Mason: Fixing Georgia’s passing game starts with him

Georgia coach Mark Richt and quarterback Hutson Mason were in agreement after the Bulldogs’ 35-32 victory over Tennessee on Saturday: Their passing game isn’t working well.

Mason couldn’t take advantage of a Volunteers defense that sometimes would put as many as eight men near the line of scrimmage, finishing with 147 yards passing and tossing his first two interceptions of the season.

Mason completed 16 of 25 passes (64 percent), but only four of those, for 25 yards, came in the second half. Mason, a senior, has yet to throw for more than 200 yards this season, something Aaron Murray did 38 times in four seasons.

“It just flat out starts with me getting better in the passing game,” said Mason, who had averages of 71.2 percent and 153.2 yards before Saturday. “We don’t apologize for a win, and found a way to win, but we have to get better.”

Mason and Richt offered several reasons for the ineffectiveness of the passing attack. Mason pointed to the inexperience of the wide receivers and running backs — freshman tailback Nick Chubb actually ran the wrong route on his 20-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter — low-percentage passing situations such as third-and-long (Georgia was 1-of-10 on third downs), and injuries to key receivers Justin Scott-Wesley, Malcolm Mitchell and Jonathon Rumph, who are scheduled to return to practice Monday.

“We’re definitely not clicking throwing the ball like we’d like around here,” Richt said.

Mason’s first interception came in the second quarter, with the Bulldogs trailing 10-7. He never looked off his intended receiver, and Tennessee safety Todd Kelly Jr. easily made the interception, snapping Mason’s string of 66 passes this season without an interception. The Vols were unable to capitalize, despite taking over at Georgia’s 47-yard line.

The second interception came on Georgia’s first possession in the second half. After rarely attempting a long pass in the first half, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo had Mason air out a pass down the sidelines in what was supposed to be a jump ball to Chris Conley. But the pass was underthrown, and cornerback Cameron Sutton intercepted on Tennessee’s 29. Once again, the Vols were unable to turn the mistake into points.

Richt said that because the running game is working so well, Mason and the receivers may not get many chances to throw the ball until they can find a rhythm.

“We are trying to win games,” he said.

Mason said he needs to improve, but wasn’t sure Saturday what he needs to work on.

“I don’t have an answer for it,” Mason said. “But I’m the leader of this offense, and it starts with me.”

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