Perhaps owing to the weather or the Easter holiday, the 2019 edition of G-Day wasn’t as well attended as coach Kirby Smart’s previous three spring-practice finales, but it was a pretty entertaining game as these sorts of affairs go, with the Red team coming from behind to defeat the Black team 22-17.
Here are five observations from Saturday’s game, as they relate to the Bulldogs’ 15 spring practices.
Plays of note
Georgia coach Kirby Smart has talked throughout the spring about the defense creating havoc, and he had to be happy with Eric Stokes, who intercepted a Jake Fromm pass in the first quarter and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. … D’Andre Swift rushed three times for 39 yards and had a nice 27-yard run in the second quarter that set up a 13-yard scoring pass from Fromm to Brian Herrien. … Backup quarterback Stetson Bennett threw a 52-yard completion to wide receiver Matt Landers, who atoned for a drop earlier in the second quarter. … Latavius Brini created more havoc with a third-quarter interception. … With eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, early-enrollee quarterback D’Wan Mathis scored a touchdown, but it came the receiving end of a 39-yard pass from Landers, who took the handoff on a reverse. … With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, Bennett (who played for both the Red and Black squads) tossed a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Holloman.
Great first impressions, Part 1
Mathis, who enrolled at Georgia in January, made a favorable first impression on Bulldogs fans, as he completed 15 of 28 passes for 113 yards and one interception. The 4-star prospect also rushed nine times and had a long run of 20 yards, but five sacks left him with minus-2 yards rushing.
“He did a great job, and it was great for his confidence,” Swift said. “It was a good springboard for him going into fall workouts. I thought he did a great job today.”
“Going through spring with him and him being an early enrollee, I just knew he was real athletic had good speed,” added Landers who when not throwing the ball for the Black team caught two passes – including the 52-yarder from Bennett – for 54 yards. “He played a little bit of everything in high school, so I knew he had some hands.”
Great first impressions, Part 2
While Mathis no doubt received a good bit of attention for his play, there were a number of early enrollees who turned in solid performances for Georgia.
Linebacker Nakobe Dean was the Black team’s second-leading tackler with five, while fellow linebacker Nolan Smith recorded two tackles. For the Red team’s defense, Lewis Cine led with eight tackles, including six solos. Tyrique Stevenson was the Red team’s third-leading tackler with five, and defensive back D.J. Daniel had three tackles and two pass breakups.
Smart generally likes to put the ball in the air on G-Day, and Saturday was no different, as the Black team rolled up 245 passing yards and the Red team recorded 244 air yards. Fromm didn’t start out well with the interception by Stokes in the game’s first offensive series, but he settled down and finished with 14 completions in 29 attempts for 116 yards and a scoring strike to Herrien.
“I didn’t throw it as clean as I wanted to today. It is what it is,” Fromm said. “… I think we’ve done a great job the other 14 practices throwing the ball around and making big plays.”
Besides Mathis’ impressive day, Bennett – who returned to Georgia in January after a year of junior college seasoning – played for both the Red and the Black, completing a total of 12 of 23 passes for 110 yards. Sophomore John Seter also got in on the action, completing 1 of 2 passes for 11 yards.
“I was a little worried about the weather conditions, being able to throw the ball,” Smart said. “I thought it might get sloppy, but the weather helped out and cooperated toward the end. We were able to throw the ball, especially in the first half, when the conditions were pretty good and there was less wind.”
One of the quarterbacks’ targets was missing. Fans hoping to see Demetris Robertson’s G-Day debut were no doubt disappointed by his absence. The junior receiver, who transferred from Cal last summer but didn’t do much last season, was sick Friday night and unavailable for Saturday, Smart said.
Ain’t that a kick?
In the realm of the kicking game, Georgia is well established with senior Rodrigo Blankenship, who in his storied career has connected on 53 of 64 field-goal attempts and has made all 65 of his point-after tries for a total of 313 points.
Place-kickers accounted for 15 of Georgia’s combined 39 points, with Blankenship making a 23-yard field goal in the first quarter and an extra point in the second quarter.
Based on Saturday’s scrimmage, the Bulldogs’ kicking game should be in good shape beyond 2019 as sophomore Jake Camarda (also the team’s punter), sophomore Brooks Buce and redshirt freshman Jack Podlesny were all called upon and came through.
Buce kicked two extra points and a 42-yard field goal. Camarda added a 49-yard field goal (but later had an extra-point attempt blocked), and Podlesny tallied the final points of the day with a 38-yard field goal with about a minute to play.
Blankenship, who has been the face of the kicking game for the past three seasons, said he feels confident his colleagues will carry the banner once he’s gone.
“It was great to see all our guys get some opportunities,” he said. “I wish I could play here longer; I’ve had such an incredible time here at UGA. I’m really looking forward to my last season, and the reality is kickers have been here before me and will be here long after me, so I was really proud of the way some of our guys came out and performed. I was really happy to see everybody get opportunities to come out and kick today.”
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