Georgia completed spring football practice in front of more than 80,000 fans Saturday as the Black team defeated the Red team 21-13 in the annual G-Day intra-squad game at Sanford Stadium.
Touchdowns on the Black squad’s first two possessions of the third quarter stretched a 7-6 halftime lead to 21-6. The Red squad narrowed the margin with a touchdown in the final two minutes of the game.
Here are five observations from G-Day:
1. The quarterbacks
Justin Fields, a Class of 2018 signee who enrolled at UGA in January, quarterbacked the Black team and completed 18 of 33 passes for 207 yards. He threw one touchdown pass and one interception.
During his side’s third-quarter rally, Fields completed five of seven throws, including a 36-yarder to Jeremiah Holloman (to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Prather Hudson on the next play) and a 15-yard touchdown pass to Matt Landers.
Fields has “done such a good job coming in and learning,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart told the media afterward. “He’s gotten more confident. He’s able to move around the pocket and create some things when things break down.”
Returning starter Jake Fromm, a sophomore, quarterbacked the Red team and had a subpar day, completing 19 of 38 passes for 200 yards. He threw one touchdown pass and two interceptions.
The Red team’s only touchdown came with 1:42 to play, when Fromm connected with Riley Ridley on a 57-yard pass.
“The secondary played really well today and kind of kept us on our toes,” Fromm told the media. “They took away a lot of the deep stuff that we normally do.”
It should be noted, to put comparisons in context, that Fromm was playing against Georgia’s No. 1 defense and Fields against the No. 2 defense.
2. The defense
Neither side’s defense allowed a touchdown in the first half, while the Black squad’s defense scored one on senior Deandre Baker’s 32-yard return of a first-quarter interception of a Fromm pass. That was the game’s opening score, and the only other first-half points were produced by two Rodrigo Blankenship field goals for the Red team, a 41-yarder and a 35-yarder.
Baker’s interception was one of three in the game by the Black squad. Richard LeCounte intercepted a Mecole Hardman pass on an attempted trick play early in the third quarter, and William Poole intercepted a Fromm pass later in the third. The Red team’s KJ Smith intercepted a Fields pass in the fourth quarter.
“Defense did a really good job of creating turnovers,” Smart said. “Two of them were gifts, but we got more turnovers today than we got, really, all spring.”
For the Red team, linebacker Monty Rice had a game-high 14 tackles.
3. The running game
With Georgia’s former tailback tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in attendance as they await the NFL draft, the Bulldogs didn’t do much in terms of running the ball Saturday.
The Red team finished with 33 yards rushing on 14 carries and the Black team with 60 yards on 26 carries. The game’s leading rusher was Hudson with 40 yards.
“Everybody will be asking me about rushing yards or do we have a rushing problem,” Smart said. “If you (watched) that game closely, you will realize there was not an intent to rush the ball a bunch, which we think we have the capabilities of doing. That’s not the purpose of our spring game. It’s to throw the ball, catch the ball and gain confidence in the passing game.”
4. The crowd
Georgia fans again turned out in ultra-impressive numbers for a spring scrimmage. Attendance was announced as 82,184, second largest in G-Day history.
UGA had said earlier in the week that the Sanford Stadium seating capacity would be limited to 78,000 for the day because nine sections of seats behind the west end-zone were out of service due to construction, but said Saturday that figure didn’t account for suites that were in use. In any case, the stadium appeared essentially full early in the game except for the closed sections and a small number of empty seats near the top of the 600 level.
The G-Day attendance record is 93,000 in 2016.
5. The renovations
Sanford Stadium’s new and noticeably larger video board debuted. The 52-foot-high, 100-foot-wide screen is part of an ongoing $63 million construction project, which by the start of the 2018 season also will add a new locker room for the Bulldogs, a hospitality lounge for visiting recruits and their guests, two fan plazas and expanded concession and restroom facilities, all on the west end of the stadium.
Although the video board was the only part of the massive project operational at G-Day, fans got hints of what else is in the works: The concrete has been poured for the new upper plaza below the scoreboard, and a tunnel behind the west goal post marks the spot where players will enter the game from their new locker room in the fall.
Sanford Stadium’s privet hedges were temporarily removed from the west and south sides of the field after last season – and were stored for months at secret locations -- to accommodate a construction crane on the field, but they were replanted in their original positions in time for G-Day. The hedges looked less-than-lush Saturday after an aggressive pruning, but UGA officials expect them to be rejuvenated by the start of the season.
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