Georgia fans savor first G-Day in two years

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

ATHENS -- Stuart Kingsley worked as a student equipment manager under former Georgia coach Mark Richt before he graduated in 2009. When he returned to Sanford Stadium on Saturday for G-Day, the Locust Grove resident made sure to wear his ring from his time in the program.

More than seven years had passed since the last time Kingsley attended a game. His daughter wasn’t alive for that win over North Texas.

“When I was driving in, it felt great,” Kingsley said. “This is my little daughter. I got to bring her with me for the first time. Just to share my history with her is really good.”

Georgia hosted its first G-Day scrimmage since 2019 on Saturday. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 game. This year, Sanford Stadium accommodated about 20-25% of its usual capacity, just as it did during the conference-only 2020 season.

Also like last season, fans weren’t allowed to tailgate on campus. They adhered to the policy, as most of campus was relatively quiet.

Enthusiasts did gather near the Tate Student Center for the Dawg Walk about an hour before kickoff. Without the Redcoat Band present, fans didn’t start cheering until the first player in line (defensive back Christopher Smith) had reached the end of his walk.

Joyce McClendon arrived in her seat in section 133 in plenty of time for the game. Her son Warren McClendon, a sophomore offensive lineman for the Bulldogs, played for the Red team on Saturday.

For the past three weekends, Joyce said she drove from St. Simons to watch her son. Her confidence in this season’s team is high; she hopes Georgia can reach the College Football Playoff Championship game.

David O’Quinn also drove from St. Simons for G-Day. He arrived in Athens on Friday, played a round of golf at the UGA Golf Course and bought a hat. The 1990 UGA graduate attended Georgia’s 24-7 win over Auburn in 2020.

“It was a sense of normalcy,” O’Quinn said. “Even though it was restricted, it still gave us hope.”

O’Quinn said he expects Georgia at least to win the SEC East.

Carson Barrett, a first-year biochemical engineering student, doesn’t have any expectations for the team because he doesn’t closely follow it. He said he attends Georgia games for the camaraderie and to be with friends.

A member of the class that graduated from high school and began college amid the pandemic, Barrett appreciates that UGA gives freshmen priority over other students for tickets.

“With everyone getting vaccinated, I feel a lot safer coming,” Barrett said. “I just think it’s a good way to end the year.”