ATHENS — No matter what happened on the field, Saturday’s G-Day Game has to be considered a smashing success simply because more than 93,000 fans came out to see it.
In fact, they were turning them away at the gates before the game, or at least people were choosing not to come in due to the crowds. Twice during the first half, Sanford Stadium’s P.A. man Brook Whitmire asked people to please “squeeze in” to make more room for people still trying to find a seat.
That would remedy itself quickly in the second half as a big portion of the fan base appeared to leave at halftime. But, by then, they had seen what they came to see.
Jacob Eason makes smashing debut
The main attraction between the hedges Saturday was for everybody to get their first look at true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. They had to wait a while, but when he finally came into the game, the early enrollee from Lake Stevens, Wash., did not disappoint.
Eason came in at quarterback for the Red Team, which consisted primarily of the second-team offense, with 10:43 remaining in the second quarter. On his first play from scrimmage, Eason hooked up with tailback Brendan Douglas on a well-delivered flair pass right that went for 13 yards. A couple of plays later, Eason hit fellow freshman Riley Ridley for a 35-yard gain on a pinpoint pass down the left sideline. Later, he’d team with freshman tight end Isaac Nauta on a 7-yard touchdown pass on third down for the Red’s only score of the half.
When the smoke cleared and Eason was done in the first half, he’d completed 11-of-14 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Eason had a few more incompletions in the second half and finished the game 19-of-29 for 244 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. That was best among the three quarterbacks.
Let the controversy commence.
Those other quarterbacks
The way Georgia handled the quarterbacks Saturday was senior Greyson Lambert was the primary quarterback for the white-jersey-wearing Black team, which essentially was made up of the No. 1 offense. The redshirt junior Brice Ramsey was the primary quarterback for the Red team, or the second-team offense. The plan was for Eason to essentially float between the two, though all his snaps through the third quarter came with the Red squad.
Lambert was taking some heat on social media for a third-quarter interception that Aaron Davis returned 98 yards for a touchdown. But it actually was a route mistake by the freshman Ridley that caused the problem. That said, an experienced signal-caller such as Lambert had no business trying to force that ball into heavy coverage near the goal line in that situation.
Overall, the upperclassmen quarterbacks played decent. Ramsey finished 16-of-25 for 224 yards and Lambert was 11-of-22 for 140 with the one interception. Neither recorded a TD.
Kirby Smart’s a rock star
Over and above Eason, Kirby Smart was the star of the day. The first-year head coach brought forth a rousing ovation every time he was shown on the giant videoboard, most notably when he first entered the West end of the stadium at the end of the Dawg Walk.
On cue, the videoboard showed a snippet of Smart saying dramatically and straight into the camera, “It’s good to be home.”UGA then presented a video documentary of the coach’s brief tenure on campus that included scenes with him mic’d up at practice, all of which brought forth a big reaction from the huge crowd.
Meanwhile, Smart displayed his hands-on philosophy of the head coaching position. He spent the entire game on the field, wearing a headset to the coaches’ box and standing behind the offense so he could watch the action unfold after hearing the call made. It did not appear he ever came up to the press box to do any live in-game media, as his predecessor Mark Richt used to do in the second half.
Young receivers show promise
Georgia came into the spring looking for a couple of young receivers to step up. Based on both their presence and play in the G-Day Game, Michael Chigbu and Jayson Stanley appeared to have answered that called.
Chigbu was targeted early and often in the game with the Black squad, including twice in the end zone in which he was ruled out of bounds on what would have been touchdowns. In fact, Smart vehemently protested the first ruling and feigned a protest call.
Stanley got behind first-team cornerback Malkom Parrish for a 38-yard catch and caught another pass inside the 5 to set up the Black team’s first touchdown of the game.
Blankenship looks best among kickers
Not that anything was necessarily decided on Saturday, but Rodrigo Blankenship, a preferred walkon from Marietta, looked best of Georgia’s kickers on Saturday. The redshirt freshman out of Sprayberry High was good on field goals of 46 and 18 yards and made all his PATs. He missed a 40-yarder on a line drive to end the first half.
His counterpart, William Ham, missed both his first-half tries. The first from 46 yards wasn’t his fault as there was a bad snap. But his second mid-range attempt was just a poor kick. Ham did well on kickoffs.
The highlights of the quarter were all provided in the kicking game. Rodrigo Blankenship’s 46-yard field goal broke a scoreless drought late in the quarter. Also, punter Brice Ramsey also booted a 50-yard punt down to the 8-yard line. Trouble was, he pinned his own Red team offense deep in its own territory, and he could get them out only to their own 29.
- Black: Rodrigo Blankenship 46-yard FG. Black 3, Red 0, 3:34, 2Q.
The offenses finally got going in the second quarter, with the Black team scoring twice and the Red team once. This will always be remembered as the time Jacob Eason finally got on the field at quarterback for Georgia. Though he completed a 35-yard pass to Riley Ridley on his first possession, it ended with him being sacked for a seven-yard loss and the Red didn’t score. But he’d take care of that his next time out.
- Black: Tae Crowder 2-yard rush (Rodrigo Blankenship kick). Black 10, Red 0, 10:4, 2Q.
- Black: Rodrigo Blankenship 19-yard FG. Black 13, Red 0, 3:19, 2Q.
- Red: Jacob Eason 7-yard pass to Isaac Nauta (William Ham kick). Black 13, Red 7, 0:33 2Q.
It was the Nick Robinson Show. The little-known fourth-string quarterback, a redshirt freshman walkon from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., came in for the Black’s first possession of the second half and promptly led it on a scoring drive. He completed 4-of-7 passes on a 68-yard scoring drive, including a big third-down conversion completion for 17 yards to Shaquery Wilson. … This might be considered a lowlight but Greyson Lambert’s deep pass fro Riley Ridley was intercepted and returned 98 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Aaron Davis.
- Black: Nick Robinson 4 pass to Christian Payne (Roodrigo Blankenship kick). Black 20, Red 7, 6:48 3Q.
- Black: Aaron Davis 98-yard interception return (Blankenship kick). Black 27, Red 7, 1:08, 3Q.
Eason was at it again. The freshman quarterback connected with Reggie Davis on a deep go route down the right sideline for a 37-yard gain deep into Black team territory. That set up a TD run by receiver-turned-tailback Shaquery Wilson.
- Red: Shaquery Wilson 7-yard run (William Ham PAT). Black 27, Red 14, 12:40 4Q
- Black: Tae Crowder 6-yard run (Tanner Stumpe kick). Black 34, Red 14, 6:04 4Q
Unlike in the last several years under Richt, Georgia does not have a practice date left over to clean up issues from the spring game. So the Bulldogs will go straight into a down period. They’ll get a few days off before resuming their off-season strength and conditioning routine. Then they will be off for winter semester final exams.
More from DawgNation on G-Day:
- Photos: 93K fill Sanford Stadium for G-Day game
- Coaches are much more optimistic about the kicking game
- G-Day marked the first victory for Kirby Smart
- One NFL star says Smart is taking the program to a ‘new level’
- Jacob Eason impressively surpassed his hype
- The biggest highlight of the G-Day game wasn’t on the field
- Watch: Kirby Smart’s press conference after G-Day
- Eason was rousing in his debut
- A look back at G-Day’s biggest plays