ATHENS — One position that was of utmost concern before Georgia’s G-Day football game Saturday was wide receiver.
The receivers came through in a big way, catching a lot of balls and putting on a good show for the 66,133 spectators who came to Sanford Stadium looking to be entertained.
Their performance had coach Kirby Smart busting at the buttons. But that’s kind of relative given that it is still April.
“I’ll say this: What y’all saw today was the best showing that they’ve had as a unit in 15 practices of spring,” Smart said after the game, won by the Red Team 25-22. “So you guys will all write that they’ve saved the world, that they’ve all come about, they were great. Whereas I was concerned coming into the game. After the game I said, ‘those guys were pretty good.’”
It certainly was a busy day, both for the receivers and the quarterbacks, who benefited from a coaching staff initiative to put the ball in the air a lot in an effort to not risk injury to the team’s coveted tailback corps. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel had just 3 touches between them.
Between the 2 teams that competed in the formalized intrasquad scrimmage, the Bulldogs threw 65 passes, completing 31 of them for 607 yards and 4 touchdowns. That’s with the game on a running clock.
It took a while to get going. The teams had only 25 passing yards combined after the first quarter. But after some early missed targets and dropped balls, the Bulldogs started hitting pay dirt in the second quarter and continued until the competitive finish. There was 208 yards passing in the second quarter alone.
Georgia got a lot of bang for the buck. There were TD passes of 70, 42, 36 and 33 yards and other catches of 47, 40 and 38 yards.
“The game plan was to go out and throw some quick routes and some deep balls,” said Eason, who finished with 311 yards on just 16 completions. “I think we did just that and I think we did a fairly good job of it.”
They did. More importantly, Georgia’s receivers took advantage of their opportunities. Terry Godwin, expected to be the go-to guy in the group, played like it. The junior flanker finished with a game-high 130 yards on just 5 catches.
“It was a good day for the offense,” said Godwin, who played on the Black team, which consisted of the No. 1 offense. “All the receivers and quarterbacks were on the same page. I’d feel better about it if my team would’ve won. We’ve gotta eat beanie-weenies tonight.”
Javon Wims also proved to be a favorite target for Eason with 4 catches for 96 yards, and he executed some nifty downfield blocks, too.
“It was like another practice for us,” Wims said. “The beautiful thing about it is we had 2 scrimmages on Saturdays to get us used to this atmosphere. The only thing was all the fans, but otherwise it was like a practice for us.”
Thanks to a 70-yard TD reception from Jake Fromm, sophomore Tyler Simmons had a team-best 114 yards on 5 receptions for the Red team. Fromm found Mecole Hardman, the converted cornerback, for a 38-yard gain to set up the game-winning field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship. Freshman J.J. Holloman had 3 catches for 77 yards, all from Fromm.
Everybody got into the act.
“His speed,” Wims said of what Hardman has brought to the unit. “He’s very fast. He can get behind the safety, behind the secondary. We can use that as a weapon.”
Eason said he was not surprised from what he saw from the wideouts. It was just a matter of time, he said.
“I think there was a lot of energy today with the fan base coming out and they were going out to show their parents and their fans what they could do,” he said. “They did a really good job of tracking and catching the ball, Javon, Jayson [Stanley], Terry, everybody. Even running with the ball. Charlie [Woerner] did a good job on that touchdown.
“I’m excited. I’m excited for them, I’m excited for the future because they’re only going to get better. They had a really good day today.”