ATHENS — The Georgia football team played its annual G-Day Game on Saturday at Sanford Stadium, and the Black team pulled out a 21-13 win over the Red team.
Coach Kirby Smart broke down the game, which was played in front of a crowd of more than 82,000, as the Bulldogs wrapped up spring practice.
On the crowd: “First of all, what an awesome atmosphere. I think we say that every year, but I certainly think that was an incredible atmosphere. I really just want to thank our fans for being out there that early. It was probably a little warmer than I anticipated, but I thought they were awesome. To see Sony [Michel] and Nick [Chubb] walk out before and to see the seniors honored for the season they had — I thought that was really cool and neat.’’
On why G-Day crowds are so large now: “I just think that people like Georgia football. I mean, why, when you have an opportunity, on this nice spring day to come to Athens, I know I would be dying to come if I lived anywhere in the state or in a five-hour radius. Get out of the house, get the kids out of the house, come see who the new faces are. I think some of it’s recruiting but I think people enjoy football in Georgia and want to come watch it. I’m glad they do because the impact it has on recruiting, I can’t tell you how many recruits are out there going, oh my gosh, I can’t believe it, I can’t get over it. It’s the norm here. It’s the way it should be. We have a great fan base and they turn out for it and we try to put a good product out there for them to make it a good, entertaining game. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.”
On the team’s performance: “As far as the game, I thought there were parts of it that were sloppy. Some of that was by design. Everybody will ask me about the rushing yards and if we have a rushing problem. If you watched that game closely, you realize there was not an intent to rush the ball a bunch. We think we have the capabilities of doing that, but that is not the purpose of our spring game. It’s to throw the ball, catch the ball, gain confidence in our passing game. We will run it some. Our defense did a really good job of creating turnovers. Two of them were gifts, but we got more turnovers [Saturday] than we had gotten really all spring. Some of the red guys started to bow their necks. I thought Monty [Rice] played good and did some good things defensively.”
On his quarterbacks and receivers: “Sloppy at times, drops. I thought both quarterbacks, their receivers had some drops but we’re trying to gain confidence. We are trying to get those guys to get through those drops, push through those. It was big for Jayson Stanley to get some confidence catching the ball. He caught some and dropped some. Obviously Elijah [Holyfield] had some. Several guys had a few of those. But that’s good for our DBs, getting the ball thrown over them. It’s really competitive out there and I enjoyed watching those guys compete. I thought both quarterbacks managed the huddle, that’s what I look or is what are they calling, are they calling the right signal, are they fixing guys that are broke, are they saying the right thing in the huddle and are they being positive when something bad happens. Elijah drops the ball, I’m mad at him, frustrated with him, but Jake [Fromm] — get the next one. It takes that to get a young player to go where you want him to go, I thought he and Justin [Fields] did a good job of that.”
On the performance by Fields: “He’s gotten better. He’s more comfortable with the offense. To be honest I never felt like he was like behind with the offense from day one. I mean, he’s done such a good job coming in and learning. It’s not like it’s been a growth process. He’s gotten more confident. He’s able to move around the pocket and create some things when things break down.”
On replacing leadership: “Yeah, you never stop with leadership. I mean, we lost a huge void, but it will never — even if we didn’t lose a huge void, we would be trying to replace leadership. Any time you have, you can lose leadership. These kids have embraced it. We are not where we need to be from a leadership standpoint. If you said, are we there? We are not even close. We have to develop that in May, summer, conditioning. We have to push the envelope with how are we going to get guys to confront and demand other guys. We are not where we need to be and you know what, we have to learn from some examples that other guys set because those other guys are remarkable when it comes to leadership. It made our job as coaches easier.”
On what the team’s goals were coming into the spring: “We are targeting special teams, and getting special teams to not be complacent. We thought we were really good last year. We developed some more receivers that can play on teams for us. Next thing, defense, we wanted to make more negative plays and give more tackles for loss and we put some things in that we worked on in other practices, not today. Offensively we want to be more efficient with our RPOs. We want to have a little bit more package of plays than we showed today. We felt like we accomplished that, not necessarily today, but throughout spring, we were able to do that. The biggest thing that we didn’t do this spring is find out who we are and who are our leaders and I’m not sure we know exactly who those leaders are yet. We know who they are supposed to be, but are they willing to assume the role, because it’s going to be forced on them.”