Kirby Smart wanted G-Day to be like any game, saying: “We’ve got a great opponent.”

He was right, of course. And that’s the thing about spring intrasquad games at Georgia, where the first-string offense faces the first-string defense when the Red team has the ball, and the second-string offense goes against the second-string defense when it’s a Black team possession.

So, any points scored by the Dawgs also are points allowed by the Dawgs.

Given that, Saturday’s 20-20 tie might be just about the perfect G-Day result, showing off the Dawgs’ considerable depth on both sides of the ball.

Mykel Williams makes an interception Saturday after tipping a pass. (Curtis Compton/AJC) (Curtis Compton/Dawgnation)

Overall, the defense looked a lot better than I had expected, considering they were missing some starters, and based on what Smart had said about how the offense was dominating spring scrimmages.

Offensively, the point of emphasis in Saturday’s game — shown on streaming via ESPN+ and SEC Network+ — was the passing attack (as is usual in a Smart era G-Day game). The three quarterbacks who got into the game (Carson Beck, Gunner Stockton and walk-on Collin Drake) threw a combined 85 passes, completing 49 of them. (Freshman QB Ryan Puglisi missed the game with an injury.)

Both Beck, who played exclusively for the Red team, and Stockton, who mostly played for the Black but briefly switched to the Reds, had their good and bad moments. Both threw some passes a little too high and had apparent miscommunications with some of their receivers. But both also had some passes dropped by receivers, and the two quarterbacks made some impressive throws, with Beck looking particularly strong on the late drive where the Reds tied it up.

In addition, it was too bad they didn’t have a replay official for the spring game; it cost Beck a TD completion, since receiver Dillon Bell was ruled out of bounds in the end zone on the Reds’ first drive, but video showed he got a foot down inside the line. So, the Reds had to kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.

Carson Beck had an up-and-down day in Georgia’s spring intrasquad game. (Curtis Compton/AJC) (Curtis Compton/Dawgnation)

Stockton quickly brought the Blacks down the field in answer to that first score by the Reds, thanks to a 54-yard completion to Anthony Evans III. The quick four-play drive gave the Black team a 7-3 lead. Freshman safety KJ Bolden was beaten on Evans’ long catch, but Bolden came up big on the next drive, stopping Evans for no gain on a 3rd-down play.

There were a lot of punts after that, and the score was 10-10 at the half. No points were scored in the third quarter (which, like the others, was shortened to 12 minutes for the intrasquad game).

In the fourth period, the lead went back and forth between the two sides before ending in the final tie. The Blacks were 1st-and-goal at one point, but Stockton and his receivers couldn’t connect (one play was a great defensive effort by Alabama transfer safety Jake Pope), so they kicked another field goal to pad their lead to 20-13.

On the Reds’ final drive, Beck threw a perfect 39-yarder to Rara Thomas, as well as an 11-yard scoring pass to Dominic Lovett with 27 seconds remaining.

Gunner Stockton played for both teams Saturday, but mostly for the Blacks. (Curtis Compton/AJC) (Curtis Compton/Dawgnation)

Beck completed 25 of 46 passes in the game for 301 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He didn’t look particularly sharp on some drives, especially on deep throws in the first half, but he was at his best on a 10-play scoring drive in the second quarter and that final scoring drive for the Reds.

Stockton completed 23 of 38 passes for 246 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. On a fourth-quarter drive that put the Blacks up 17-13, he had impressive completions of 32 yards (to freshman Nitro Tuggle) and a 26-yard scoring strike (to freshman Sacovie White).

Stockton also had a perfect pass dropped by White on a fourth-down play late in the game that probably would have given the Blacks a victory if it had been caught. Liam Badger tried a 54-yard field goal that didn’t make it as time expired.

The game’s leading receiver was the Reds’ Lovett, who caught 7 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, with his longest reception covering 34 yards. Thomas caught 6 passes for 58 yards for the Reds and Colbie Young, a transfer from Miami, caught 3 for 27 yards, including winning a jump ball in the end zone for a TD. Tight end Lawson Luckie caught a couple of passes, including an 18-yarder.

Transfer Colbie Young makes a touchdown catch in the G-Day game. (Curtis Compton/AJC) (Curtis Compton/Dawgnation)

For the Black team, Southern Cal transfer Michael Jackson III was the leader, catching 5 passes for 42 yards, and freshman tight end Jaden Reddell snagged 5 for 23 yards.

Each team had 12 players catching passes during the game.

The Reds had a net 390 yards of offense to the Blacks’ 264 yards.

As for the surprising number of passes that were batted or tipped by defenders, that was a win-loss in the grand scheme of things, I suppose — a possible concern for the offense, but an encouraging sign from the defense. Edge rusher Mykel Williams had one of those tips and managed to catch it himself for an interception. He said afterward: “It was awesome. I think that was my first time to tip one to myself.”

Florida transfer running back Trevor Etienne averaged 6 yards a carry Saturday. (Curtis Compton/AJC) (Curtis Compton/Dawgnation)

Neither offense ran that much, but both of the run defenses generally were pretty stout.

Still, there were a few highlights in that area of the game.

Red team starting tailback Roderick Robinson only averaged 2.2 yards per game on his 11 carries, but Andrew Paul gained 27 yards his 2 carries for the Reds (with a long of 25 yards), and for the Blacks he had 2 more carries and got a TD. Florida transfer Trevor Etienne averaged 6 yards on his 4 carries for the Reds, with his longest run covering 18 yards, and he also caught 3 passes out of the backfield for 33 yards.

For the Blacks, freshman Chauncey Bowens had 22 yards on 5 carries.

Anthony Evans III makes a big catch during Saturday’s G-Day game. (Curtis Compton/AJC) (Curtis Compton/Dawgnation)

On special teams, Peyton Woodring made 2 field goals for the Reds and Badger kicked 2 for the Blacks.

Smart summed up the game this way: “I thought the defense played much better today than they did in previous scrimmages, in terms of energy, enthusiasm and running to the ball.”

Specifically, he said, the defenses tackled better and rushed the passer better than they did earlier in the spring.

“The offense probably didn’t have as good of a day as maybe they’ve had in the two scrimmages,” Smart said, “but some of that was dictated by the terms [of the scrimmage], which was passing and loose plays, and they did a nice job handling that in the second half.”

Head coach Kirby Smart praised the defensive showing in the Saturday intrasquad game. (Curtis Compton/AJC) (Curtis Compton/Dawgnation)

There weren’t any real surprises, and Georgia didn’t show much of the playbook (with Smart even having the Reds kick a PAT for the tie rather than go for 2 and a win, because he didn’t want any a 2-point plays on video for early regular-season opponents).

As Beck told ESPN+ afterward, the game was “very vanilla on both sides of the ball.”

Overall, Smart said, “I don’t evaluate things on today … for me it was about the entire spring — 15 practices.”

And, he added, “I’m very pleased with our health coming out of it.”

Next up for the Dawgs is the spring transfer portal, in which they might gain and lose some players.

Georgia will open the 2024 season Aug. 31 against Clemson at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.