Freshman Andy Bailey, who just a week ago won the right to replace Bennett as the Bulldogs’ place-kicker, hit two field goals and six extra points Saturday against Georgia Southern.
“Andy Bailey did fantastic, hit every kick and looked good doing it,” Coach Mark Richt said.
Bailey got a fairly easy introduction into his new job. His first kick was an extra point and his next was a chip-shot, 21-yard field goal. He also hit a 31-yard field goal in the first half.
“I feel confident now,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous next Saturday because we’re not playing at home, but hopefully my confidence will carry over.”
Walk-on Brandon Coutu, who Bailey beat out for the field goal job, also had a good day. Richt said Coutu and walk-on Ben Wilson might alternate kicking off, but Coutu appeared to win the job immediately when he sent his first kick through the end zone, something that hasn’t been done in Athens in several years. He also booted his second kick far enough into the end zone so far that it couldn’t be returned.
DOG DEBUTS: Thomas Brown was one of six true freshmen to play Saturday, and he was the second most impressive of the bunch, behind starting tailback Danny Ware.
Brown was the third back off the bench but had five carries for 19 yards, which was five more carries than sophomore Michael Cooper had. Cooper, the second-team back, didn’t touch the ball and didn’t play in the second half.
“We wanted to see what Thomas Brown can do,” Richt said. “We know what Cooper can do. I saw some really good flashes from Thomas.”
A.J. Bryant (wide receiver), Brandon Miller (linebacker), Chester Adams (offensive line) and Kelin Johnson (safety) joined Ware and Brown on the field.
Bryant had three passes thrown his way, one of which was poorly thrown and dropped, one of which was dropped and the third which was incomplete due to good coverage. At one point in the fourth quarter, Bryant was guarded by GSU defensive back A.J. Bryant.
LINEBACKER SHUFFLE: The first start of linebacker Jarvis Jackson’s collegiate career was a shock to many observers but not to any of the Bulldogs. Jackson started ahead of Danny Verdun Wheeler at weakside linebacker.
“It’s been a day-to-day competition,” defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brian VanGorder said. “They both came into the game knowing they would split the time.”
Starting middle linebacker Derrick White wore No. 43 instead of his usual No. 53 to honor linebacker Tony Taylor, who wore No. 43 last year and was lost for the season due to a knee injury he suffered in the spring.
NOT IMPRESSED: Reggie Brown had four catches for 87 yards and impressed Richt. However, GSU cornerback Terence McBride wasn’t impressed.
“He didn’t show me any more than any I-AA receiver would have shown me,” McBride said. “I don’t think he played up to his level against me. He didn’t impress me at all. Florida International’s receivers, for example, play hard every down.
QUARTERBACK ROTATION: Backup quarterback D.J. Shockley made his first appearance since Oct. 11 of last year midway through the third quarter. The Bulldogs led 27-14 before Shockley led a seven-play scoring drive. The biggest play on the drive came when Shockley found his roommate, wide receiver Fred Gibson, for a 49-yard gain.
He finished the game 2 of 8 passing from 70 yards and with two rushes for 22 yards.
“Everybody wants to play more, but it was understandable,” he said. “You can’t get frustrated with the way things happened because Georgia Southern really held the ball.”
Shockley missed the last eight games of last season due to a knee injury.
“I thought he played very well,” Richt said. “He kind of struggled when we put a lot of young guys in there around him.”
WHO’S THAT GUY: Walk-on linebacker Steve White, a 5-foot-11, 213-pound sophomore, was the most surprising part of Georgia’s lineup on Saturday. He played early and often as a defensive end for the Bulldogs.
White’s athleticism was needed for Georgia’s scheme this game, VanGorder said, but it may be the most action he gets all season.
“This was a game where he fit in to what we were doing,” VanGorder said. “We can’t line him up at defensive end in the SEC.”
RETURN GAME: Tyson Browning lined up to return the first punt of the game, but he didn’t get a chance to do anything because David Pollack blocked the kick. It was Pollack’s third career blocked kick. He has now stopped two punts and one field goal.
Browning got another chance in the third quarter and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown, the first return touchdown of his career. Thomas Brown and Bryan McClendon returned kickoffs but didn’t get much work. Brown had one return for 18 yards.
THOMPSON FINALLY BACK: Not having played a game in more than a year, Will Thompson was a little tired.
But he had a big grin.
Thompson returned to the lineup Saturday after missing the 2003 season with a dislocated ankle.
Time pretty much stopped for the senior defensive end.
"It was," he said, shaking his head, "the longest week."
He said he felt good and this his ankle held up fine. He did suffer a hand injury when an Eagle fell on it.
Georgia's defense didn't have it's best day, thanks to Georgia Southern's option offense. The starting front four totaled 11 tackles unofficially, Thompson credited with two tackles, and the Eagles ran for 294 yards.
"It's to be expected," he said. "I was hoping that things would've come out a little better than they did."
But he was finally in pads on a Saturday in September. Oddly, he had a peaceful Friday night.
"I went to bed early," he said, "so I could hurry up and go to sleep so I could wake up."