On Saturday, in front of 19,874 damp and chilly fans at Sanford Stadium for the G-Day spring game, the line responded.
“I thought it was as good as they’ve played all spring,” said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo after he coached the Red team and its first-team offense to a 17-3 victory over the Black team and its first-team defense.
Both of the game’s touchdowns came behind the starting offensive line and both were passes to junior wide receiver Michael Moore, a 30-yarder from starting quarterback Matthew Stafford and a 12-yarder from third-string quarterback Logan Gray.
The Red team quarterbacks had plenty of time from the opening drive, when Stafford and the starters went 65 yards in four plays, capped by the long pass to Moore, which he snagged over the top of cornerback Prince Miller.
“We’ve had a bunch of scrimmages where we haven’t had enough time to drop back and step up and make that throw,” head coach Mark Richt said. “We really protected better this game than any other scrimmage, and that’s a good sign… for the offense, anyway.”
The first-team offense gained 161 yards, 89 through the air and 72 on the ground.
“I’m really glad for the way the guys came out here today focused and prepared to play ball,” said sophomore center Chris Davis, the only offensive lineman allowed to speak to the media.
The group has taken some heat during spring practice for its inconsistency, but that was all part of the plan, Bobo said.
“We’ve got to build continuity there,” he said. “We have to find five guys who will play together. The only way I think you can get them together as a unit is to apply pressure.”
“They stepped it up for this game for sure,” said Stafford, who was 6-of-10 for 78 yards. The same can’t be said for the first-team defense.
“The (Red team) made some plays early on in the first couple of drives where we didn’t,” said defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, who coached the Black team. “We were in position to make them and didn’t make them,”
Still, Martinez was not too concerned about the results, he said.
“Really, you just want guys to compete hard, and I think for the most part that happened,” Martinez said.
The game’s defensive standout was Black team defensive end Jarius Wynn, who had four tackles, including a sack. Starting safety Reshad Jones also had four tackles, and backup safety John Knox had the game’s only interception.
Offensively, the Black team, which included the second-team offense, averaged only 2.9 yards per play but got strong play from freshman running back Caleb King, who led all rushers with 31 yards on six carries.
Richt, who watched at least half of the game from the press box while providing commentary for radio and television broadcasts, was pleased with the scrimmage overall, he said.
“What I saw was a well-conditioned team, a team that has a bunch of good-looking athletes who were playing hard, competing,” he said. “I felt pretty blessed up there to be honest with you.”
The scrimmage wrapped up spring practice for the Bulldogs, who are expected to be one of the nation’s most talked-about teams when preseason practice begins in the fall.
“I feel like we’re right where we need to be,” Richt said. “To this point, everything we have tried to accomplish, we have."