0

Bulldogs turn to Mason at quarterback

An unfortunate injury will give Georgia a glimpse of its future at quarterback for the rest of the 2013 season.

Redshirt junior Hutson Mason will start at QB for the Bulldogs (7-4) for the rest of the season after record-holding starting QB Aaron Murray suffered a torn ACL during Georgia’s 59-17 win over Kentucky.

Mason’s starting debut will come in a big rivalry game today when Georgia closes its regular season at Georgia Tech.

He also will start Georgia’s bowl game.

“I think Hutson is ready,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Hutson has worked extremely hard.”

Mason has waited four years as a backup behind Murray. Last year, Mason redshirted so he could create a year of separation from Murray and possibly start as a junior and senior. But when Murray opted to return for his senior season, Mason found himself on the bench again in 2013.

Through it all, Richt said Mason has handled the situation with great maturity.

“He’s been a guy that’s been able to make plays and get drives going when maybe other people just kind of folded up,” Richt said. “That’s been great experience for him, and now he’s the guy.

“That’s a new experience for him. He probably had a pretty good idea in the middle of the Kentucky game that he may be playing for the rest of the year, but this is the first time that he’s had a whole week to prepare. One thing that will change is that he’ll get all the reps in practice.”

Mason said he’s taking the same approach this week in practice that he has throughout his college career as a backup.

“What (Aaron) Murray has taught me over the four years that I’ve been here and showing me how to prepare and the steps that it takes to prepare as a champion and prepare to win,” Mason said. “It’s a lot of long hours, but it’s something that I know how to do.”

Mason’s teammates are confident he can deliver another win for Georgia against Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs have won the last four meetings between the two schools.

“Hutson is executing at the same level that Murray did, just because he’s been in the system for so long,” Georgia receiver Chris Conley said. “We’re comfortable with him, and there’s a lot of emphasis that falls on other people this week because (Georgia) Tech has a very good defense.

“We’re not really worried about Hutson because there are so many other things that we as an offense have to get better at and prepared for this weekend to have success.”

Facing the option

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is using a recent example to get the attention of his defense in facing Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense.

“Obviously it’s a tough offense,” Grantham said. “I think Georgia Southern had like 429 (yards) or something on Florida. They run similar offenses. We saw both of those offenses last year. It’s a tough offense.”

Snap adjustment

Center David Andrews said it will be an adjustment snapping the ball to new Georgia starting QB Hutson Mason.

“Hutson’s a little more uptempo than (Aaron) Murray,” Andrews said. “We kind of joke about it a little bit. I think they’re two different players. I’m excited to see what Hutson can do.

“It’s fun out there. He’s a passionate guy, a fiery guy who has a lot of emotion. I play with a lot of emotion, too, so I think it’s kind of fun.”

Series history

Georgia leads 63-40 with five ties (Last meeting, 2012, Georgia won 42-10).

Quote to note

“It’s unfortunate the way it happened. Sports are cruel, but they can also teach a lot of life lessons, and that’s what I’ve learned over my four years. It is just part of being a back-up. You have to be ready at all times.” — Georgia redshirt junior quarterback Hutson Mason, on taking over for QB Aaron Murray due to Murray’s torn ACL injury.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

—QB Hutson Mason will make his first career start in a big rivalry game against Georgia Tech due to the fact QB Aaron Murray is out the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Mason was effective in relief of Murray against Kentucky, completing 13 of 19 passes for 189 yards and one TD. Mason added a TD rushing on a QB sneak. For the season, Mason has passed for 349 yards, two TDs and an interception.

—RB Todd Gurley proved again effective running the ball and catching the ball out of the backfield against Kentucky. Gurley finished with five catches for 90 yards and two receiving TDs against Kentucky, while adding 77 yards rushing on eight carries. For the season, Gurley has 781 yards and seven TDs and 308 yards receiving on 26 catches and four receiving TDs.

—DT Garrison Smith has put together a strong senior season. On Senior Day against Kentucky, the 6-foot-3, 299-pound Smith shines with seven tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks to earn SEC defensive lineman of the week honors. For the season, Smith had 58 tackles, nine tackles for loss and is tied with DE Ray Drew for the team lead in sacks with six.

—S Josh Harvey-Clemons is starting to show the promise that made him a highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school. The sophomore from Valdosta, Ga., had six tackles against Kentucky, with 2 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. For the season, Harvey-Clemons is third on Georgia in tackles (59) with a team-high three fumble recoveries.

GAME BREAKDOWN

Scouting the running game: Georgia is coming off an impressive game running the football with 230 yards rushing against Kentucky on 5.8 yards per carry. The Bulldogs were able to spread carries with RBs Todd Gurley (8 carries, 77 yards), Brendan Douglas (12 carries, 59 yards, 1 TD) and J.J. Green (6 carries, 35 yards, 1 TD). Georgia ranks 11th in the SEC in rushing offense at 179.5 yards per game on 4.9 yards per carry.

Scouting the passing game: With QB Aaron Murray out for the year (torn ACL), backup QB Huston Mason will try to keep Georgia’s high-powered passing offense in rhythm. Mason should get help from a receiving corps that is getting healthier near the end of the season. WRs Chris Conley (476 yards receiving, 4 TDs) and Michael Bennett (430 yards, 3 TDs) are rounding back into form after missing the portion of the season with injuries. TE Arthur Lynch has been consistent. Lynch scored two TDs against Kentucky and has a team-high 5 receiving TDs this season.

Scouting the run defense: Georgia held Kentucky to just 62 yards rushing on 2.1 yards per carry. LB Ramik Wilson had another strong game stopping the run with 9 tackles and one tackle for loss. For the season, Georgia ranks third in the SEC in run defense, giving up 138.1 rushing yards per game.

Scouting the pass defense: Georgia allowed 149 yards passing against Kentucky, limiting big plays downfield. The lone passing touchdown the Bulldogs gave up was late in the fourth quarter with the game already decided. For the season, Georgia ranks 10th in the SEC in pass defense, giving up 232.8 yards per game passing.

Scouting the special teams: Richt is pleased with the progress of KR Sheldon Dawson, who had a 41-yard return against Kentucky. PK Marshall Morgan made a 41-yard field goal attempt against Kentucky to improve to 16 for 18 for the season. P Adam Erickson replaced P Collin Barber as starter and had a 51-yard punt against Kentucky. Richt said Barber and Erickson will continue to compete for the starting job at P in practices heading up to the Georgia Tech game.

ROSTER REPORT

—QB Aaron Murray tore his ACL in his left knee during the first half of Georgia’s 59-17 win over Kentucky. “It’s kind of a crummy feeling when you think about what Aaron is going through right now,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

—Georgia has signed a pair of 2014 recruits to financial aid agreements — Jacob Park, a 4-star quarterback from Goose Creek, S.C., who committed to UGA last summer; and Josh Malone, a 4-star wide receiver from Gallatin, Tenn., who is still undecided among Tennessee and UGA, among others.