1. If you were watching Georgia’s sideline closely this past Saturday at Kentucky, you might’ve noticed that quarterback Brice Ramsey was in a heightened state of readiness. Normally the redshirt freshman watches games in a relaxed state with head phones on. This time he not only had his helmet with him the whole time, he had it on his head most of the first quarter.
As it turned out, Ramsey wouldn’t need his head-gear until the fourth quarter. The plan this past Saturday was for Ramsey to play early, but starting quarterback Hutson Mason changed those plans. He played a near-perfect game against the Wildcats.
In fact, the senior from Marietta led the Bulldogs on touchdown-scoring drives on six of the seven offensive possessions in which he was the quarterback. The one time Georgia didn’t score with Mason at the controls was when it took a knee to end the first half. For the game he was 13-of-16 passing for 174 yards and 4 TDs.
“Great, great job by Hutson,” Richt said. “My hat’s off to the guy. … You know, he catches heat every once in a while. Playing quarterback, you’re going to catch heat. We challenged him this week, and he rose to the challenge. He played great. Coach Bobo and the rest of the offensive staff put together a great plan and he executed it beautifully.”
2. Mason said the key for him was just relaxing and playing freely.
“It just goes back to that grip-and-rip mentality,” he said. “There were times guys weren’t running wide open. The TD pass to (tight end) Jeb (Blazevich) was a phenomenal catch by him. I’m learning that sometimes you’ve just got to give your guy a chance when you have one-on-one coverage. They’ve shown they’ll make the plays.”
Said Richt: “Just challenged him to continue to take charge and let the ball rip, just cut it loose. The thing that we see in Hutson is his great sense of anticipation, throwing the ball sooner than most guys, not holding the ball too long, not hitching up in the pocket too much. And I think there’s times he’s done that. … He dropped back in the pocket, he hit his point, then he stepped up and let it rip and he was right on the money.”
3. It has also been helpful Mason to get some of his weapons back. Tailback Sony Michel played his first game in six weeks and rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown against. Junior Malcolm Mitchell scored a 23-yard touchdown on a skinny post-route off a play-action fake. It was Mitchell’s first TD since November of 2012 and one of four passes he caught in the game.
And then there was Jonathon Rumph. The injury-plagued senior played for the first time all season and just the sixth time in his two years with the Bulldogs. Rumph made his presence known, though, leading his team with four catches for 81 yards and making two highlight-reel plays. He made a one-handed stab of a pass on a crossing pattern for a first down and then shook a defender while hauling in a deep pass and shaking a defender and tiptoeing the sideline for a 47-yard gain in the second half.
“That was just me making a play in the game,” said the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Rumph. “My teammates keep me uplifted and I was just out there making plays.”
A chronic hamstring has kept Rumph sidelined most of the last two seasons, and then he had to prove to Coach Tony Ball he knew the calls and signals.
“Tuesday of the Florida week is when I really became full throttle,” Rumph said. “That was my first day of full go. My leg has stayed right since then and Coach Ball has been watching me a lot and seeing my focus. I had a great week of practice this past week and I was able to play a lot, so I’m doing very well.”
4. The quote of the week has already been uttered by Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. He was asked about defending Todd Gurley after the Tigers’ practice on Sunday.
“We’ll probably have to try a little bit of everything,” Johnson said in a story posted on AL.com. “Nobody’s stopped him and some of them slowed him down a little bit. The only guy that stopped him was the autograph guy.”
Relatively speaking at least, Auburn has done a decent job against Gurley. In his previous two games against the Tigers, he has averaged 97.5 yards rushing and 43.5 yards receiving. He had 79 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown last year on The Plains, but added 77 yards receiving on 10 receptions.
Auburn is ninth in the SEC in total defense this season, allowing 386 yards per game. They’re fifth against the run (129.4 ypg) and 13th against the pass (256.9).
Gurley, by the way, won’t be doing any interviews this week. UGA said his situation will be handled like others for suspended players have been in the past in which they’re not available until after they’ve played in a game.
5. Of course, another big storyline for Saturday’s game will be the return of Nick Marshall to Sanford Stadium. Because of the scheduling fluke that resulted in Georgia playing at Auburn in back-to-back years the past two seasons, Marshall will be playing in Sanford Stadium for the first time since he suited up for the Bulldogs as a defensive against Kentucky on Nov. 19, 2011.
Playing behind Brandon Boykin, Sanders Commings and Branden Smith at cornerback, Marshall finished with one tackle in that game, a 19-10 Georgia victory. He was dismissed from UGA for his role in a dorm-room theft of a teammate the next February.