Rewind: Mason better prepared for Tech this time

 

Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason had another efficient day under center against Charleston Southern. Playing one half, he recorded more TD passes (3) than incompletions (2) for the second time this season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason had another efficient day under center against Charleston Southern. Playing one half, he recorded more TD passes (3) than incompletions (2) for the second time this season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)


MONDAY MORNING REWIND:

1. If Hutson Mason has his way, Mike Bobo is going down.

Currently the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Bobo established the UGA record for completion percentage in a season when he was Georgia’s signalcaller in 1997. But Mason is on pace to obliterate that record. The senior from Marietta enters the final regular-season game completing 68.4 percent of his passes this season. Bobo completed 65.3 of his passes 17 years ago.

“He always tells us to complete balls,” Mason said. “I think I’m doing a pretty good job of that this year.”

Especially of late. In two of the Bulldogs’ last three games Mason has thrown more touchdowns passes than incompletions. He was 13-of-16 for 174 yards and four scores against Kentucky and 10-of-12 for 187 yards and three TDs this past Saturday against Charleston Southern.

In between, Mason may have had his best game throwing the football. Though he finished 10-of-19 for 123 yards and a touchdown in Georgia’s 34-7 win over then-No. 9 Auburn, Mason’s receivers dropped at least four catchable balls in that game, three that could’ve gone for TDs.

Of course, the Bulldogs aren’t throwing the football nearly as much as they usually do. Mason has just 234 attempts so far this season. Bobo had 306 in 1997 and Aaron Murray had 347 in the same number of games last year.

“I just try to operate what’s called,” said Mason, 1,825 yards with 19 TDs and just 3 interceptions. “I know some of my stats probably make me out to be a game manager. But I think every quarterback needs to have that game-manager approach. That’s your job, to manage the game, to get us into the right plays and to distribute the ball.

“When my number’s called, I try to execute to the best of my ability. Whether it’s to throw the ball 25 times or 40 times, I don’t know. I just do the best I can.”

2. Of course, it was this time last year that Mason got his first start. Taking over for the injured Murray, Mason got off to a slow start against Georgia Tech in Atlanta before helping the Bulldogs mount a comeback. After Georgia fell behind 20-0, Mason completed 22-of-36 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns and threw one interception as the Bulldogs scored a 41-34 victory in overtime.

A year later, Mason feels like he’s a significantly better quarterback.

“The game last year will help,” he said. “I’ll be able to go back and watch that tape. I’ll really dive in deep this week. It’s nice having the week off to be able to do that. We can use the whole week to prepare.”

Of course, the stakes are higher this time around.

“Yeah, this is a bigger game than what it was last year,” Mason said “Obviously they’re 9-2 and a top 20 team in the nation, so they’re good at what they do.”

Georgia senior Marcus Thornton heads to New York leading the Bulldogs in scoring (14 ppg) and rebounds (7.8). (UGA photo by John Kelley)

Georgia senior Marcus Thornton heads to New York leading the Bulldogs in scoring (14 ppg) and rebounds (7.8). (UGA photo by John Kelley)

3. There is a lot to like about Georgia’s basketball team in its three games since the season-opening loss at Georgia Tech. One of the best has been the play of Marcus Thornton.

The senior forward from Atlanta has obviously moved well past the knee problems that plagued him his first three seasons in Athens and seems to be playing without any physical issues. That was certainly the case Sunday as he put up 17 points for the second consecutive game and added 12 rebounds for the fourth double-double of his career as the Bulldogs dispatched Florida Atlantic 74-61.

“This year he has confidence in his body, confidence in his game,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “Now he can be aggressive, and he’s really playing well.”

After four games, the 6-foot-8, 235-pound former Mr. Georgia Basketball leads the Bulldogs with averages of 14 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

“I hope I’ve improved, and hopefully I will continue to get better,” Thornton said. “I think I’ve done some things well, but there are a lot of other things that I could do a lot better. Hopefully I’ll get better with those things as the season goes along and not start as slow.”

4. The Bulldogs (3-1) have now won three in a row since their anxiety-riddled 80-73 loss to Georgia Tech to open the season. But the victories have come against Stony Brook (80-70), Troy (82-60) and Florida Atlantic.

The schedule is about to crank up several notches as Georgia heads to New York City this week to play in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament. The Bulldogs open against No. 10 Gonzaga on Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden, with the winner advancing to play the Minnesota-St. Johns winner.

The Zags (4-0) have won their games by an average of 42 points, including a 16-point win over No. 22 SMU.

“We’re ready,” Fox said. “I think we need this as a basketball team to see how we measure up and we’ll have to play extremely well to give ourselves a chance to win. Hopefully our team is ready to take that next step.”

Georgia went to New York when several members of this team were freshmen two years ago and they barely lost in highly-competitve games against Indiana (66-53) and UCLA (60-56). This time the Bulldogs hope to be better than competitive.

“That was a growing experience,” Fox said. “I told the team, ‘you were just pups then. Let’s see how much we’ve grown up.’”


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