- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Hutson Mason is not a rookie, but he felt like one in some ways during Saturday’s G-Day game.
After redshirting last fall -- his third season in college -- to gain a year of separation between himself and fourth-year starting quarterback Aaron Murray, Mason had to shake off some jitters entering his first competitive game in a year.
“Coming into this, I was treating this like a game for me because it’s been so long that I’ve really emotionally and mentally been like, ‘Hey man, this is game day,’ ” said Mason, who led the Black team to a comeback 23-17 victory over the Red. “I wanted to kind of see how my body would react being out there with 40,000 people. It’s not quite like game day, but you kind of get your body back into that feeling and getting ready.”
It was not a perfect day for the redshirt junior. The Black punted on his first three drives and he scrambled and threw an interception to freshman linebacker Reggie Carter at midfield on his fourth.
“I thought that the pick earlier was the worst decision that I’ve made at Georgia, but definitely this spring,” Mason said. “That was just pathetic. I’ve got to throw the ball away.”
But Mason improved as the day progressed. He threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jonathon Rumph in the second quarter and drove the Black to two field goals in the fourth quarter to provide the six-point margin of victory.
Mason completed 16 for 27 passes for 191 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“We slung it around today pretty well and we had a juco guy in Rumph, so he doesn’t really know what he’s doing,” Mason said. “So I was really just happy for the guys to step up and make the most of their opportunities when they needed to.”
G-Day all-stars: Every spring game has its surprise standouts.
Aside from Rumph, who concluded a quiet spring by catching four passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns, walk-on tailback Kyle Karempelis was the offensive star for the Black team. Karempelis rushed 13 times for 89 yards and caught three passes for 35 yards. Michael Erdman made six catches for 41 yards for the Black and Red linebacker Kosta Vavlas led all tacklers with 12 tackles and one tackle for a loss.
“It was kind of more of the same for me,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Rumph had his biggest day, which was nice for Rumph, and Karempelis had a big day. You just never know who’s going to have a big day at any particular scrimmage, but I wasn’t really surprised by much of anything.”
Surprise, surprise: The Red offense caught Todd Grantham’s Black defense off guard on the game’s opening play, with receiver Rantavious Wooten taking a reverse and launching a long pass to wide-open tight end Arthur Lynch. The one problem: Lynch dropped the pass.
Wooten had the same thing happen on that play last season against Buffalo, with tailback Keith Marshall dropping the pass.
“That could’ve been a huge play,” Red quarterback Murray said. “Woot’s actually 0-for-2 on that play with two drops. Last year, I think Keith dropped it, so he’s 0-for-2 and should be 2-for-2 with two touchdowns.”
Trailing 20-17 in the fourth quarter, the Red resorted to more trickery and again came up short. They faced fourth-and-1 at the Black 44 when they attempted an outside pitch to Marshall, only to have Jordan Jenkins sniff out the play and combine with Tray Matthews to stop Marshall for a 1-yard loss.
“I thought the guys did a great job in the second half of understanding the situations that came up -- up by three, what can happen, they’re going to go for it on fourth down,” said defensive coordinator Grantham, who served as the Black team’s head coach.
Injury-free: The Bulldogs experienced a couple of injuries during spring practice before Saturday -- most notably a hand fracture for senior offensive lineman Austin Long, a hamstring pull for sophomore cornerback Sheldon Dawson and a torn meniscus for junior receiver Malcolm Mitchell.
But Richt believed his team came out of Saturday’s scrimmage free of any major injuries. Defensive lineman John Atkins left in the second quarter with an apparent knee injury, but Richt did not believe it was serious.
“[Director of sports medicine Ron Courson] would have come to me if something happened that I needed to know about,” Richt said. “I was sitting in the locker room for I don’t know how long, 10 minutes, [during postgame interviews] and no one came to me with anything, so I’m assuming that’s a really good sign.”