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Reserves eager to show their stuff

ATHENS, Ga. -- Hutson Mason has never thought of himself as a patient person, but patience is a character trait he is beginning to acquire.

Georgia's backup quarterback began warming up on the sidelines last Saturday, thinking he might finally get a chance to play in a big game when starter Aaron Murray went down in the third quarter against Florida with a thigh bruise.

Murray suffered the injury when he was hit by Jon Bostic and Sharrif Floyd while making a 9-yard run on third-and-13 from Florida's 42, so the Bulldogs were forced to punt.

It was a good thing for Murray, who was able to recover on the sidelines in time for the next series, but it also meant Mason never made it onto the field.

"I've seen Murray take some shots and people freak out, and I'm like, 'Nah, he's all right.' But when he went down on that one, I actually told myself I need to get ready," Mason said. "I went over there and took some snaps, warmed up, and he gave it another shot."

Such is life for a backup quarterback, who knows his time could come in any such situation but often is left wondering whether he ever will get an opportunity to show what he can do.

"It's difficult. It's frustrating a lot of times," Mason said. "You don't know when your name is going to be called. I've got to prepare just as much as Aaron does, and you want to see rewards and you want to see yourself go out there and have an opportunity. But it's just the position I'm in right now. I've got to wait and be patient, and hopefully my shot will come."

Mason is far from the only Bulldog who feels that way, but he and some of the other little-used backups might get their chance this weekend against New Mexico State (3-5).

The Aggies possess a potent offense -- they scored 33 points per game in their last five outings -- but have not played a team of Georgia's caliber. If the Bulldogs' starters build a comfortable lead, Mason knows he will probably play for the first time since completing 6 of 9 passes for 68 yards against Coastal Carolina.

"You get excited just because you're most likely going to have the opportunity to play," Mason said. "New Mexico State is a whole lot better than Coastal Carolina. Shoot, they went to Minnesota and beat Minnesota, and they've got a lot of talent. One thing you notice about them is they've got nine seniors on the defense. So I expect to play, but I also expect it to be a challenge. I hope I get in there and have some quality time to go in there and compete, so we'll see how it goes."

The only team Georgia has defeated by more than two touchdowns is Coastal Carolina, so there are many Bulldogs reserves whose only action came in the 59-0 shellacking of the FCS-level Chanticleers.

Freshman offensive linemen Watts Dantzler and Hunter Long and defense linemen Derrick Lott and Mike Thornton fall into that category, while freshman center David Andrews has played in four games as a backup.

Georgia's receiving corps also remains on the thin side, which created opportunities for former walk-on Taylor Bradberry and current walk-on Rhett McGowan to play last weekend against Florida -- and McGowan even made an 11-yard reception into Florida territory on a third-quarter drive.

Andrews is in a slightly different situation, particularly after starting guard Dallas Lee suffered a broken leg last weekend against Florida and pushed top reserve Kenarious Gates into the starting lineup.

Now Andrews would be the first man off the bench for Georgia's injury-depleted offensive line, and he admitted that the chance to play a bigger role is a motivator.

"You've got to be ready every game, because you don't know what's going to happen. It's a physical game," Andrews said. "But definitely a game like this, if the ones take care of business, you know that you could be getting some playing time -- a significant amount of playing time -- so that definitely does boost you and makes you want to work a little bit, because that's why we all play.

"We don't play the game just to practice, we play the game to play on Saturdays and play in Athens. So to get that opportunity for a significant amount of time does mean a lot to you during the week."

And if the dominoes fall correctly on Saturday, the Bulldogs' backups hope to make the most of the opportunity.

"Hopefully Saturday will come and hopefully through preparation and hard work, it will pay off," Mason said.

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.