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G-Day game delivers good fun

ATHENS, Ga. -- Aaron Murray and Tavarres King happily own up to their dirty secret: For a considerable portion of Saturday's G-Day game, the Georgia starters actually rooted against their very own Red team.

"I would say I was working for the offense more than I was rooting for my team. I'm going to get in trouble for that one," said Murray, the starting quarterback who passed for 112 yards and a touchdown in the Red team's 32-31 victory. "But when our guys were making plays, I was definitely happy for our offense. We won at the end of the day, but I thought the guys offensively on both teams had a great day."

King agreed.

"I was going for the offense the whole time, so I wanted a shootout," he said. "I just want to see my boys do well."

For the most part, Murray and King got what they wanted, as the two teams combined for 63 points and 526 yards against the depth-depleted defensive sides.

Each team scored in the final two minutes, with the Red's Ricky Lowe scoring after scooping up a fumble by Black team quarterback Parker Welch -- after it was swatted out of Welch's hands by Reuben Faloughi. Lowe returned it 62 yards for a touchdown to put the Red team up 32-25 with 1:40 to play. But the Black team answered almost immediately, with Christian LeMay capping a two-play, 75-yard drive with a 66-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jay Rome.

The Black team attempted a potential game-winning two-point pass, but LeMay's throw bounced off Rhett McGowan's hands in traffic, and the Red team escaped with a one-point victory.

"You don't want ties, so that wasn't really even a decision," said Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who directed the Black team. "If it was a regular game, you're kicking the extra point and you're tying it and playing for overtime. But we've had enough reps, and we were down on guys to a certain point, so just like a preseason game in the NFL, you want to get it over with at that point, so you go for it."

Grantham hardly seemed concerned that Saturday's point total predicted any sort of dropoff from last year's defense, which ranked fifth nationally in total defense. He pointed to the 10-3 halftime score, before coaches began mixing and matching defensive personnel to combat their depth shortcomings, as a sign of where the Bulldogs' defense actually stands.

And the defense actually created several points itself. To go with Lowe's fumble return, Black team defensive lineman Garrison Smith recovered a fumbled snap in the end zone for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Red team linebacker Ramik Wilson intercepted a LeMay pass -- deflected by Smith -- and returned it 19 yards to the Black 11, setting up a 26-yard Jamie Lindley field goal.

"There was probably a little more offensive plays than I thought might be made today, but when you look at it, the defense was scoring points, too," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "So that's what happens sometimes is when the defense makes good plays it also sets up short fields for the offense and opportunities."

Smith's fumble recovery for a touchdown also created one of the game's lighter moments. The touchdown helped the Black team claim a 23-17 lead after trailing 17-3 earlier in the third quarter. And the Black added a tricky two-point conversion when Grantham's squad rushed on its extra-point team, then ran a quick toss to kicker Adam Erickson, who ran into the empty end zone before the out-of-sorts Red team even sent its players onto the field.

"It had a little bit of everything," Richt laughed. "A fake extra point for two when no one lined up on the other side of the ball. That was probably a first for me."

Grantham enjoyed it, too.

"That kind of made for fun right there -- and it's a good one to learn from, too," he said.

The Red team built that 17-3 lead with Lindley's field goal between a 6-yard Ken Malcome scoring run in the second quarter and a 33-yard pass between King and Murray in the third quarter.

The Black team stormed back to tie the score at 17 with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Hutson Mason to McGowan and a 2-yard Richard Samuel scoring run. It took the lead with Smith's fumble recovery in the end zone.

However, Mason quickly led the Red on a 75-yard drive -- he was 4-for-5 for 46 yards on the drive -- and Malcome capped the possession with a 10-yard scoring run. Mason hit King for the game-tying two-point pass.

That set up the defensive dramatics in the final minutes, with the Red team barely hanging on for the one-point win.

That concluded a spring that was more memorable for the Bulldogs' arrests and headlines about disciplinary suspensions than for the position battles that took place on the field.

"I think today was good medicine," Richt said. "I think that everybody got a chance to enjoy our team and see all the wonderful men that we've got out there, and watching them play their tails off for the Red and Black between the hedges and on a beautiful day.

"So it was good medicine for me. I actually enjoyed the day a good bit."