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April 7, 2007With spring practice in the books, Georgia coach Mark Richt has to feel pretty good about his offense which put up a combined 55 points Saturday in the annual spring G-Day game. That said, with over half of those points being put up on the first team defense, he has to be at least a little apprehensive about his team's ability to stop an opponent.
"There were more big plays than you would like to see on defense," Richt said afterwards. "Every once in a while that will happen. When I was coaching at Florida State every fifth or sixth year the offense would score a couple of points in the spring game. This happened to be that spring."
In their defense, no pun intended, coordinator Willie Martinez had to replace nearly half his starters, and those players are mostly young with relatively little experience. On the flipside, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo's biggest problem was rebuilding the offensive line, but with five mid-year newcomers able to step in to aid in reconstruction, it is no wonder UGA's offense had their way on G-Day.
With adequate depth across the board to split into two teams, Richt divided the early edition of the 2007 Bulldogs into two squads, Red and Black, for the final scrimmage of camp. The Red team, headed up by Bobo, enjoyed the services of the first team offense and second team defense, while Martinez and the Black unit had the first string defense and the second string offense.
In the end, the Red team prevailed 34-21 and solidified sophomore Matthew Stafford's position as the number one signal caller. It also served as an introduction to Dawg fans a couple of heralded redshirt freshmen.
Stafford, who threw the ball only 12 times on his way to 155 yards and two touchdowns, looked firmly in control.
"There is no comparison from this year to last year," said Richt of his former No. 1 rated quarterback prospect by Rivals.com. "Before, he was just trying to fit in with the team and with the offense, but this year he is our starter. He is the one everyone looks to for leadership and great plays. Matthew is starting to do that for us. He is starting to become a leader."
While senior tailback Kregg Lumpkin had a solid day carrying the ball 13 times for 53 yards and a touchdown, it was redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno's name that was on the lips of fans and media following the game.
"He ran like he has been running since he got here," Richt said. "He has great vision and the ability to get skinny. There might be a stretch play going to the right and then all of a sudden, there is a crease and he will hit it. . . . I think he will make a big impression on everybody next year."
Moreno, who piled up 68 yards on 11 carries, scored two touchdowns and looked elusive and difficult to tackle as he weaved his way through the defense.
"I was definitely excited and it was a good day," said Moreno. "I had a few butterflies at the beginning, but it is always like that the first time you are on the field. I think we did a good job overall today. The offensive line did a great job opening holes, and Stafford threw the ball well."
Both Durham and senior receiver Mikey Henderson caught 60 yard touchdown passes from Stafford and Joe Cox, respectively. Cox finished the day with 156 yards and a touchdown and saw action with both teams.
Senior tailback Jason Johnson paced the Black with 48 yards rushing and threw a touchdown pass to redshirt freshman receiver Tony Wilson. Tight end Tripp Chandler had three receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown (Stafford).
Redshirt freshman safety Reshad Jones was second only to Moreno in making a name for himself with one interception and three solo tackles on the afternoon.
"It felt good to be out there and I was just trying to show the fans and my family and friends what I could do because they have not seen me play in a while," said Jones. "Overall I was just trying to have fun."
"The defense struggled today," said senior safety Kelin Johnson. "There were a lot of missed tackles; I missed a few myself. The offense just did a great job today--the offensive line, the receivers, everyone. But we still know that we have to have keep working and keep getting better. And I know that the defense will step up and get better."
Georgia opens the 2007 season on Sept. 1 against Oklahoma State in Athens.
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