ATHENS — The idea was to make it seem like gameday: real officials, warm-ups, even “the dog,” as Georgia head coach Mark Richt referred to the mascot.
The player who a lot of the bells and whistles might have been aimed at felt it.
“I thought there was definitely a little jitters,” said redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray, who in nine days will make his first college start. “In warm-ups I (had) a couple overthrows. I was a little pumped up. But it was that when you’re in Sanford Stadium, your juices are gonna run a little more than when you’re just on the practice field.”
Murray may have been nervous early, but his overall results were about what Georgia is hoping for this season: solid, with no major mistakes.
According to stats provided by the team, the quarterback was 9-for-17 for 127 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. The touchdown throw was to star receiver A.J. Green on a post route.
Those are good, but not great numbers, for 30 minutes of live action against a scout-team. The stands were nearly empty.
“Ninety-three thousand less than there’s gonna be in a week-and-a-half,” Murray joked about the scrimmage that was closed to the media and public.
But Richt sensed Murray buying into the simulation, saying the freshman, “felt it a little bit.”
“He’s still learning,” Richt said. “It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t real bad. But there were a couple times he could have made a better decision.
“But I’m just real thankful we got into those situations and it happened (Wednesday), and hopefully the point will be driven home a little bit better. Because it was more of a real situation. So hopefully he’ll learn from it.”
The offensive line was also missing two starters, as center Ben Jones (knee) and guard Cordy Glenn (mononucleosis) were held out as they return from their injuries. Several backups were also out, but tackle Trinton Sturdivant played as he continues his comeback from knee surgeries.
The biggest plays came from the other units: Safeties Bacarri Rambo and Jakar Hamilton each had long interception returns, Rambo’s for a touchdown; cornerback Branden Smith had a 63-yard punt return; and Marlon Brown returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
The offense may have been a bit more pedestrian, but Murray seemed content.
“I’m feeling more comfortable,” he said. “The more times I get out there the better I’m getting. So I definitely feel like might’ve taken a little step forward (Wednesday).”
Richt, however, seemed to sense Murray was a bit nervous. Receiver Kris Durham, who had three catches for 78 yards, said Murray showed good composure before snaps.
“I think he feels more comfortable now than he has been,” Durham said. “Because he’ll step to the line and he’ll check to a different play if he sees something. So that comes with experience.”
Richt said the unofficial final score was Georgia 38, Louisiana-Lafayette 24 — but that was with the scout team getting spotted 21 points, and Richt crediting them with a field goal they actually missed. Richt said he did that so the kick-block and kick return units could get work.
So the best day, it turns out, may have come from a very active defense that was “flying around,” according to cornerback Vance Cuff.
But it still came against a scout team offense.
“We got a little shutout (Wednesday), so we’ll take that moral victory now to build on it,” Cuff said. “Go to the film room and try to build, really get a shutout next week.”