ATHENS - Hutson Mason was asked after Saturday's game whether at halftime he was thinking: Oh no, not again. Another barnburner, another game I won't play.
Mason smiled ruefully.
"Yeah I was," he said.
Luckily for Mason and his Georgia football team, the third quarter went as expected. That meant that Mason, the long-suffering backup quarterback, got the fourth quarter to himself. He saw only his second action of the season, and threw his first pass of the season. And then he threw 15 more.
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Mason finished with 160 passing yards, all in the fourth quarter, along with one touchdown pass and one interception. He led two touchdown-scoring drives as Georgia padded a 45-6 win over Appalachian State.
"We were rolling," Mason said. "I was just telling the guys; Keep the pedal on. I can't stand when we come out and we just go three-and-out, and we look like no one cares, and we're lackadaisical. I just kept telling them, keep the foot on the pedal. I know until (tight end) Hugh (Williams) dropped that ball I was like 8-for-8. I was in a groove, and I don't know if you saw me out there, but I was just having fun, like a kid playing football again.
"I can't put it in words what I felt. But just going through what I've gone through, that just makes it so much sweeter."
Mason has been Aaron Murray's top backup for four years now, and that has meant interminable waiting behind the durable and prolific Murray. That has meant some frustrating times, the candid Mason has admitted, but after Saturday's game he paid tribute to Murray.
"One thing that I've tried to sit down, and I think to myself, is you consider all the great SEC quarterbacks that have played this game. You're talking about Peyton Manning, Tebow, there've been so many great SEC quarterbacks," Mason said. "And to think I've had the opportunity to pick and choose his brain for four years, I can honestly say I don't know how next year's gonna go, if it's gonna go good or bad. But if it does go good some of my success and my team success will be owed to him. Because I don't know if I would have a knowledge for the game, or I would have a desire to watch film, if I didn't see him acting it out and doing it."
While Mason was being nostalgic, Murray was playful. He has often pointed out to Mason that never playing means never being sore on Sunday, but Mason was knocked down once in this game.
“Yes," Murray said, pumping his fist playfully. "He’s not gonna be the only one in pain tomorrow.”
Turning serious, Murray praised Mason's work habits, saying his backup treats the week leading up to a game like his gameday.
“All year you’re hoping is he gets in, hoping he gets in, and it just doesn’t work out," Murray said. "So I’m happy he got in there, was just fantastic moving up and down the field.”
“I thought it was exciting for him to play," head coach Mark Richt said. "I’m very happy that he got to play, and play well. Most of his decisions were good. He did have the one pick, but it’s nice to get a pick when it doesn’t cost your team the game. It was frustrating for him to throw the pick, but you learn from it.”