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Post Flashback: G-Day 2001 (Richt’s first)

Monday April 23, 2007

Georgia fans will give you endless excuses why we never draw more than 20 or 30,000 people to the spring scrimmage. After all, other teams draw 50,000 or even more for their scrimmages. You’ll hear about Masters weekend or sometimes Easter weekend or the weather or Richt’s tendency to play the scrimmage as vanilla as possible. It’s always something, and that’s just fine with me.

Let’s be honest. You’re watching a scrimmage. You have no emotional stake in the outcome. Your greatest concern is that everyone remains healthy. The only reasons for going are to spend a day in the ol’ college town, stock up at the bookstores, entertain the kids, and sit a lot closer to something resembling football than you otherwise could in the fall. Football practice is boring once you get over the novelty, and that’s why I’m glad that most Dawg fans usually can find better things to do when G-Day comes around each year.

Over 92,000 Alabama fans had nothing better to do on Saturday than to attend A-Day in Tuscaloosa just to be a part of Nick Saban’s first public appearance on the Bryant-Denny sideline. Fans actually used words like "historic" to describe a football scrimmage. Far be it from a sportsblogger to play the "obsessive to the point of unhealthy" card, but damn. The coverage of the crowd also serves to remind the rest of us that Alabama football fans are similar to Kentucky basketball fans in that same kind of arrogantly annoying way. We don’t enjoy them being down as much as we would, say Auburn or Florida, but just know how insufferable they’ll be if Saban actually does do something there.

Someone on the DawgVent asked what the turnout was for Richt’s first G-Day game back in 2001, and I came across this recap from UGASports.com. If ever G-Day was set up for a huge crowd, it was that day. You had a triple-shot of hype: Richt was bringing his shiny FSU offense to Georgia. G-Day returned to Sanford Stadium after skipping a year due to that infamous sewer leak. Finally, fans got their first look at quarterback phenom David Greene. Despite all of those things that might have made G-Day 2001 ever so slightly more interesting than usual, I’m very glad to say that only 20,445 showed up in Athens on that day.

We’ve known for years that it’s a quirk of these spring games that some unusual suspects can steal the show. Georgia has had Johnny Brown, Ronnie Powell, and even Jason Johnson – the heros of spring games past. 2001 was no different. With several players held out due to injury, you need to dust off a media guide to follow the recap.

Much like 2006, the quarterback position was a question mark and a big area of interest. It was clear by that point that Quincy Carter was long gone. Cory Phillips, the caretaker quarterback of the 2000 season, was given the opportunity to win the position. Fans were eager to get a look at redshirt freshman David Greene after hearing the hype during his redshirt season in 2000. Matt Redding didn’t last long at quarterback after the spring. He’d be tried at linebacker and eventually left the program. Neither Greene nor Phillips looked very impressive against the first-string defense, though Greene threw two touchdowns. Coach Richt would not name a starter until the week before the 2001 season.

Incumbent tailback Musa Smith was held out of G-Day 2001, so the running game wasn’t really on display. Even Jasper Sanks was out. Georgia’s leading rusher that day was the forgotten Bailey, Kenny. Kenny spent some time as a reserve tailback before trying his luck as a defensive back later in his career. You can’t mention G-Day during this era without mentioning Ronnie Powell. Powell scored the game’s lone rushing touchdown and averaged over 10 yards on his four carries. Lurking down among the running backs was a fullback named Verron Haynes.

The receiving stats were particularly interesting. The top two receivers in the game became known more for leaving Georgia than for anything they did in Athens. Durrell Robinson came to Georgia as a partial qualifier, made a few receptions in 2000, and was off to junior college not long after this spring of 2001. Robinson became one of the nation’s best JUCO receivers and committed to West Virginia before dropping off the face of the earth. Tavarus Morgan also left Georgia during 2001, and he settled as South Carolina State where he had a decent career. Standouts Randy McMichael, Terrence Edwards, and Damien Gary didn’t have stellar performances, but that’s not unusual for G-Day.

Georgia’s leading tackler that day? Safety Burt Jones. Jones would go on in his career to become (quite seriously) one of the best cover guys Georgia has had on special teams in some time. Right behind Jones was safety standout Terreal Bierria who scored eight tackles and was involved with two interceptions. The defense tallied four interceptions overall.

Sophomore Billy Bennett was the game’s leading scorer. He connected on five field goals (a sixth was blocked) in a foreshadowing of his record-setting six field goal performance that was to come much later in 2001 during the streak-breaker game at Georgia Tech.

How in the world did only 20k show up for that?!?!

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