ATLANTA - Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason played at times in the first half Saturday like someone making his first start. He was, and doing so against Georgia Tech in a bitter rivalry game.
But Mason settled down when it mattered most and produced some crucial plays in the second half of the Bulldogs' 41-34 double-overtime win at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
"There's just so many factors that you can't get in practice," said Mason, a redshirt junior who replaced the injured Aaron Murray. "Really, just experience and time in those situations is what is going to go a long way."
By the time the second quarter was wrapping up, the Bulldogs were down 20-0 and Georgia had done next to nothing offensively. The yardage advantage was 249-45 at one point in the second.
But with 1:43 left in the half, Georgia began a drive at its 14-yard line. Mason passed to running back Todd Gurley for 13 yards. He connected with Chris Conley for 17 and then 22 yards. Then Mason hit J.J. Green for a 10-yard gain to the Tech 24-yard line.
Mason used his legs on the next play, gaining 16. Two plays later, he threw to Gurley for a 9-yard touchdown.
"All we needed was that one touchdown," Mason said after going 22-for-36 for 299 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. "We needed one touchdown put on the board to just calm all the nerves. I think you saw after we scored a touchdown it seemed like things just started to roll."
Mason said he didn't do a great job of trusting his offensive line at times, which led to some rushed throws. He had some reason for concern, since Tech sacked him five times.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Mason's performance not only helped the Dogs win Saturday but will help in Mason's development going into next season.
"Hutson obviously is getting a little bit of a head start, unfortunately, with Murray's injury, on what it's like to play in a game like that," Richt said. "It was good for him to live through it."
Once Georgia was able to force overtime, having outscored Tech 27-10 since the first quarter, the momentum was on the Bulldogs' side. So was the energy.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he knew Tech didn't play a lot of guys on defense, so fatigue could be a factor in the extra time. To exploit that, Georgia was going to pound the ball with Gurley.
"We were able to have a lot of snaps, so I thought they might be a little bit winded," Bobo said. "The line did a great job, and [Gurley] did, too."
Tech scored a touchdown first in overtime and Georgia had to match it. Gurley ran for 8 yards and 11 yards and tied the game with a 6-yarder. In the second overtime, Gurley ran for a 25-yard score on first down.
Bobo said Tech brought a blitz on the play; Georgia caught it and was able to get Gurley loose.
Gurley finished with 122 yards and three touchdowns rushing and four catches for 36 yards and a touchdown.
A 68-yard completion on third-and-8 on its first drive. A 43-yard completion on third-and-10 on its second. A 26-yard touchdown pass on its third. Who were the Yellow Jackets on the field Saturday? They sure didn't look like the normal triple-option squad.
Tech was able to take advantage of a banged-up Georgia secondary and hit on some big pass plays early. Quarterback Vad Lee finished 11-for-23 for 232 yards and two touchdowns. It was a season-high passing day for Tech, which came in averaging 119.6 yards per game.
In and out
Georgia safety Tray Matthews (hamstring) did not make the trip Saturday and was replaced in the starting lineup by Quincy Mauger, who made his sixth start of the season but left the game with an injury.
Cornerback Sheldon Dawson made his first career start, in place of Shaq Wiggins (concussion), and Tech went after him early. Dawson got beat on a 68-yard completion on the game's opening drive. Dawson finished with four tackles, including one for loss.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268.