ATHENS, Ga. — On a Saturday afternoon tailor-made for indoor activities, the Georgia Bulldogs staged their fourth G-Day spring football game of the Kirby Smart era before an announced Sanford Stadium crowd of 52,630.
That was the lowest G-Day attendance since Smart's arrival as head coach, but it was also the fourth-highest in Georgia history. The temperature was 48 degrees at the kickoff of the two-hour event televised by the SEC Network, and the next round of rain had either just passed or was right around the corner.
"It got to the point that when I was walking in, I was really worried," Smart said. "I was asking myself, 'Would I have come out in this weather? I doubt it.' I was very pleased to have the crowd we had. Those folks at the 'Dawg Walk' are as loyal as they come.
"They're out there in the rain wanting to get a handshake, and it just says a lot about our fan base and the state of football here."
Georgia was the Southeastern Conference's final program to hold its spring game, with the Bulldogs finishing second in attendance behind Alabama's audience of 62,219 last weekend in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Bulldogs fans who stayed for G-Day's entirety watched the Red team, which included the starting offense and the backup defense, topple the Black 22-17. The Black had the ball at the Red 38-yard line for one final play, but a D'Wan Mathis pass to Matt Landers with DJ Daniel defending fell incomplete.
Starting quarterback Jake Fromm, who completed more than 67% of his passes last season, was a mediocre 14-of-29 for 116 yards. He played until early in the third quarter.
"Everybody on offense played pretty well, but I didn't play to the standard that I wanted to today," Fromm said. "The DBs played really well, and I didn't throw as cleanly as I wanted. It is what it is. Every now and then you have that game. The ball was a little wet.
"We've done a great job in the other 14 practices throwing the ball around and making big plays."
Returning 1,000-yard rusher D'Andre Swift wasn't expected to be overly busy and wasn't, rushing three times for 39 yards and catching three passes for 17. Backup running back Brian Herrien added seven carries for 25 yards and had three receptions for 50, including a 13-yard score from Fromm in the second quarter that knotted the game at 10-10.
Fromm's second pass of the day was intercepted by redshirt sophomore quarterback Eric Stokes, who wrestled the ball from Jeremiah Holloman and raced 39 yards for a touchdown. Smart hardly seemed concerned by Fromm's atypical afternoon.
"I think leadership was the biggest thing Jake stepped forward in this spring, asserting his personality with the receivers and the offensive line and not being timid," Smart said. "He stepped up and said things to guys that needed to be said. It's not that he's ever been afraid to do that. He's just asserting himself more."
The Red responded after Fromm's interception with a 14-play, 64-yard drive and pulled within 7-3 on a 23-yard Rodrigo Blankenship field goal, but Stokes continued to fluster Fromm with a pair of pass breakups. Freshman inside linebacker Nakobe Dean also pressured Fromm once that possession entered the red zone.
Smart said the game gave special attention to two-minute opportunities, which helps explain why there were 51 more passes than running plays, and G-Day never had more than a one-possession margin.
"I was excited about the tight nature of the game and the back-and-forth battle," he said. "I got to see some guys compete, and there were no major injuries."
The Bulldogs, who are expected to be a preseason top-five team, open their 2019 season Aug. 31 at Vanderbilt.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.