Red team tops Black at G-Day game
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Red team tops Black at G-Day game

G-Day 2023
Photo: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

ATHENS, Ga. — Arian Smith scored twice, Carson Beck had a big opening half throwing the ball, and the Red squad knocked off the Black, 31-26, in the G-Day Game on Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium.

Georgia, winners of back-to-back College Football Playoff national championships, had about a dozen of last season’s standouts back on Dooley Field during the game, including quarterback Stetson Bennett, linebacker Nolan Smith and wideout Kearis Jackson. During a first-half timeout, they were recognized in front of the sprited crowd and got the chance to show off their new national championship rings.

While all those now-former Bulldogs looked on, Saturday’s spring practice finale featured an offense-heavy opening half in which both the Red and Black teams gained more 230 yards. Neither team got much going in the second half as more and more reserves took the field. The Black finished with 346 yards of offense to the Red’s 288.

Carson Beck, who is competing to take over the starting quarterback job, got off to a perfect start leading the Red team. His first pass went for seven yards, to running back Cash Jones out of the backfield. His second throw was a 17-yard completion to wideout Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, and his third was a 39-yard completion to All-American tight end Brock Bowers.

The Red squad’s first drive ended with a two-yard Arian Smith end-around run for a touchdown. Liam Badger kicked the extra point for a 7-0 Red lead with 11:37 left in the first quarter

Brock Vandagriff began the game running the Black offense. His first big play was with his legs, a 23-yard run up the left side. The Black squad’s opening drive ended with a 42-yard field goal by Jared Zirkel, cutting the Red lead to 7-3 with 6:17 left in the first.

Beck continued to connect on his second drive, completing all three of his passes, including a 17-yarder to tight end Oscar Delp and a 37-yarder to wideout Ladd McConkey down to the Black 9. Running back Sevaughn Clark ran the ball in from the 9 to make it 14-3 Red.

After two drives, Beck was 6-for-6 for 124 yards. His next attempt fell incomplete, but he followed that with a 10-yard completion to wideout Dominic Lovett and a 30-yarder to Dillon Bell as the first quarter expired.

The Red team’s third drive also resulted in a touchdown, a 6-yard strike from Beck to Smith, pushing the lead to 21-3 for the Red. Vandagriff and the Black team answered right back on the next drive. Vandagriff hit receiver Jackson Meeks for 19 yards, tight end Lawson Luckie for 22, and then his 12-yard connection with Meeks turned into a 29-yard touchdown as Black squad teammates pushed the pile into the end zone, making it 21-10 Red with 11:22 left in the half.

Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton alternated drives running the Black offense, and Stockton’s second featured a 28-yard third-down completion to wideout Zeed Haynes up the left side. It ended with a 4-yard Stockton touchdown run with 3:43 to play in the half, cutting the Red lead to 21-16.

The Red team stretched its lead to 24-16 with 1:20 remaining in the half on Badger’s 51-yard field goal. The Black team, with Stockton running the hurry-up, marched down the field quickly thanks to a 54-yard completion to Mekhi Mews down to the 2. The Black had to settle for a 30-yard Zirkel field goal, however, and the Red took a 24-19 lead into halftime.

At the half, Vangagriff and Beck changed teams, allowing Vandagriff to work with the first-team offense in the second half. Beck finished the opening half 13 of 18 passing for 211 yards and a touchdown. Working with the second unit, Vandagriff was 5 of 6 passing for 80 yards and a touchdown, while Stockton completed 6 of 11 passes for 100 yards.

Vandagriff’s first drive running the Red squad ended in the game’s first turnover, a leaping interception by Black team defensive back Tykee Smith. The first touchdown of the second half came on an interception of Stockton and 21-yard return by freshman linebacker Raylen Wilson in the fourth quarter.

Running the Red offense, Vandagriff finished up 4 of 11 for 40 yards. Beck only played one series with the Black and was 2-for-4 for 20 yards, and Stockton ended his day 13 of 22 for 144 yards. Vandagriff returned in the final minutes to lead the Black offense and on the game’s final play he connected with Mews for a 10-yard touchdown, making it 31-26 Red. Vandagriff’s final numbers with the Black squad were 9 of 14 for 135 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, freshman defensive back AJ Harris led the Red team with six tackles, while redshirt sophomore linebacker Xavian Sorey led the Black with seven stops.

The G-Day game was the football team’s first public appearance since the tragic deaths of offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting staff member Chandler LeCroy in an automobile accident in January. The Bulldogs remembered their fallen teammate and colleague with an intentional delay of game penalty before the first play from scrimmage, and Georgia’s offense took the field with only 10 men and without an offensive lineman at left guard.

Prior to the game, Georgia unveiled Uga XI, named Boom, during a ceremonial collar transfer. Boom is a 10-month-old English Bulldog, and he has some big paw prints to fill. Uga X, known as Que, is retiring after a great run that began in 2015. Que is the winningest Uga of all time, having roamed the sidelines as the Bulldogs won back-to-back national championships and two SEC titles.

The Bulldogs will be back at Sanford Stadium on Sept. 2, when they open the 2023 season against UT Martin.


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