Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason (14) passes against the Kentucky Wildcats during the second half at Sanford Stadium. (USA TODAY Sports: Dale Zanine)
Georgia Tech doesn’t expect to see much different from the Georgia offense on Saturday just because there’s been a change at quarterback.
The Bulldogs will be starting Hunter Mason in place of four-year starter Aaron Murray, who injured his knee last week and required season-ending surgery. Murray was 3-0 against Georgia Tech and finished his career as the leading passer in the history of the Southeastern Conference.
Still, Tech coach Paul Johnson doesn’t see Georgia deviating much from its tried-and-true offensive formula just because there’s a different player under center.
“I don’t think it will change a lot of what they do because (Mason) has been in the program four years,” Johnson said. “It’s an opportunity for him to showcase what he can do. We don’t expect that very much will change with him in there. We have great respect for him, even though he hasn’t played a lot.”
Last year Murray completed 14 of 17 passes for 215 yards and one touchdown in a lopsided 42-10 win.
“Clearly the guy has been a tremendous football player at Georgia,” Johnson said. “He’s had a great career, and I have a great deal of respect for him. His competitive nature and the way he competes, he’s bought them back so many times. It says all you need to know about him.”
Mason has a great reputation and has patiently served as quarterback-in-waiting. He played well against Kentucky last week when Murray was hurt, but has not had many opportunities to play. Mason completed 13 of 19 for 189 yards in the second half against the Kentucky and has throw for 349 yards and two touchdowns in three games.
“You’d like to have the film,” Johnson said. “You have to get ready for what they do. They’re not going to totally change their offense in three days from what they’ve been doing for years. No matter who the quarterback has been they’ve run the same system.
“Now, will they highlight (Mason) in what he does better? Sure. That’s what they’ll do. If you’ve watched him play, he can do all the things that Murray can. I think they have confidence that he can run their offense.”
With the untested Mason as the starter, the Dogs may rely more heavily on their running game, which features tailback Todd Gurley. He rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns last year as a freshman. But Tech has been effective against the run all season. The Yellow Jackets rank 10th in the nation in rushing defense at 104.2 yards per game.
“For the most part, we’ve been pretty good on rush defense throughout the year,” Johnson said. “It depends on how many guys you have to get in the box to stop the run. That’s the key. Clearly they’re going to run the ball some. When you have the backs like they do, you’re going to do that. They’re going to get Gurley the ball because he’s a load to tackle.”