Starters shine in Dogs' first scrimmage

ATHENS, Ga. -- As Georgia’s players stretched Wednesday morning before participating in their first preseason scrimmage, the Sanford Stadium loudspeakers blared music that broke from the Bulldogs’ pre-game routine.

For years, they have stretched before games and scrimmages to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” but on Wednesday, the song was Will Smith’s “Welcome to Miami.”

The poorly hidden implication? Miami will be the location for this season’s BCS championship game -- in which the sixth-ranked Bulldogs hope to play in January.

“I kind of noticed it,” senior safety Shawn Williams said. “I was like, ‘What’s he saying?’ And then I heard him say, ‘Coming to Miami’ and I’m like, ‘Let’s go with it.’ ”

By all accounts, Georgia’s starting offense and defense largely dominated against their second-team counterparts -- which was something of a disappointment to Williams.

“I don’t think we really much gave up and first downs -- maybe a couple -- and we limited what they could do,” Williams said. “We stopped the run and made them throw. I know Sanders [Commings] had an interception and we had a couple of forced fumbles, so I think we got our job done.

“I just wish they’d let us get up there and embarrass the ones a little bit, but you know they’re not going to do that.”

No, the starting offense went against Williams and company’s backups and gave a strong statistical performance.

Starting quarterback Aaron Murray was 12-for-17 for 170 yards and a touchdown. Senior receiver Marlon Brown caught six passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Rantavious Wooten caught a pair of passes for 45 yards and one score, while freshman tailback Todd Gurley did the bulk of his damage behind the first-team offensive line, rushing six times for 58 yards and a touchdown.

“He had some good space provided for him at times when some of the other guys didn’t,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “[Freshman Keith] Marshall had a great 3-yard run one time, but that doesn’t impress anybody unless you see it in person. I thought the backs ran well, really.”

Brown actually could have had a third touchdown catch, but had a pass bounce off his face after slipping through his fingertips. He said that play motivated him to perform more consistently for the remainder of the scrimmage.

“At the beginning of the scrimmage, I had a ball across the middle that I should have caught, but I had relaxed a little bit,” said Brown, who caught a long touchdown pass down the middle from Hutson Mason. “It was an easy touchdown. I kind of dropped my hands too much and it went through my hands a little bit. After that catch, I was just like, ‘Man, I ain’t dropping anymore passes today.’ ”

Senior defensive end Cornelius Washington led the defense with six tackles and three sacks, while safety Connor Norman also had six tackles. Linebacker Alec Ogletree had four tackles and a sack, linebacker Amarlo Herrera had three tackles and a fumble recovery, safety Bacarri Rambo had three tackles and a sack and Commings had an interception that he returned 17 yards. Freshman outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins and nose guard John Jenkins both had a sack apiece.

“The No. 1 units played really well,” Richt said. “The No. 1 offense actually scored touchdowns in their first three drives. The No. 1 defense didn’t give up but I think one first down in the first three drives, so both No. 1 units were pretty dominant, which I like this time of year.”

Like with Brown, Wooten was excited by his performance in the scrimmage. He missed most of last season after suffering a concussion in a car accident, but has earned regular post-practice praise this preseason and his strong performances continued in the scrimmage.

“It was a great feeling for me just because of the fact that I’ve been hurt in the past and I didn’t really get a chance to play in the fall or in the spring, so today I took it as, ‘This is my game day,’ ” Wooten said. “I’ve been out so long so I’m just coming in to work hard and play hard to try to make plays because that’s what the coaches want, that’s what they expect and that’s what I want to give them every time the ball’s snapped.”

Richt was also pleased with the improving offensive line. He estimated that the starting offensive line might not have allowed a sack. He added that freshman John Theus worked with the starting offensive line at right tackle when the scrimmage started alongside veteran right guard Chris Burnette.

Performances like those of Brown, Gurley and Washington jumped off the stat sheet, but perhaps the most important statistic there was not listed. Players from both sides of the ball said it was a productive scrimmage -- and one that ended without a serious injury.

“The scrimmage was successful. We were able to get out of the scrimmage with no injuries, so that’s always a good thing,” said John Jenkins, who sacked backup quarterback Christian LeMay during the scrimmage. “We’ve just got a lot to work on.”