Posted: 10:15 am Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
By Jay Black
ATHENS — “Wow.”
That was said by every member of the Georgia Radio Network crew as they looked out into a G-Day crowd that they had never seen before. And that word had to be uttered by all 93,000 people in the stands.
That three-letter word and maybe some with an extra consonant were spoken by what appeared to be a few hundred people that were seen walking away from Sanford Stadium after kickoff.
And “wow” was the first thing out of the mouth of the man responsible for a packed house for a game that doesn’t count.
“Wow,” Kirby Smart told Chuck Dowdle on the UGA sidelines during the second quarter. “When you challenge people, we’ve been saying for two months ‘no reason Georgia can’t do this.’ And the people responded.
Boy did they ever.
About an hour before kickoff, I’ll admit it wasn’t looking great. The lower bowl was about 50 percent full. Then it appeared every tailgate ended at the same time. Within 45 minutes it was clear it was going to happen.
Kirby Smart went on a serious limb. If this place was 60-70 percent full, his first full act as UGA’s leader would have been a flop. Instead it was a rousing success.
“It touches my heart,” said Smart after the game. “A special moment to know the fan base has your back and has got your programs’ back.”
Bulldog fans are truly a nation, aren’t they? This was the call to arms. This was an entire state telling it’s football coach “We might be split about what should have happened to the guy before, but that’s in the past. Take us where you want us to go.”
Of course Kirby Smart hasn’t lost a game yet, but there is no doubt now that he’s got a united fan base behind him.
The previous record for this simple spring scrimmage is about 46,000. Today it was doubled. At least.
“We have the best fans in the world,” said running back Sony Michel. “Probably over 100-thousand, plus. It was crazy.”
- PHOTOS: 2016 G-Day Game
It truly was crazy. I don’t know if there were 100K here, but there were plenty of people walking back up the hill away from Sanford Stadium when they couldn’t get in.
“When I saw everybody I was shocked,” said linebacker Reggie Carter. “I was in awe.”
It truly was something to see. But there was an actual football game to be seen.
Well really, there was a quarterback to be seen.
It didn’t hurt that Kirby Smart had a centerpiece to sweeten marketing move.
Everybody wanted a glimpse at the Nation’s shiny new five-star gun slinger.
Jacob Eason snuck on the field a couple of times to hold and hardly anybody noticed. But when that giant 6-foot-5 freshman wearing number 10 trotted out in the fourth quarter, the packed house got its reward.
And the crowd goes wild.
First four passes. Four completions. 11-for-14 for 134 yards and a TD all in that second quarter.
“I don’t think he knew there were 93,000 people out there,” said Smart. “He sure didn’t have any care. He executed the offense and did what he had to do.”
After halftime, the 93K turned into about 48K. They had seen what they needed to see.
Eason wasn’t around to speak, but he did nothing to tamper expectations. He’s the best quarterback on this team, for this there can be no doubt. Final numbers today: 19-for-29 for 244 and a TD. He was sacked three times.
Playing freshman quarterbacks in the SEC on day one is tricky. But at this point, I think he gets the nod against North Carolina.
Brice Ramsey did fine (16-for-25 for 224) and Greyson Lambert, well he didn’t do fine (11-for-22 for 161 with a really bad pick six). But Eason is the star of this show.
Georgia fans had two wishes on this Saturday. For no one to be sitting next to them and for the kid for Washington not to disappoint.
Check and check.
Kirby Smart, so far, you’re 2-0.