Football is officially back in Athens. The 2021 G-Day game took place on Saturday with the Red team defeating the Black team 28-23. The Red team was highlighted by the first-team offense, while the Black team featured the top-line defensive unit.
Red Team Wins 2021 G-Day
The Red team started the day off in possession of the ball. JT Daniels went five for seven passing on that first drive, but ultimately they would put no points on the board after Jake Camarda missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
The Black team took over from their own 25 yard line. Six plays later, Kendall Milton punched it in from eight yards out to get the 2021 G-Day scoring started. This immediately followed a massive play from Darnell Washington, a 51-yard catch and run down the sideline.
Drive number two for the Red team ended after just three plays: a four-yard rush for James Cook and Daniels completing one of two passes. Camarda would put a bookend on the drive with a 62-yard punt.
Despite picking up a first down on their second drive, the black team would ultimately punt it right back after just five plays. Carson Beck went 1-3 on that second drive before Noah Chumley’s 53-yard punt.
The Red team’s next drive started with a ton of momentum with two separate first downs. Daniels went 3-6 on the drive, a number lower than it should have been due to a ref inadvertently breaking up a great pass. The defense also started showing more pressure on this drive, resulting in a final incompletion on the drive after some backside pressure. Camarda would cap off the drive with another missed field goal, this time from 44 yards out.
After two drives of Beck, the Black team made a switch, bringing in true freshman Brock Vandagriff. The quarterback looked fantastic on the first drive, going 4-4 for 27 yards, as well as scrambling for 13 yards. The drive would end on a fumble from Vandagriff, however.
The Red team followed suit by pulling Daniels out of the game to give Stetson Bennett some game reps. Bennett came out looking solid, but the highlight of the drive was a 29-yard completion to Kearis Jackson. He was able to pull the ball in with one hand while being interfered with. The drive would end one play later with Zamir White punching it in from two yards out on his sixth attempt of the day. Camarda’s extra point would tie the game up at seven.
The Black team brought Beck back in for the next drive. Beck would go 4-8 on the drive, missing an open Braxton Hicks on a late third down in the red zone. Jack Podlesny would hit a 35-yard attempt to reclaim the lead for the black team, 10-7.
Daniels returned to the field for the final drive of the first half. The quarterback went six for eight on the drive and snagged the first passing touchdown of the game with a 24-yard bullet pass to Adonai Mitchell to end the half. Camarda’s extra point grabbed the red team their first lead of the game at 14-10.
First Half Analysis
One word can truly describe that first half: balance. Both defenses looked solid, showing off some “bend, don’t break” mentality. They did give up some points but were able to lock it down to keep points off the board. Quay Walker and Ameer Speed led the way with five tackles each on the black team.
All four quarterbacks looked solid. The back-ups (Vandagriff and Bennett) combined for a perfect seven for seven passing. Daniels looked as remarkable as he did to end 2020, going 14-22 for 123 yards and tossing a touchdown pass.
Both teams did a good job spreading the ball around, with the red team having five pass-catchers, while the Black team had seven. As expected, Washington looked fantastic in both the receiving and blocking games. A name a little more under the radar, Ladd McConkey, had a solid first half with two pretty difficult catches highlighting his performance.
Mitchell, a freshman, really led the way for the Red team, picking up five catches for eight yards and a touchdown. Cook, Jackson, and White each racked up multiple catches, as well.
The ground attack was not quite as effective as usual but certainly was not bad. The teams combined for 75 yards on the ground with an average of just under three-and-a-half yards per carry. Six different players had rushes, including two of the quarterbacks. Once you remove those quarterbacks, the running backs themselves averaged nearly four-and-a-half yards per attempt.
The Black team brought Beck out to start the second half of the 2021 G-Day game. Milton was able to rush the ball twice for five yards following a completion from Beck to Steven Peterson started the drive. Beck then tried to throw one deep. However, the drive ended on the first interception of the day as redshirt sophomore Dan Jackson hauled in the ball.
The first team defense came out strong on the next drive. After two straight completions from Daniels, the drive stalled with a false start and an incompletion. Then, the defense got through the line again for a 13-yard sack on Daniels, which ultimately resulted in a punt. Camarda sent one 70 yards downfield, his longest of the day.
The following drive saw more reserves hit the field. Redshirt freshman Kurt Knisely got a four-yard rush to start the game. Then, true freshman Jackson Muschamp got to throw two passes, going 1-2 for 19 yards. Muschamp was then rotated back out for Vandagriff. The quarterback scrambled once and was sacked once before the team had to punt.
The Red team decided to bring Daniels back out once again, and they were able to put together a fantastic drive. Daniels went seven for eight passing for 88 yards and, ultimately, a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jackson that pushed the lead to 21-10.
The next drive began with just seconds left in the third for the black team. Vandagriff continued to take on the quarterbacking duties and began the drive with a 15-yard pass to Washington. Freshman Smael Mondon got his second solo tackle of the day on the play. Vandagriff would go 2-5 on the drive and the team would turn it over on downs after picking up just five yards on fourth and nine.
The red team’s next drive lasted just one play, as Bennett came back in the game and attempted a deep pass. The pass was taken away by Lewis Cine, who returned the ball 15 yards.
Beck made his return to the field for the black team after the interception. The drive ended after a three-and-out, with Beck going one for one passing and being sacked once.
The Red team came out with Daniels at quarterback once again but focused on the rushing attack this time around. Knisely rushed three straight times to open the possession before Daniels finally went to the air. Daniels would go 3-4 on the drive. Ultimately, the team would leave the field with no points after Camarda’s third missed field goal of the game.
The Black team put the ball back in Beck’s hands on their next drive as they attempted to fight their way back into the game. And that is just what Beck did. The quarterback completed all six of his attempts on the way downfield, finding five different receivers. Washington caught the 13-yard touchdown pass to cap the drive. After a failed two-point conversion, the red team still led 21-16.
The comeback was short-lived, though. Daniels found Demetris Robertson for a 59-yard touchdown pass on the fourth play of the drive to extend their lead back to 28-16 and ultimately clinch the 2021 G-Day victory.
The final drive of the game saw Beck go 7-9 for 51 yards. He was able to find Jaylen Johnson for a ten-yard touchdown to cap off the drive and the game.
Final Stats and Analysis
If nothing else, the 2021 G-Day game made it 100% clear that JT Daniels is the starting quarterback going forward. Daniels finished 28-41 for 324 yards and three touchdowns.
Between Beck and Vandagriff, the team looked like they are set under center for the next few years. Beck is the clear choice for the second slot in the depth chart right now and thus took more snaps. Beck’s 22-31, 236 yards, two touchdowns and interception looked like a guy who is capable of playing in the SEC if needed.
Vandagriff went six of nine for 47 yards. Even with the reduced number of snaps, the freshman looked impressive.
The receivers looked impressive, as well. Mitchell’s debut for Georgia was impressive, as he snagged seven passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. Robertson and Jackson also found the end zone for the black team as the duo combined for eight catches and 138 yards.
The both figuratively and literally massive Darnell Washington had led the black team in receiving with four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
The ground attack looked solid but does not seem like it will be the highlight of the Bulldogs’ offense this season. Milton and White both found the end zone, while Cook put together some meaningful carries, as well.
Defensively, the Bulldogs looked sharp. Both units were able to grab an interception off of the other team, while the red team was also able to grab a fumble off of Vandagriff. Walker, Speed, Smith, Cine, Mondon and Kelee Ringo all put together solid performances for their respective units.
The 2021 G-Day game saw fantastic performances from the starters and reserves. This game should inspire hope among the fan base, as it showed a more experienced Georgia team than what was on the field last year, while also showing off some of the young talent the team has brought in.
Main image courtesy Atlanta Journal Constitution