But when talking with Mason after the Bulldogs’ win over Tennessee on Saturday it was obvious that Mason wants Mitchell out there with him as fast as possible. His face lights up and his head picks up quicker when talking about Mitchell.
He’s ready to get him out there. Maybe Mason just wants a security blanket out there with him. Maybe he knows that it has been tough sledding for him this season and any change would do him good. Maybe its just time for a playmaker to be at the receiver spot.
“I always text him on Sundays,” Mason said of Mitchell. “How is it feeling? Are you going to play this week?”
Mason looked up to me during his answer and gave me a painful grin. No. Mitchell would not be playing that week. But now it seems clear to me that Mason needs Mitchell more than ever if for no other reason than to jump start Georgia’s average passing attack.
“Everything isn’t always going to go great,” Mason said in a crowded locker room interview after turning it over twice in Georgia’s 35-32 win over Tennessee. Everything doesn’t always go great - that’s true, but it is hard to argue with the results of September 27th for the Dawgs.
On a weekend where everything (and I mean everything) that Georgia needed to happen happened, you would have thought that the fan base that left Sanford Stadium saw Georgia lose - not win. That’s far from the case.
A. Georgia needed to beat Tennessee. They needed to beat them in order for their season, for all practical purposes, to not be on total life support the last Saturday in September. But Georgia didn’t need to beat Tennessee by 17 points - just by one (or, as it turns out, three).
B. South Carolina needed to lose to Missouri. The Cocks needed to lose at some point this season, but the loss to the Tigers opened up the door to everyone in the East and put the only team to top the Bulldogs in a real pickle. The Chickens and Vanderbilt are the only two teams in the East with two losses or more in conference play. It isn’t impossible, but it is going to be pretty tough for either to climb out of the hole they’ve dug themselves as October looms. Vanderbilt still plays at Georgia and at Missouri in October. The Cocks play at Kentucky and at Auburn. If either program gets to November without another loss they will have surprised many. One more loss probably ends hope of getting to Atlanta for both.
Even though everything went right at the end of the day, Mason is getting the brunt of the criticism. For the two interceptions he should get the blame… and he took the blame.
“All of this starts with me. It all starts with me. I am not going to apologize for winning a ball game, but we have to get better. I have to get better,” he said.
That Tennessee didn’t score on either turnover isn’t relative to the criticism of Mason. Turnovers, after all and in reality, are turnovers - they cost you games. They certainly cost the Vols the game.
But look at it this way: Hutson Mason played his worst game of the season. The issue isn’t that Mason had his worst performance while completing 64% of his passes. The issue is that he turned the ball over… twice.
Mason is still, even without his top playmaking wide receivers (and, yes, I think we are allowed to concede that he’s missing way more than he should be missing each Saturday) hitting on 69% of his passes.
“But the long ball… the long ball” - No question. The long ball isn’t there. The guys who go up and get the long ball… they ain’t out there, either. Right now a guy that threw for 189, 299 and 320 last season hasn’t throw for over 200 yards yet this season.
Something isn’t quite right. I think we can all see that. Maybe that’s why Mason is so desperate for Mitchell to return. The Mitchell that flipped the 2011 Tennessee game with a 70-yard catch. The Mitchell that scored the game-winning pass against Florida in 2012. That guy. The game changer when healthy.
“I think our run game is going to carry us this whole year,” he said. “But 150-180 yards and a touchdown or two here or there has given us every opportunity in the world to win the game this year.”
Mason is right. Mason didn’t cost Georgia the game at South Carolina, but Georgia lost, and the quarterback gets the blame. Mason didn’t cost Georgia the game against Tennessee, but Georgia didn’t beat the Vols by 17 points, and he turned it over twice, and the quarterback gets the blame.
Georgia fans grade on a curve, but that’s not unique to them. They don’t just want to win - they want perfection. They can’t see the forest for the trees. Often they are right - often they overreact far too much one way or the other. That all may be true, but fans are not dumb. They see what they see - the know what they know. Something isn’t right - and not just missing Mitchell… and Mason touched on that as well.
“I have been saying this for a while, but I think when we get Malcolm back we will be able to form more of an identity of where guys should be. We have a lot of talent,” he said. “We just seem like… miscommunication here… even today on that touchdown pass to Nick Chubb - that wasn’t the right route. I’m just thinking… there were times today when I was expecting a guy to turn around, and he hasn’t quite turned around yet. You are expecting a guy to be in a certain place, and he’s not there. Right now we are not executing. It is frustrating because there hasn’t been a lot of everyone clicking. Sometimes you might throw a high ball - not a perfect ball - but you would still like to see some guys make a catch on it. You are going to throw a ball, and a guy is not there. We are playing a lot of freshman, but when you are in there you have to execute. There’s really no excuse. It is my job to trust it.”
Dean’s translation: “Somebody besides a running back get out there and make a play.”
“Those guys will help us,” Mason said of the receivers who have not yet played this season. But he’s not going to budge on what Georgia’s offense is and will be.
“The blueprint of this offense is going to be the run game,” he correctly pointed out. This isn’t going to be a team that’s going to need to come out and throw the ball 30 to 35 times. I think the important thing is to throw the ball when no one is expecting it.”