Hutson Mason's final showdown in Sanford

Flashback to Georgia’s 2013 senior night. Future fifth-round NFL draft pick Aaron Murray is being carried off the field in the second quarter after tearing his ACL. A nightmare for the senior. The beginning of a career for backup quarterback Hutson Mason.

“It was very chaotic,” Mason said. “... It was a cool night because I got to play, but it was pretty crappy circumstances. It was mixed emotions.”

Mixed emotions have continued to define the career of the fifth-year senior. In just one season, Mason has been through nearly every up and down one can imagine — some displayed in a boxscore, others not.

“He’s handled pressure extremely well,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo said. “And I’m not just talk about pressure playing in a game but pressure from outside sources that every player gets, but especially a quarterback is going to get at this level at a school like Georgia.”

Surviving a loss to Florida and the absence of star tailback Todd Gurley was test of toughness for Mason. And there was a time when he didn’t inspire confidence the way he does now.

The record-setting Murray years spoiled fans, and before a four-touchdown, 81 percent completion performance by Mason at Kentucky, many were quick to aim an arrow of criticism at the quarterback.

“I think Hutson's deal this year was knowing he only had one shot at it and wanting to be perfect,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “When he finally said, you know what, I'm going to get back to dropping back, hitching up and ripping the ball, he's done extremely well.”

Though one of the oldest members of the team, Mason has started just 13 games. And in-game experience, something Mason praised as one of the most valuable learning tools, was an asset he had previously been limited on. While he had been preparing for a starting position for four years, even his coach knew practice, in this case, would not make perfect.

“It’s a little bit different from standing there on the sideline and watching somebody do it,” Bobo said. “You have to live through things. You have to experience things. Sometimes as much as you prepare in the meeting room and on the practice field, you’ve got to experience full speed on game day.”

In his last showdown in Sanford Stadium, Mason will face Georgia Tech, the team, the deep-rooted rival, against which he got his first start. And while last year’s edition, a double-overtime Bulldogs victory, wasn’t pretty, it’s one that sticks out for Mason.

“It was kind of a nightmare to begin, and it kind of ended in a pretty special way, so that was a pretty special game,” Mason said.

Mason is playing his second game of “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.” Come December, he will start his second bowl game. And he is on track to break Bobo’s school record for pass-completion percentage in a season. Mason’s career has seemingly come full-circle.

But that circle isn’t enough for Mason. In just one year, he wants to accomplish more than that. Mason wants to be in Atlanta on Dec. 6 for the SEC Championship game.

“I’d rather be remembered as a champion than as a completion percentage record,” Mason said.

Fourteen games after the Mason-for-Murray swap, Mason will run out onto the field during pregame for his own recognition as a senior. Before he takes the first photo with his family and Richt, Mason will know whether or not he is an SEC East champion, something that, at this point, is out of his control — but not out of his mind.

“I just really want to win a championship. That’s what my mind is set on,” Mason said.

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