ATHENS - Georgia didn't really need a passing game to beat Clemson. It had Todd Gurley. But offensive coordinator Mike Bobo thinks his team will need to air it out to win, and probably soon.
The biggest concern for Bobo is the deep passing game, as quarterback Hutson Mason's longest completion on Saturday was for 23 yards. Overall, the passing attack figured in for just 131 of Georgia's 459 offensive yards.
"We've gotta do a better job of pushing the ball downfield, and extending their protections a little bit better, trusting our protection," Bobo said after Tuesday's practice. "But that's part of playing and part of learning to play the position. I know it seems like (Mason) should just walk out there and be a natural because he's a fifth-year senior. But there's still a lot of things you've gotta go out there and do in a game, and you've gotta learn from. So I expect a lot of improvement this week. Because we've gotta get better at throwing downfield."
Mason, who was making his third college start against Clemson, was working without two of his top deep threats, Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley. The two have an "outside chance" of playing against South Carolina, according to Bobo.
But until they can play, Bobo admitted that he and Mason have to "be creative."
"It is what it is. That's who we've got," Bobo said. "We did a couple different things with (tailback) Sony (Michel) out there and Isaiah (McKenzie) in those receiver spots. We've gotta be creative and find ways to throw the football. But we're gonna get some one-on-one coverage because of the ability to run the ball. People know we're gonna run it, we've just gotta do a better job of pushing it downfield."
It's not that Mason never tried going downfield. He did early in the game, drawing two defensive pass interference penalties. Later on, Mason didn't throw it deep at all, which Bobo agreed was a combination of pounding the ground game and Mason not pulling the trigger when the deep ball could have been there.
"But that's easy to see on Sunday and Monday when you're looking at the tape," Bobo said. "It's a little bit different when standing in there and you've got guys breathing down your neck. But that's part of playing the position. You've gotta stand in there and cut it loose."
Bobo also wasn't pleased with the mid-range game. When asked if senior receiver Chris Conley, who only had two catches, was limited by his shoulder injury, Bobo turned it back towards the passing.
"We really didn't do a very good job throwing the ball outside to anybody. So it wasn't just Conley," Bobo said.
Friend on offensive line
Self-criticism was a running theme among the assistant coaches on Tuesday, despite those 459 yards and 45 points racked up three nights earlier. Offensive line coach Will Friend sounded the most dire note.
"We're not very good right now, and we've gotta get a lot better," Friend said.
The line did have some inconsistent moments against Clemson. It was stronger as the night went on, helping open holes for Gurley, Michel and Nick Chubb. But the pass protection wasn't up to the coaches' standards.
Friend said right tackle Kolton Houston had the best night, followed by center David Andrews and left guard Brandon Kublanow. That means left tackle John Theus and right guard Greg Pyke were the starters likely getting the most attention from Friend at practice this week.
"They all played hard. That's their job, they're supposed to play hard," Friend said. "But they did play hard, effort was good. And they did play physical. We've gotta get a lot better technique, a lot better assignment."
Friend ended up playing seven offensive linemen against Clemson: Mark Beard subbed on one possession for Theus at left tackle, and Watts Dantzler for Houston at right tackle. Those drives resulted in punts, but Friend said it wasn't the subs fault, saying there wasn't a big dropoff from the starters.
"I think it helped Kolton and John," Friend said. "It was a humid night, as you know. It helped them getting a little bit of a breather."