ATHENS, Ga. – There is no quarterback controversy at Georgia.
Hutson Mason's long-awaited first deep touchdown pass of the year in last week's win over Vanderbilt ended that talk.
For a brief time, there may have been reason to question Mason's hold on the starting job last week. He acknowledged he needed to play with more confidence after throwing two interceptions in a shaky win over Tennessee on Sept. 27.
Mason then watched as freshman Brice Ramsey entered the Vanderbilt game midway through the first quarter and led a touchdown drive.
Mason's time on the sideline was short-lived. On the first snap of No. 13 Georgia's next possession, he threw the 44-yard scoring pass to Chris Conley.
Ramsey didn't come back on the field until mop-up duty late in the 44-17 win.
Mason said Tuesday the long scoring pass was important for the team — and for his confidence.
"Yeah it did. I think we were kind of waiting for that big, explosive play in the passing game we hadn't had this year," Mason said. "... It was definitely good to get that one off your back."
Coach Mark Richt said Tuesday Mason has a firm hold on the job for Saturday's game at No. 23 Missouri. Richt said if there is a plan for Ramsey to play this week, it likely will be only for one series.
Richt took issue with a reporter's question about a quarterback rotation with Mason and Ramsey.
"I wouldn't call it a rotation," Richt said. "I would say that even last week we were committed to let Brice play a series in the first half. That was kind of it. If we move forward with that type of thinking, it would probably be very similar."
Mason, a senior, completed 11 of 17 passes for 121 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against Vanderbilt.
Georgia ranks only 12th in the Southeastern Conference with its average of 170.2 yards passing per game, but that doesn't mean the offense has struggled. The Bulldogs rank second in the league and sixth in the nation in scoring (45.0) as they lean on tailback Todd Gurley and their strong running game.
Mason said it is important he continues to make defenses respect the threat of a deep pass even as they depend on Gurley's runs.
"I don't know how many times each game we're going to throw it, but we're trying to be more consistent when we do throw it," Mason said. "We do need to have some more explosive plays in there to kind of back that secondary up."
Mason has the difficult job of following popular four-year starter Aaron Murray at quarterback. The inevitable comparisons have led to some criticism from fans.
Mason has completed 68.3 percent of his passes — better than Murray's career-best 64.8 percent in 2013. The difference is Georgia posted far bigger passing totals with Murray.
Georgia wide receiver Michael Bennett said he knows Mason heard criticism, especially after the Tennessee game.
"I just knew he knew all the critics were on his back," Bennett said. "It's all about responding to that."
Bennett said fans should focus on Georgia's points scored instead of yards passing.
"Fans are always going to be mad about something," Bennett said. "If we put up 45 points, we're not going to sit here and apologize. I think we'll be fine. We're doing a good job of putting points on the board, no matter if it's running or passing.
"We know the strength of our team is running the ball. If Hutson just does what he needs to do and we win the game, I mean we're 4-1. You can't be too critical of him if we're still winning games."