Eds: May be updated following Richt's 8:15 p.m. teleconference. With AP Photos. CHARLES ODUM AP Sports Writer
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - By the measure of completion percentage, Hutson Mason has the edge over the top quarterbacks in Georgia history - even if few have noticed.
Mason completed 10 of 12 passes in Georgia's 55-9 win over Charleston Southern, just another entry in his log of efficient performances this year. He has completed 68.4 percent of his passes, a school-record pace for Georgia, which moved up one spot to No. 8 in Sunday's AP Top 25.
The Bulldogs complete their regular season with Saturday's game against No. 16 Georgia Tech.
The senior quarterback's passing in 2014 has been more accurate than any season posted by Eric Zeier, Matthew Stafford, David Greene, Aaron Murray and Hines Ward. He has even been better than the quarterback who holds the Georgia record for completion percentage in a season - Mike Bobo, the Bulldogs' quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
Mason threw for 187 yards and three touchdowns while playing only the first half in Saturday's blowout win. He then grinned when asked about the possibility of beating Bobo's school-record 65.03 completion percentage in 1997. Mason said he's only following Bobo's instructions.
"He always tells us to complete balls," Mason said. "I think I'm doing a pretty good job of that this year."
Mason's work has been overshadowed by the lead roles played by tailbacks Todd Gurley, now lost with a knee injury, and Nick Chubb. Georgia's strong running game has left less of a burden on Mason.
The only bad news for Georgia on Saturday came when Southeastern Conference Eastern Division leader Missouri beat Tennessee 29-21. For Georgia (9-2, 6-2 SEC) to reach the SEC championship game, Missouri (9-2, 6-1) must lose to Arkansas this week.
Mason has completed 160 of 234 passes for 1,825 yards with 19 touchdowns and only three interceptions. His completion percentage leads the SEC and ranks sixth among FBS quarterbacks.
Still, Mason's legacy for his one season as the starter is incomplete. Still to come is his final regular-season game against Georgia Tech is crucial. For Mason and the Bulldogs, it was important to remain sharp against Charleston Southern and carry momentum into the annual battle for state bragging rights.
Mason took over as Georgia's starter in last year's win over Georgia Tech, following Murray's season-ending knee injury. Mason passed for 299 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in a 41-34 double-overtime win over the Yellow Jackets.
Murray helped the Bulldogs rally from a 20-0 deficit.
"I think this is a bigger game than what it was last year," Mason said, noting both teams are ranked.
"I haven't watched much of Tech but obviously they're 9-2 and a top 20 team in the nation, so they're good at what they do."
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Mason has been "super-efficient."
"He's gotten better and better," Richt said. "I really think he's done a super job.
"We haven't thrown the ball quite as much as we have the last few years, but we're throwing it as efficiently or more."
Richt said he has seen Mason's confidence grow.
"I think he's just started to feel at home," Richt said. "He's not putting too much pressure on himself. I think he has gained confidence as the season has gone on."
Mason had to replace Murray, a four-year starter now with the Kansas City Chiefs. After waiting patiently as Murray's backup for four years, including a redshirt season, Mason then faced difficult comparisons with the quarterback who set most of Georgia's passing records.
"As Hutson has become more comfortable, he has begun to take over games and make plays," said receiver Chris Conley, who had touchdown catches of 35 and 23 yards from Mason on Saturday. "No one expected this out of him early in the season.
"There were a lot of naysayers, a lot of doubters. But we believed in him because we saw what he could do."