AUBURN, Ala. — It was a rough night for Georgia’s offense and a rough night for Jake Fromm.
It was painful, too. Fromm left the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium walking upright, but he spent a lot of time on the ground on the field here that they’ve named after Pat Dye. Fromm was sacked four times by the Auburn Tigers, but that doesn’t come close to illustrating the duress he was under for much of the 27 minutes the Bulldogs were in possession of the football.
Officially, Auburn was credited with 6 “hurries,” but Fromm was in a hurry to get rid of the ball the whole game.
That is what happens when a team has a run-based offense and can’t run. The Bulldogs were held to 46 yards on 32 rushing attempts. But that tally takes into account the negative yardage logged by Fromm trying unsuccessfully to evade Auburn’s pass rush. That totaled 37 yards, with Fromm having one positive gain of four yards on one called run.
Otherwise, he was running for his life. Running and jumping and sliding and flinging the ball out of bounds to avoid disastrous plays. Fromm couldn’t evade them all.
In light of the lack of protection he encountered, that wasn’t all that bad. Fromm finished 13-of-28 passing for 184 yards and a touchdown. But, suffice it to say, his SEC-best pass-efficiency rating will take a hit.
“I thought he made some good decisions,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of Fromm. “Jake is a battler. He showed me something [Saturday]. He can move in the pocket, he can step up and move around in the pass rush. They have some good rushers. Guys, that is a really good front. We were still able to move the ball a little and throw it.”
Georgia finished with a season-low 230 yards of offense. Nick Chubb was the team’s leading rusher with 27 yards.
Fromm began the game well. He faced third-and-7 on the Bulldogs’ opening possession and hit Javon Wims for a 28-yard gain down the left sideline. Fromm followed that with a 26-yard completion to Terry Godwin to set up a 1-yard run to finish the 70-yard touchdown drive on Georgia’s first possession.
But it got much tougher from there. The next third down Fromm faced, he was dropped for a 10-yard loss by SEC sacks leader Jeff Holland. Fromm was dropped again for an 11-yard loss on third-and-10 early in the second quarter. Fromm finally coughed it up at the end of a blind-side sack, but right guard Solomon Kindley managed to recover for the Bulldogs.
“It wasn’t one particular place or one side of the ball,” Kindley said of the line’s issues. “They just came out and had a really good scheme and played physical. Ain’t no blame on anybody.”
The biggest gaffe on Fromm’s part came early in the second quarter with the game well in hand. An Auburn defender slipped and fell trying to cover Riley Ridley on a deep post in the middle of the field. For once, Fromm had time, but he led the uncovered Ridley too far toward the Georgia sideline, and Ridley couldn’t haul in what would have been a circus catch if he made it.
As open as he was, anything near should have resulted in an easy touchdown.
“It doesn’t really matter; we didn’t catch it,” Smart said. “It’s a results business. I don’t want to put the blame on anybody, but I actually don’t even know. I think it was an opportunity missed, and it was one of several that we missed.”
Fromm was able to give Georgia fans something to cheer about when he hit Riley Ridley with a 14-yard TD pass in the game’s final minutes. While that might’ve seemed like whipped cream on a mud pie, Smart liked it.
“We showed the ability at the end to still move the ball and throw it,” he said. “They still had their good edge rushers in. But, at the end of the day, I thought Jake played well, he played hard and he made good decisions.”
Smart was asked, given Georgia’s inability to run the ball at all, did they discuss just going all pass, all the time?
“There’s always discussion to do that,” he said. “But part of it was there were some sacks in there, too. You’ve got to be able to protect him. If you throw it every play against Auburn you can be in trouble because they have really good pass rushers. The threat to run the ball has to slow down the pass rush, and we tried to maintain that threat. We just didn’t do a good enough job of it.”
Fromm’s teammates had only good things to say about their young quarterback.
“I thought Jake did a great job,” Chubb said. “It’s hard being such a young guy, but I thought he held his composure and made some good plays. Overall, we’ve got a lot of work to do apparently. We’ve all got to learn from it.”
Said Sony Michel: “Jake did a great job just leading this team. No matter what was happening, he stayed poised, he showed great leadership out there. He’s going to continue to do what he does, and that’s what he did [Saturday]. He just kept playing hard, and I commend him for that.”