ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart wrote it off as Justin Fields having a case of the nerves.
But whatever led the Georgia true freshman quarterback to take on two tacklers on his second play in Saturday’s game, the head coach doesn’t want to see it again.
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The Bulldogs blitzed overwhelmed FCS foe Austin Peay, 45-0, on a steamy afternoon where Smart substituted liberally.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm started for Georgia and was an efficient 12-of-16 passing for 157 yards with two touchdowns.
Justin Fields nerves
Fields also made the most of his opportunity. Once, that is, he put the nerves behind him.
“I thought early in the game he was a little nervous, [and] he had a couple of plays where things broke down a little bit and he created,” Smart said. “Maybe he didn’t like his first read and took off. I encouraged him to not take a hit and his first play he ran over like two guys. so I told him that was not really what we were looking for.
“But he took better care of himself the rest of the time.”
Fields played the fourth and fifth series of the first half, and the first and second series of the second half for Georgia, finishing 7-of-8 passing for 63 yards and a touchdown, and rushing three times for 33 yards.
The No. 1-ranked dual-threat prospect in the 2018 class, Fields overcame a sprained ankle and lived up to high expectations in his much-anticipated debut.
Justin Fields enters
Fields entered the game at the 11:39 mark of the second quarter, Georgia up 17-0 and taking over at its own 21-yard line.
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Fields handed off on first down to Elijah Holyfield for a 1-yard gain, but on the next play he pulled the ball down and tried to run through the Governors’ defense, gaining 7 yards.
Cal transfer Demetric Robertson stole the show on the next play, breaking loose on a 72-yard run on what many felt was the highlight of the day.
Fields came trotting back out on the next series, and this time, he showed he could throw the ball effectively as well as run it.
The freshman from Kennesaw directed a nine-play, 69-yard scoring drive capped by a Holyfield 17-yard TD run that made it 31-0.
Fields showed his poise and field vision on a third-and-6 at the Governors’ 30-yard line, finding Riley Ridley across the middle for a 12-yard gain.
Two plays later, Holyfield broke loose on the touchdown run.
Second Half Justin Fields
Fields opened the second half at quarterback, and on the Bulldogs’ first offensive play, he found Trey Blount for a 19-yard completion.
The drive stalled out at the Georgia 45 when Fields, facing third-and-7, delivered a pass to Brian Herrien that netted only 3 yards. That led to the Bulldogs’ first punt of the game.
Fields atoned on his next drive, marching the team 60 yards on five plays for a touchdown.
Fields completed 3-of-3 passes for 25 yards on the drive, utilizing three different receivers, including a 12-yard touchdown strike to Isaac Nauta that made it 45-0 and completed the game’s scoring.
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Still, Smart felt it prudent he remind Fields and Fromm to close their spots to run the ball wisely, and sparingly, if possible.
“That’s a conversation we’ve had with both quarterbacks,” Smart said. “We’ve got to be careful because we only have two [scholarship] quarterbacks.”