On the beat: Georgia football can’t tolerate slow starts on offense much longer
ATHENS — Georgia’s offense needed a jump start against Tennessee, and his name was Justin Fields.
The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs beat the Vols, 38-12, but for the second consecutive game, Georgia’s offense sputtered in the first half.
Coach Kirby Smart said Saturday there is no plan at quarterback.
But in the same postgame press conference, Smart indicated the Bulldogs’ alternated quarterbacks based on the play calls.
“It was just what plays we thought were good, what we wanted to run — they both are good passers, they’re both good decision-makers, they’re both good football players,” Smart said.
“So there was not a rhyme or a reason to why we did what we did. It was more of a plan to call the game that gave us the best chance to be successful. That’s what we try to do in a game. We try to call what gives us the best chance to be successful.”
The question moving forward is, which Georgia offense is better?
The more complex offense with Fromm, featuring veteran pre-snap reads and more pages in the playbook?
Of the offense with the Fields, RPO heavy and more limited in nature (at this point), relying on the quarterback to make plays with his feet as much as his arm?
The answer for now appears to be “both.”
Receiver Terry Godwin said after Saturday’s game having two quarterbacks makes the Bulldogs more dangerous.
“It makes us dangerous because you’ve got a quarterback that knows what you [defense] are going to do, and a quarterback that’s able to run,” Godwin said. “I mean, both guys can run, but you have a faster quarterback back there, and that’s tough on defense.”
Fields’ entry in the game neutralized the pressure the Vols had been putting on the Georgia offense.
Fromm was sacked three times and fumbled twice. Tight end Isaac Nauta scooped up the first fumble and ran it in for a 31-yard touchdown, a fortuitous break, indeed.
The Bulldogs didn’t have their first clean touchdown drive until the fifth series of the game. Fields came in and drove the ball from the Georgia 30 to the Vols 32, at which point Fromm re-entered and finished the drive.
There was more rotating in the second half, Fields finishing off the first series of the third quarter with a 12-yard touchdown run.
In the fourth quarter, Fields entered into what became a TD drive for a set of downs. Fields rushed for 6 yards and handed off to D’Andre Swift for runs of 2 and 4 yards before Fromm came back into the action.
Fields got the final drive all to himself, handing off to Elijah Holyfield for a 16-yard gain, and then running 15 yards for his second TD of the afternoon.
Vanderbilt figures to be another opponent Georgia can out-man, but what happens at LSU, or when it’s Auburn on the other side of the football?
How many more slow starts can the Bulldogs sustain?
After Vanderbilt, LSU, Florida, Kentucky and Auburn are lined up on the schedule.
Fromm was 6-of-14 passing for 66 yards and an interception at Missouri, the offense failing to score in the first half against the Tigers.
The bottom line is that it’s not necessarily an indication of how Fromm is playing — it’s how the offense works with him in the game.
Are the receivers making the right reads on option routes, getting open and catching passes? Is the line providing adequate protection for the plays Jim Chaney calls with Fromm in the game? Are the backs carrying out their assignments?
There will be no quarterback controversy at Georgia.
It will remain a matter of Smart playing the quarterback that is moving the team best, and the Tennessee game showed that the decision can change in a snap.
Georgia-Tennessee football game