Georgia freshman QB Justin Fields outperforms Jake Fromm at G-Day

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Jake Fromm (left) looks on as Justin Fields warms up before the G-Day Game. Fields' Black squad bested Fromm's Red team 21-13.

ATHENS — Jake Fromm was down after the G-Day Game on Saturday. Not down like “woe is me” and “everything was terrible.” More like he was saying all the right things but deep down was kind of bummed.

Fromm’s Red Team lost to the Black team 21-13, and that was his chief gripe. But he also didn’t play up to the level we saw most of last season when he was leading the Bulldogs to a 13-2 record, SEC championship and national runner-up finish.

To start with, he never threw 2 interceptions in a game all year. Well, up until the last game of the year. He had that many on Saturday, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and couple of other throws that maybe could have been picked.

His final line was 19-of-38 passing for 200 yards. He finally connected with Riley Ridley on a 57-yard touchdown pass with 1:42 to play in the game. But just the fact that Fromm was still in the game that late speaks to the struggles.

“You want some throws back,” said Fromm, who completed 62 percent of his passes and threw only 7 interceptions in 15 games last year. “I thought I threw a couple of deep balls pretty well, but at the end of the day I could definitely can play better. There’s no excuse for that. I can’t wait to come back out and get with the guys in camp and keep going.”

Fromm’s counterpart, the highly touted Justin Fields, had a very good day. The No. 1-rated dual-threat quarterback last year looked the part on Saturday. He was 18-of-33 passing for 207 yards and a touchdown and slipped out of the pocket on several nice runs, the best a 22-yard scamper. He threw an interception, too, but his offense generally seemed to move better. Not coincidentally, his team won.

Now, for some perspective.

Coach Kirby Smart was happy to provide it, just like he did last year when he addressed Fromm outpacing an incumbent starter by the name of Jacob Eason at that G-Day.

The key difference here is one quarterback is facing the No. 1 defense while the other is not. It’s not uncommon for the backup quarterbacks to outshine the starters during spring intrasquad games. Georgia sets up its annual G-Day Game where the No. 1 offense faces the No. 1 defense, the 2s versus the 2s, and so on. So that first group, either way, has the tougher job. Conceivably at least.

“You all were sitting there last year saying the same things you are now because the other guy was throwing against the No. 2 defense and he was throwing it pretty good,” Smart said, referring to Fromm going 14-of-23 with 277 yards and 2 touchdowns this time last year. “Jacob Eason was in there going against the No. 1 defense, which at that time was really good. So, there’s a lot of similarities between those two situations.”

Fromm didn’t make any bones about it, though. He didn’t think he played real well. Then again, he did note that the defense he was playing against was exceptional. They also had some other more subtle advantages.

“Going into it, we felt like we’re playing one of the best teams in the SEC, one that’s great,” Fromm said of the Black squad. “They also know a lot of our calls and a lot of our [routes] and stuff. It just is what it is. I had some throws I’d like back.”

Mainly, that would be the one Deandre Baker picked off and returned 32 yards for a touchdown 8 minutes into the game.

“He threw the ball a little high, had two rushers in his face and threw a little high, and Bake was there,” Smart said of that play. “The other [interception], Fromm and the receiver were not on the same page. … He didn’t make a great decision. But one of those was a really good play by Bake, give him credit, the other one wasn’t as much.”

There were some throws Fromm would’ve liked to have had caught as well.

Early in the game, Jayson Stanley was running free down the right sideline, but Fromm’s well-aimed pass was just out of his reach. Later that quarter, Fromm hit Riley Ridley perfectly in stride for what should have been a 44-yard TD. Instead, the diving Ridley landed hard in the end zone — nearly knocking himself out in the process — and failed to maintain possession of the ball.

“I got a little dinged up hitting my head,” Ridley said. “Otherwise, I’d have held on.”

One of the best offensive plays of the game was when Fields hooked up with redshirt freshman Matt Landers for a 15-yard TD on third down late in the third quarter. Fields led Landers perfectly on a deep fade into the right corner of the west end zone. Fields had extended the drive earlier when he fled the pocket on third down to get the Black team to the 34.

In all, Fields had 44 yards on quarterback runs. But he also had 41 in losses because of the liberal use of referee whistle to enforce the non-contact rule on the quarterbacks.

“Justin did great,” observed Monty Rice, who played inside linebacker on the defense opposite of Fields. “It was his first time probably in front of that many people. He does that in practice every day. He’s a competitor. He’s fast, big, strong. If you don’t have a balanced rush, like Coach Smart talks about, Justin will take off and go 70.”

Fields, who is under Smart’s perennial gag rule for freshmen, wasn’t available for comment. But Fromm, for one, liked what he saw from the kid, just like he has all spring.

“Yeah, he’s made countless plays this spring where me and Coach [James] Coley look at each other and go, ‘Dang, that was a good play,'” Fromm said. “He’s a good football player. That’s what he should be doing. … He does a great job of extending plays. He’ll throw the ball down the field sometimes, he really does it all.”

Which is not to say Fields is about to unseat Fromm as the Bulldogs starting quarterback. It only means that Georgia has a really good backup if and when he may be needed. And maybe another one as walk-on Stetson Bennett also played well.

But it’s Fields and Fromm that everybody was watching and evaluating Saturday. Smart especially.

“Both quarterbacks managed things pretty well,” Smart said. “I learned more about them being able to handle things on the field, with a crowd presence, and the shot clock and the coaching of the players, which I liked.”

As for Fromm, he’ll probably feel better Sunday after he looks at the video and sees how close his bad plays were to being good, and vice-versa, of course.

Fromm was asked if he felt he should be extended a certain amount of grace considering what he did on the field for the Bulldogs last fall.

“At the end of the day, whether it does or doesn’t is not up to me,” Fromm said. “You kind of come in and you do what you do. You come in and throw the ball around and try to put guys in position to succeed. That’s all I do at my position, and try to lead the best I can.”

As Georgia fans know well, Fromm’s best is pretty awesome.

NextAll football, no hijinks from Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs on G-Day
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