JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It would be hard for anyone to understand and appreciate the sort of pressure Georgia sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm was under the past two weeks.
But Fromm, just 20 years old, shrugged it off and went to work during the Bulldogs’ bye week, and the result was a validating 17-of-24, 240-yard passing performance with 3 touchdowns in a 36-17 victory over rival Florida.
Fromm improved to 19-3 as Georgia’s starter and now 2-0 in the school’s biggest rivalry game, making all the big throws in the face of the Gators’ pressure and pass coverage
Fromm and the Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1 SEC) will be tested again next Saturday at Kentucky, when Georgia plays the Wildcats (7-1, 5-1) with a trip to the SEC Championship Game on the line.
But Saturday in Jacksonville, it was all about Fromm stepping up under pressure and proving himself yet again.
“It was just trying to get better during the bye week. There’s no other way to say it, we had to get better all around, including myself,” said Fromm, who admittedly had an off day in the Bulldogs’ 36-16 loss at LSU two weeks ago.
“Really wanted to come out and make a statement today,” Fromm said. “We had to win this football game. Our backs were against the wall, and we wanted to keep every goal that we want alive.”
Fromm’s back was against the wall, too, as some fans took to social media to express their displeasure with him and opine that talented freshman Justin Fields should be getting more opportunities.
Coach Kirby Smart never wavered, however, having promised his players that he will do whatever is best for the team, popular or not.
“I thought Jake is a competitor. You know, Jake works as hard as anybody on our team and he believes in the players around him,” Smart said when asked about Fromm’s ability to bounce back and lead the team. “He understands what we’re trying to do offensively, and he did a good job of dealing out the ball when he had an opportunity. And he made some big throws tonight to some guys that were open and to some guys that were in tight coverage.”
Fromm made it clear he takes a spiritual approach to his football, “keeping the main thing the main thing,” as Smart likes to say.
“I’m not proving anything to anybody, whether they think I’m a good football player or not,” Fromm said. “I’m playing because God put me on the planet to play football and worship him, that’s the reason I play. I play for my family and I play for my brothers in the locker room.
“I’m not trying to impress anybody or anything.”
But Fromm did impress against Florida, over and over again, making throws into tight windows and putting just the right amount of air under passes for well-timed completions.
Fromm entered the game having converted just three times out of the 20 occasions he faced third-and-9 or longer this season, throwing three interceptions and getting sacked four times under those circumstances.
But Saturday, Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator Jim Chaney dialed up the right calls at the right times, and Fromm’s receivers were running the right routes and catching the football.
Fromm converted for a first down on three of the six occasions he faced third-and-9 or longer against the Gators, twice in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.
Georgia was leading 23-17 with momentum still up for grabs when Fromm hit Jeremiah Holloman for a 15-yard gain on a third-and-11 from the UGA 39-yard line.
Fromm closed that drive by finding Terry Godwin on a flag route for a 24-yard, game-clinching touchdown while facing third-and-9.
Earlier, Fromm shifted into the two-minute offense and drove the team 71 yards in 48 seconds for a momentum-gaining field goal before half time.
“It’s a rivalry, they are a great football team, and it was a really physical football game, it always feels really good to get that payoff at the end,” Fromm said. “It was a four quarter fight, and it was special.”