ATHENS — Georgia freshman quarterback Justin Fields saw his most extensive action in more than a month in Saturday night’s rivalry game with Auburn, and just like many other aspects of the team, he remains a promising work in progress.
Fields final line: 2-for-2 passing for 20 yards with two sacks; three carries for 8 yards, reflected as five for minus-12 (with the sacks).
Kirby Smart said in the days leading up to Saturday’s game that Fields had shown improvement in practice and was earning the coaches’ trust, and the UGA head coach made good on his vow to play him more by getting him 16 snaps against the Tigers.
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (9-1, 7-1 SEC) closed out the league portion of their schedule with a convincing 27-10 win over No. 24 Auburn Saturday night at Sanford Stadium.
There were highlights galore, most notably D’Andre Swift’s career-high 186 yards rushing and Terry Godwin’s 3-catch, 84-yard performance.
But Smart pointed out there were also areas to work on, Georgia failing to score touchdowns on three drives inside the Tigers’ 10-yard line, including a fourth quarter series managed by Fields with the Bulldogs leading 27-10.
The freshman took a 16-yard sack on a first-and-goal at the Auburn 2, and two plays later, he was unable to get the play off in time and took a delay of game.
Fields was also 2-of-2 passing for 20 yards on his 16 snaps (15 plays), and he converted on a third-and-1 run in the first quarter with Auburn up 7-3, helping to sustain a field goal drive.
Smart was pleased with the valuable experience Fields received after getting more than 20 percent of the offensive snaps (16 of 78) in a game starter Jake Fromm produced efficient numbers (13-of-20 passing, 193 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT).
“It’s tremendous on-the-job training, it will grow the kid, let him play with confidence,” Smart said. “We let him go out and play. He did some good things. He changed a couple of runs, he did really good.
“He managed the game well up until the shot clock on the sack, and he knew it. He messed it up, but he’ll learn from that.”
Smart has managed the quarterback situation throughout the season with a consistent and steady hand, patiently and rationally discussing Fromm and Fields each week.
Smart, having played big-time college football himself as a two-time All-SEC performer at Georgia, clearly understands the dynamics of handling high-profile situations such as the Bulldogs’ QB storyline.
“The perspective is we have two good quarterbacks, and we’re very fortunate to have two good quarterbacks,” Smart said on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show the Wednesday before the game. “They are both developing, they are both growing, they are both young.
“The more opportunities we get to play (Fields) in tight moments and big games, he brings an element that we don’t have,
so we want to continue to do that.”
Georgia has already clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1 against Alabama, but first the Bulldogs play host to UMass at 4 p.m. next Saturday before closing the season at home with Georgia Tech in a noon game on Nov. 24.
Here is Justin Fields’ play chart for Auburn:
0-0 score, second-and-goal at AU 4: Fields sacked for loss of 4
Auburn up 7-3, second-and-6 at AU 44: Fields shovel pass to Tyler Simmons, gains 1
Auburn up 7-3, third-and-goal at AU 13: Fields rushes at right end, gains 3 yards, converts for first down
first-and-goal at AU 4: Fields hands off to D’Andre Swift, gains 3 yards
second-and-goal at AU 1: Penalty, false start Isaiah Wilson, loss 5 yards
second-and-goal at AU 6: Fields hands off to Swift, gains 3 yards
Georgia up 20-10, first-and-10 at UGA 25: Fields hands off to Swift, gains 3 yards
Georgia up 27-10, first-and-10 at AU 40: Fields rushes for 4 yards
second-and-6 at AU 36: Fields completes pass to Riley Ridley, gains 19 yards
first-and-10 at AU 17: Fields rushes for 1 yard
second-and-9 at AU 16: Fields hands off to Elijah Holyfield, gains 4 yards
third-and-5 at AU 12: Fields incomplete for J.J. Holloman, PASS INTERFERENCE, gains 10 yards
first-and-goal at AU 2: Fields sacked for loss of 16 yards
second-and-goal at AU 18: Fields hands off to Brian Herrien, gains 5 yards
third-and-goal at AU 13: Fields DELAY OF GAME, loses 5 yards
third-and-goal at AU 18: Fields hands off to Herrien, gains 9 yards
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