Jacob Eason impresses in his Georgia debut, but …

Jacob Eason UGA football
Jacob Eason, the heralded freshman from Lake Stevens, Wash., didn’t get the start at quarterback, but he entered the game rather quickly (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

ATLANTA – In the postgame scrum, Kirby Smart turned and saw Greyson Lambert. Georgia’s coach reached one arm up, around Lambert’s head, pulled him in, and said something as he hugged him. Lambert said something back, Smart patted him on the chest and moved on.

A nice moment. But not unique: Almost a second later Smart saw Jacob Eason, and hugged and patted the other quarterback.

It was Lambert who started and finished Georgia’s season-opening 33-24 victory over North Carolina. But in between it was Eason, the prized freshman, who had the biggest moment and the biggest stats.

“You saw them open it up a little more when Eason was in the game,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “It gave us some issues.”

“You know, I knew Jacob had it in him. Everybody else knew Jacob had it in him,” Georgia receiver Isaiah McKenzie said. “I mean, it’s Jacob.

But did it mean Eason grabbed the starting job? Smart wouldn’t say, answering “there is no plan right now” when asked afterwards what the plan would be Saturday against Nicholls State.

“There is no plan right now,” Smart said. “Right now we’ll assess the tape. We’ll make another decision. I’m sure all you guys will want to know who will start the next game, and we’ll start it all over again. Maybe you’ll know by Thursday, maybe you’ll know by Wednesday, who knows. We’ve got to figure  all that out. I don’t want to jump to any conclusion.”

Eason wasn’t perfect, but he looked really good, especially on the 51-yard sideline pass to McKenzie, which converted a third down and set up the field goal to put Georgia ahead for good.

“Going out on the field on third-and-5 and throwing it deep? I’m used to that. Jacob throws it deep all the time,” McKenzie said. “So I wasn’t really worried about whether he would throw it. I was just hoping to make a big play.”

Jacob Eason (10) and Greyson Lambert (11) “both competed hard.” (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC)

If the concern was that Eason would turn it over, he didn’t, completing 8-of-12 passes.

But Smart did say that there remain some freshman moments for Eason.

“We struggled a little bit in the execution, with Jacob in there, as far as getting in and out of the huddle, and communicating and doing things,” Smart said. “But he’s got some other strengths.”

Lambert’s strength is being a game manager, and that faith from the coaches was shown in the second half. When Georgia tried to draw North Carolina offsides on a fourth down, Eason was actually subbed out in favor of Lambert. (The Tar Heels didn’t bite.)

And when Georgia’s offense re-took the field with the lead, it was Lambert who went back in. He didn’t throw a pass, only pitching to Nick Chubb for a 55-yard touchdown run, then taking a knee to finish the game.

The two ended up with close to an even amount of snaps.

“I’m really proud of both of them because I went to Greyson several times while Jacob wasa in there and he was cheering for Jacob,” Smart said. “He really wanted him to do well, and he knew that he was going to have an opportunity to come back in, in certain situations. So only time will tell.”

Neither quarterback was available to the media afterwards. Fedora, the vanquished coach, summed it up at the end of his press conference.

“Both quarterbacks did a nice job,” he said. “I don’t know that, again, I didn’t evaluate either one of them, but both of them are quality guys, both guys did what they needed to do to win the football game, and that was all that mattered.”

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