MEMPHIS, Tenn. – It was the final game of Jacob Eason’s freshman season, and of course the takeaway was his running ability. Seriously.
It wasn’t Eason’s passing ability that carried Georgia’s offense to victory in the Liberty Bowl. And while it may not have been his running ability alone, it sure did help: The quarterback’s scramble set up a 77-yard pass in the first half, he bought time with his feet a few other throws, and he scrambled for one long first down – and barely missed on another.
“Yeah in no case am I a dual-threat. I’m a pocket passer, I like to think of myself that way,” Eason said. “But when the opportunity presents itself I’ll definitely pull it back in.”
Actually, Eason’s scrambling ability has been a revelation: He also scrambled out of a potential sack at other points this season. But it really stood out on Friday: His 8-yard run in the third quarter, on third-and-6, extended a drive that resulted in a Georgia touchdown.
Earlier, he had a 15-yard scramble that was barely short of the first down marker.
“I’ve always known I was a bigger kid, that could push for the first down,” said the 6-foot-5 Eason. “I’ve always known I had it in me to, and today I figured I’d go scoot and get the first down. Coach has been harping on me, instead of sliding for the first down, go get the first down. That was in the back of my mind, and when the opportunity presented itself, I took it.”
One of the game’s other important runs was also by a quarterback: Brice Ramsey, who was in at holder on a field goal, went 11 yards on a fake field goal.
Eason is usually the holder. He smiled when asked if he was offended they didn’t use him for the fake.
“Nah, I’m not doing much special teams in practice, Brice is the punter,” Eason said. “They have the opportunity to look at the film and see exactly what they want to do with that situation. I’m glad we ran that, and I’m glad it worked.”
When head coach Kirby Smart was asked about Eason’s running, Smart grinned and pointed to the two tailbacks next to him on the podium: Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
“These two guys have been working with him on it – they’ve been over there teaching him where to cut, where to turn. They just didn’t teach him out to get a first down on like third-and-12, and leave me sitting there having to decide whether to kick it or go for it,” Smart said, alluding to the 15-yard run that was just short. “He’s got to understand where the sticks are. But he did a great job. … He scrambled for some first downs that were big momentum swings. So Jacob’s grown up.”
But then Smart brought up Eason’s passing: The numbers (12-for-21 for 164 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions) were okay, but deceiving. Many of the yards were by receivers after the catch, including McKenzie’s 77 yarder. Sony Michel’s 33-yard touchdown was mostly Michel after catching a short pass.
And Eason missed several open receivers throughout the day.
“I think he’d tell you that he missed some shots there,” Smart said.
Indeed he say just that.
“Yeah, I definitely missed a touchdown pass, frustrating. But that’s part of the game, learning from those experiences,” Eason said. “I missed a couple throws here and there that I’d love to have back. Those are the things that next year I’ve got to clean up on, and hit those throws in the flat when it’s necessary to do so – like today.”