COLUMBIA, Mo. – After the final pass, the one that confirmed the beginning of his state among the pantheon of Georgia quarterbacks, Jacob Eason hugged about everyone on the sideline. This time, there would be no being pulled for the veteran. This time, there would be no lingering questions about the starter.
The Eason era has arrived.
“That kid’s amazing,” tailback Nick Chubb said. “He’s a young guy. Eighteen-year-old kid, and he came in here and won the game for us.”
For years, Georgia football had been about running the football behind guys like Chubb. And those days may not be quite gone yet. But when Eason led Georgia on a final touchdown drive to win it, hitting Isaiah McKenzie in the end zone on fourth-and-10 with his 55th pass of the night, he was the story.
Eason’s arm was never the question. It was whether he could manage the offense, calm his nerves, and have those intangibles. For one night, as he pushed Georgia to a 28-27 win at Missouri, he proved he was ready.
“When the kid’s slinging it, I don’t think he has any worries at all,” senior center Brandon Kublanow said. “Jacob was calm. First SEC game, I know I was nervous as hell. But he seemed real calm in the huddle. He managed the game well. Did a lot of things great. Very proud of him.”
“He came in the huddle, he kept his composure, he did his job,” McKenzie said. “He kept us up, and he encouraged us. He was very positive.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart did not allow Eason to meet with the media afterward. But the freshman did tweet a reaction a couple of hours after the game ended.
“Asked God for one more chance and he delivered!! Great win against a great Mizzou team,” Eason wrote, adding the hashtag “#DawgsOnTop.”
Eason’s final line: 29-for-55, 308 yards, three touchdown passes. There were negatives: One interception, which led to Missouri’s go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter, and he took four sacks.
Smart was asked how much Eason grew up in this game.
“You tell me,” Smart said, then answered it himself. “A lot. He grew up a lot. He learned a lot of things.”
Eason does have a lot to still learn, Smart added, pointing to his management of the huddle. He also ticked off some throws he felt Eason missed, including some on “layups.”
“But he hit the one layup that mattered,” Smart said.
A reporter asked whether Eason is now the starter. Rather than confirm what seems obvious, Smart went off on the media.
“Y’all want to make it a controversy. Y’all want to talk about it. I want to talk about how these guys competed. I want to talk about how Greyson Lambert helped on the sideline. I want to talk about all the good things about this win, and I don’t want to talk about the quarterback competition,” Smart said, adding that it should be about the team.
Lambert started the opener against North Carolina, and finished it when Georgia needed to run out the clock. Eason started and played until midway through the fourth quarter last week, but when Nicholls State drew within two, the coaches put Lambert back in to seal the game.
In the lead-up to their SEC road opener, there was never any official announcement on a starter. Eason just trotted out for the first play. And he stayed in there.
“We were ready to go with Greyson if we needed to,” Smart said. “We’re always going to be ready to go to Greyson if the kid struggles. The kid wasn’t struggling.”