Lambert good but didn’t do enough to cement starting job

Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert throws while under pressure from Louisiana-Monroe defenders during the first quarter at Sanford Stadium in Athens. Georgia won 51-14 in a game shortened because of lightning. (Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com).

ATHENS – The first lightning delay in Georgia’s opening game against Louisiana-Monroe Saturday provided an early opportunity to settle this quarterback debate. All Mark Richt had to do was open the locker room and wait to see if either Greyson Lambert or Brice Ramsey had the nerve to walk out of the room and onto field, stand on the “G” in the middle of Sanford Stadium and look to the sky with outstretched arms and yell, “I am your starter! I cannot be defeated!” And then hope not to be turned into a pile of ashes resembling Wile E. Coyote or a Braves’ relief pitcher.

Alas, there were no bolts Saturday. At least none in the metaphoric sense.

Lightning suspended the game for one hour in the third quarter. There were more flashes in the sky in the fourth. That, combined with a runaway score of 51-14, logic and human decency, prompted officials and coaches to end the game with 9:54 remaining rather than sit out another long delay.

So officially, it was a technical knockout.

It was fortunate for Georgia the game was stopped because Louisiana-Monroe was paid $1.2 million for this beating and when the second suspension came, they were thinking of asking for time-and-a-half.

But this lopsided win settled little in Georgia’s quarterback dilemma. Greyson Lambert was good, not great. He threw a couple of touchdown passes (he can thank the contortionist, Malcolm Mitchell, for one of them). But there were also too many three-and-outs and Lambert fumbled once (Nick Chubb and his Heisman hands recovered) and he had two passes knocked down, which shouldn’t happen when a quarterback stands 6-foot-5 and has only 12 attempts.

“Both of those guys I was throwing to were open,” said Lambert, who completed 8 of 12 passes for 141 yards. “Their defensive linemen made good plays on that. I’ve got to get the ball over them.”

Mark Richt said Lambert “did a nice job.”

He also said: “Greyson’s our starter right now. We’ll go down the road and see how we progress.”

Which translates as, “I will declare no permanent starting quarterback until it’s time.” And it’s not time.

Lambert didn’t do anything to cement or lose the job. Brice Ramsey (2-for-2, one touchdown) didn’t get time to make an argument, but said afterward. “I still view it as a competition.” While Lambert is No. 1, it’s a designation in pencil. Nothing was decided Saturday and he’ll need to do more next week in Georgia’s SEC opener at Vanderbilt to secure the job.

Even he acknowledged of the quarterback competition, “It’s still undecided. … I’m fighting for my job every day.”

Imagine if Georgia didn’t have these puffballs to start the season with?

The weather, lightning and rain, was a bigger threat to Georgia than the opponent. Lightning first hit at 2:11 p.m. with 8:35 left in the third quarter. Players were sent to the locker room and the crowd dispersed. The game resumed after a one-hour timeout. God still had two timeouts left.

If nothing else, this opener went much better for Lambert than last year’s with Virginia. He was pulled against UCLA after two interceptions. On the season, he was a lukewarm quarterback (10 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 59 percent completion percentage) for a bad team. He lost his starting job in spring practice to backup Matt Johns (who also didn’t look all the great last season).

According to Cavaliers coach Mike London, the competition in spring “wasn’t close.” So Lambert left. Because he had graduated in three years, he had the option to transfer without having to sit out a year. So the guy goes from Virginia backup to Georgia starter with a Heisman candidate to hand off to.

The question is whether this works out for Georgia as well as it did for Lambert. It very well may. He is blessed with far more talent around him and better coaching than he had at Virginia. He had more credits than debits on his ledger sheet against Louisiana-Monroe, but you would like to think the debits wouldn’t be so obvious against a Sun Belt team that finished 4-8 last season.

The good included a nice 15-yard, play-action pass to Jeb Blazevich for Georgia’s second touchdown and a dart to Sony Michel in the seam that led to a 48-yard gain on another touchdown drive. He also threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell in the third quarter, though a great turn-and-catch by Mitchell made that possible.

The new quarterback certainly enjoyed the contrasting football atmosphere in Athens compared to Charlottesville, Va., as well as having the option to hand the ball to Chubb, Keith Marshall or Sony Michel.

“It’s awesome, watching guys run through holes that you could drive a Mack truck through,” he said. “That last drive I was in, I think it was 10 or 12 straight runs.”

Actually, it was 13 straight runs for 93 yards and a touchdown that made it 51-14. A quarterback’s job seldom is that easy.

NextShort takes: Lambert, lightning and the joy of Keith Marshall
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