Each week during the season, we re-watch the Georgia football game that week in order to gain more insight, observations and just plain make sure we didn’t miss anything. This week we search for more ways to explain why Georgia’s defense is dominant, look at the prowess of Jake Fromm on third downs, and some other things from the 41-0 rout of Tennessee.
Fromm in the clutch
Let’s not canonize Jake Fromm yet. He makes mistakes. But he’s getting them out of the way early.
That was the case in the freshman’s first career “road” start at Notre Dame, when he struggled at times but ultimately guided the team on the game-winning drive. In his second road game, Fromm struggled even more – and then he adjusted, leading the way with his feet.
The narrative that’s emerging with Fromm is that he doesn’t put up huge numbers, but he just wins. And he’s at his best when the team really needs it; Georgia has converted 44 percent of its third downs this year, a slight improvement over last year. At Tennessee, the Bulldogs were 7 for 13 on third downs when Fromm was in the game – and some of the misses weren’t Fromm’s fault.
Fromm scrambled for 12 yards to convert one third-and-long, and then on that drive scrambled for the 9-yard touchdown on third-and-goal. The touchdown pass to Javon Wims was on a third down, a score set up after Fromm hit Terry Godwin on a 24-yarder on third down.
Among the third-down failures: Mecole Hardman dropped what would have been a long completion, a good pass to Wims was knocked away and it looked like it could have been pass interference, and Fromm was sacked when no one picked up a blitzing middle linebacker.
Fromm also continues to manage the offense and lead the team in impressive fashion. There’s a reason teammates said he had the “it factor.” But he’s also a freshman, which means he also has the … well, you know:
- Fromm’s interception looked like it was just a poor throw, a couple feet ahead of the cutting Riley Ridley. Fromm may have been trying too hard to avoid the other defender in the passing lane and over-compensated.
- Fromm should have been picked off on his first pass, third down after the interception. He missed a wide-open Sony Michel streaking down the left sideline. Instead Fromm locked in on Isaac Nauta, who was in double coverage and slipped and had a linebacker coming out over top. You can see Kirby Smart reaming out Fromm on the sideline immediately after the play.
- Then Fromm should have been picked off on the batted ball, on second down of Georgia’s third series. It looked like Fromm just misfired while trying to hit Wims cutting across the field.
But credit Fromm for his bounce-back: He shook off a couple poor throws to make a couple good ones and lead a scoring drive to make it 10-0.
Incidentally, both times Fromm scrambled for big gains, including the touchdown, it looked like the defense wasn’t even accounting for the possibility of him running. No linebackers spying the scramble or anything. That may change now, assuming Fromm continues to play. Which brings us to …
Jacob Eason’s brief return
The camera caught Smart and Jacob Eason having a conversation on the sideline before Eason went in. Smart wasn’t asked about it afterwards, but he did say he was happy to give Eason a chance to get the rust off.
Eason went in with the second team offensive line: Sean Fogarty was snapping to him, freshman Justin Shaffer was at left guard, Pat Allen at right guard and the tackles were Aulden Bynum and Ben Cleveland.
The one pass that Eason threw, on third-and-goal, was too high or else it would have been a touchdown to Jayson Stanley. It may have just been rustiness. But whether or not Smart has made a decision on who the starter is going forward, getting Eason some action seems wise. He needs to get confidence back in that knee.
Other offensive notes
Tennessee was keying on the run early, stacking the box, and it was working: Georgia only had 20 yards on 8 carries over its first six drives. And six possessions isn’t a small number – that’s where a great defense helps an offense, buying it time to figure things out.
Which it did.
Nick Chubb got two straight opportunities to stretch the field, first on a misdirection – three receivers to the right, then Chubb got a shotgun handoff and went left for 14 yards. Then Chubb got another 23 yards to the left when the Bulldogs rushed the snap, and the offensive line won their one-on-one blocks, giving Chubb time to cut upfield.
Six plays later Georgia was facing third-and-7 and gave D’Andre Swift his first carry, and he went 22 yards to the other side of the field.
“Before that point we were just trying to mix things up. Then we held it up one drive and just said we were going to run the ball,” Chubb said. “I started off, I busted one open, and after that things got rolling. And it was great play-calling, great execution.”
- Right guard Dyshon Sims’ man was able to get off the block and tackle Chubb on the first play, and assisted on the tackle on the second play. Those were on runs to the left side. Solomon Kindley went in at right guard on the third drive and stayed in there until the fourth quarter.
- Isaiah Wynn was beat one-on-one for Tennessee’s first sack of the game. It happened really quickly, so not sure Fromm could have done too much about that one.
- Michel continues to be Georgia’s best blocker among the tailbacks. When Fromm hit Godwin for an early 24-yard pass on third down, it was largely because Michel picked up the blitz.
- A lot of people wrote after the Wims touchdown that he beat Shaq Wiggins, the former Georgia cornerback, but it would have taken a very heady play by Wiggins, as Georgia stacked the receivers and set up the height mismatch – 6-foot-5 vs. 5-foot-10. Wiggins never really had much of a chance if Fromm threw it high enough, and he did.
- Swift’s 22-yard run looked to be about 12 yards of Swift just dragging defenders before he finally went down. Fast and hard to bring down is quite a combination.
Defense – what else can you say?
Here’s the underrated part of Georgia’s defense: The line gets such good push that it frees up the linebackers and defensive backs to roam and attack the ball. That goes for passing downs too. For instance, Georgia only rushed four on Tennessee’s first third down. It still got pressure and forced Quentin Dormady to throw it short of the marker.
Georgia’s talent and depth on the defensive line is a big reason it’s controlling the line of scrimmage. Tyler Clark and John Atkins are having very good years, as are David Marshall, Jonathan Ledbetter and Michail Carter and Malik Herring are coming on too.
Trent Thompson would be a tough loss, but Tyler Clark is really good. He had a tackle-for-loss in which there were initially two blockers on him, one left and Clark pushed the blocker back and then grabbed the tailback by the legs and brought him down.
A few more bullet points:
- Lorenzo Carter’s fumble recovery, two plays after the Fromm interception, looks much better on second glance. This wasn’t just someone hopping on a free ball. Carter goes from seeing the ball on the ground to leaping towards it in a milli-second, as if he’s done it a million times. A great, underrated play by Carter.
- Davin Bellamy beat his man one-on-one off the edge for his sack late in the second quarter.
- The Tyrique McGhee interception was both a poor throw and a heads-up play by McGhee. On first glance it just looked like a bad throw, but on second glance – and after talking to McGhee after the game – McGhee actually does a great job of staying with the receiver: McGhee was lined up about 10 yards behind the line while Tennessee bunched three receivers near the slot. McGhee saw where the play was going and jumped on the pass. Of course, a quicker decision by the quarterback and a faster throw probably avoids the interception.
- Georgia’s secondary could still be vulnerable to a good pocket quarterback. But it didn’t face one this week. When Dormady did have a pocket, he managed a couple good throws, including a third-down conversion early on. But those times were few and far between, Dormady couldn’t take advantage when he had time, nor could he fit passes into really tight windows. He also overthrew receivers on quick and deep passes alike.
- J.R. Reed’s interception, off a batted ball, came off an underthrow by Dormady, who also underthrew a deep ball on the second series of the game. McGhee was there, but if the receiver doesn’t have to pull up for what was essentially a 50-50 ball, that could have been a big play. And Dormady underthrew yet another receiver in the third quarter on a deep fly pattern, allowing McGhee to knock it away.
- In CBS pregame intro, you see Josh Dobbs and Peyton Manning. If Tennessee had either this might have been a game.
- Georgia tried to block Tennessee’s second punt, leaving only one blocker downfield for Mecole Hardman, and he still had an 18-yard return to up near midfield.
- Credit to CBS for showing the Butch Jones “fake news” rant at the outset of the show. As ridiculous as that made Jones look, CBS may be a broadcast partner with the SEC but it didn’t ignore it. And by the way, based on the conversations in the press box, no Tennessee reporters seemed particularly intimidated by Jones’ rant.
- Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, according to Gary Danielson, said Georgia’s backfield is so deep that fifth-stringer Elijah Holyfield would be “starting for a lot of teams in this conference.”
- Just to review: Tennessee had a center snap the ball off his own buttocks, had a punter kick the ball into a Georgia player’s face mask.
For a lot of people, this game was a major test for Georgia. It was a gauge for how much more mature the team really is, and whether coaches and players are all on the same page. After getting up for bigger games early, would it put out the same effort against a weaker opponent on the road? Well, the question was answered.
That doesn’t mean pitfalls don’t await between now and the December. Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech in particular.
But it’s one thing for the Bulldogs to be 5-0. That could have been predicted before the season began. It’s the way they have done it, passing the eye test with flying colors. This team looks like the real deal.