COLUMBIA, S.C. — Georgia came into Sunday’s game with a plan to run the football as much as it could. And it’s a good thing, because they certainly couldn’t throw it.
The Bulldogs’ 29 yards passing in the 28-14 win over South Carolina was the team’s fewest passing yards since 1990. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason was 5-of-17 through the air with an interception and a 7-yard touchdown.
There were reasons for that beyond the first-year starter just having a bad day. It was extremely windy, a condition accentuated in the open-ended stadium. But Eason was not having one of his better days regardless, according to his coach.
“Look, guys, when you go on the road in the SEC, I’ve been involved in this conference for 18 years, and it is tough, especially on a true freshman,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “He saw things out there that didn’t exist. He’s growing and we’ve got to help him do that with (a) how we call the game and (b) the way we run the ball and (c) the receivers catching the ball.”
Eason was victimized by at least three drops, one each by Javon Wims, Nick Chubb and Isaiah McKenzie. McKenzie’s would have been touchdown and the one by Wims — which might have been thrown too hard — resulted in a second-half interception.
But Eason also missed some wide open receivers as his passes often sailed well over the heads of his targets. He was sacked once and his long pass of nine yards is actually a run play as he forward-lateraled the ball to McKenzie on a jet sweep.
“We came into some tough conditions,” said flanker Terry Godwin, who had one thrown out of his reach as he ran wide open for the end zone on a streak route. “The wind was blowing hard. Those are some of the things we’ve got to learn to fight through and learn to play in. This was his first experience with that type of weather, so he’s going to grow as he gets older and experiences more times like this.”
Of course, South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth was playing in the same conditions. The senior was 26-of-36 for 288 yards with one interception.
At one point Eason was 3-for-13 for only 14 yards. He was getting a lot of instruction and feedback when he ran to the sideline, and in the huddle as well.
“I didn’t (think he got frustrated); I felt like he was with his feet and his actions, but not with his composure,” Smart said. “He got a little happy feet in the pocket at times. I think it’s a growing process.”
That said, Smart said they never considered turning to senior Greyson Lambert. Lambert set an NCAA record for completion percentage when he hit 24-of-25 against South Carolina last year.
“It’s always a consideration at every position, but we didn’t consider it. No,” Smart said.
Senior tackle Greg Pyke thought the young quarterback stayed cool throughout.
“I don’t think he let’s things like that affect him,” Pyke said. “We encourage him out there, all the guys do. If it’s a bad play, you’ve got to flush it. … He’s getting more comfortable out there. The kid’s only 18 years old.”