ATHENS – The subterfuge reached a ridiculous level in pregame announcements, and even the subjects of it were amused.
The starting quarterback for Georgia, went the announcement over the Sanford Stadium loudspeaker, would be Faton Bauta … or Greyson Lambert … or Brice Ramsey.
“We were all laughing,” Lambert said after the game. “That was hilarious.”
In fact Lambert had been told Friday night that he would be starting, and Ramsey was told he would also be playing, then the one with the “hot hand” would stay in. By the end Lambert, though hot would be an overstatement, may have re-claimed the job he held the first seven weeks of the season.
The numbers weren’t eye-popping for either quarterback:
Lambert was 6-for-13 for 64 yards and one touchdown, a catch-and-run by Keith Marshall.
Ramsey was 4-for-6 for 26 yards.
But passing stats didn’t need to be big on a day Georgia rushed for 300 yards. It was finally the kind of day the Bulldogs had envisioned this season: Riding the run game while getting mistake-free football from the quarterbacks. There were no interceptions from either Lambert or Ramsey.
“Honestly just winning cures all, as they say,” Lambert said, making air quotes. “So if we just keep doing what we’re doing, keep winning, everything is gonna take care of itself.”
“It was a hot-hand kind of thing,” Ramsey said of what he was told by the coaches. “That was about it. We were going series to series and doing whatever we needed to do.”
The plan going in was to give Lambert and Ramsey close to an even number of snaps. The thinking, according to coach Mark Richt, was to take pressure off the starter, but also make it a competition.
“So instead of just saying, It’s all on you, (we said), Hey you’re gonna play some, you’re gonna play some. You get a TD on this drive, hey give you another one. If you struggle we may put the other guy in for a minute. But don’t worry you’ll be back in more than likely,” Richt said. “So we just wanted to create a little competition but also create some buffer for them a little bit too.”
Brian Schottenheimer, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, wasn’t ready to proclaim a plan going forward quite yet. He used the “we’ll look at the film” standby. But he acknowledged that when Georgia got a bigger lead “we felt good about Greyson in there.” Schottenheimer was also asked how, this late in the season, he thinks the quarterbacks are taking the emotional up-and-down status of their jobs.
“Greyson is certainly used to it. He did it at Virginia,” Schottenheimer said. “I don’t think any of them like it. They’d like to be the guy. But we’re just not to the point that we feel like that’s the best interest of us winning games. So that’s what we did.”
Lambert played the first four series, though the third and fourth came consecutively because of a muffed punt by Kentucky. Ramsey then got the next two series, then Lambert got the last one of the half, and it appeared a rotation was on.
But Lambert led the offense to scores on each of its first two possessions of the third quarter. That appeared enough to invoke the “hot hand” mantra, and Lambert returned for a fourth straight possession.
Lambert was pretty candid: His role Saturday was to be a game manager.
“We were able to run the ball pretty well, so that makes my job really easy,” Lambert said, chuckling. “And I’m just trying to not hurt us. Get us in the right plays.”
Ramsey did look pretty solid on his two possessions. His two incompletions – downfield to Isaiah McKenzie and a screen pass – did sail a bit. But his other four passes were on target, including a 13-yard completion to Mitchell, who fell to the ground but got right back up to make the catch.
“You’re obviously competing,” Ramsey said. “You want to make plays and not make mistakes. It brings good competition to the person who’s out there on the field knowing it’s in the back of your head. You’ve gotta perform, not make mistakes, and be smart with the football.”
Ramsey, the only scholarship quarterback yet to start a game, was asked if he thinks he’s gotten a fair shot to show what he can do.
“I’m not a coach, so I can’t really speak on that,” Ramsey said. “I feel like I’m doing what I need to do to benefit the team.”