ATHENS – The longest pass of Greyson Lambert’s Georgia debut wasn’t necessarily his best one. It did, however, show why he may succeed at Georgia.
Malcolm Mitchell did most of the work, leaping to catch a 28-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone, while fighting off a Louisiana-Monroe defender. But Lambert having Mitchell to throw to was another reminder that he definitely isn’t at Virginia anymore.
“This is going to be a lot of fun,” Lambert said, when asked what he was thinking after Mitchell’s catch.
Overall it was a good day for Lambert. He had a couple touchdown passes, didn’t make any big mistakes, and after the game Georgia coach Mark Richt confirmed that he would start again next week at Vanderbilt.
“Greyson’s our starter right now,” Richt said. “And we’ll just continue down the road and see how we progress.”
Lambert played all but one series on Saturday, though backup Brice Ramsey looked good in his one series: He threw a 20-yard laser that was caught by Terry Godwin, then showed poise in the pocket before dumping off to Sony Michel, who ran in for a 31-yard touchdown.
It wasn’t quite as spectacular a game for Lambert (8-for-12 for 142 yards), but he showed the steadiness that won him the job. He didn’t throw an interception, and had command of the offense, belying the fact his first practice at Georgia was a month ago.
“He’s a great competitor, he’s a great leader. In that huddle he took charge,” Mitchell said. “When we called the play he looked me in the eye. He said, ‘Let’s go.’”
“He had a really good day. He didn’t try to do too much. He did everything we asked him to do,” senior tackle Kolton Houston said. “He had poise. He took control of the huddle.”
Lambert’s mistake-free game was quite a change from his starting debut at Virginia, one year ago, when his two pick-sixes ruined his team’s chances to upset UCLA. He finished the year with more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10), one of the main reasons it surprised plenty of people that he was able to beat out Ramsey.
Including perhaps Ramsey himself, who spoke to the media Saturday for the first time since the decision was made.
“They just saw more out of Greyson, evidently,” Ramsey said. “I mean honestly I don’t know. I’m just here trying to work hard, trying to do what I can. …
“It’s making me work harder, I guess. I feel like I had a pretty good camp. But at the end of the day we’re all teammates, we’re all on the same team, we all want the same things. So I just gotta do what I can to contribute.”
Much of the faith in Lambert, though Richt and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have never said it publicly, is he can succeed with better talent around him. There’s not just Mitchell, but dynamic young receivers Godwin and Isaiah McKenzie and tight end Jeb Blazevich.
And of course being able to hand off to Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Keith Marshall is nice too.
“We’ve got a ton of great players here,” Lambert said. “And being able to hand it off to a stable of good running backs, and then being able to throw it to anybody and knowing they’ll make plays, and having a line that will stand in there and take their shots for you, it’s a lot of fun.”
Four of Georgia’s first five plays on Saturday were handoffs to Chubb. It remained a fairly conservative gameplan, but Lambert did get a chance to shine.
He fit a perfect pass into Blazevich for a 15-yard touchdown. The pass to Mitchell was also well-timed, even if Mitchell deserved most of the ultimate credit.
Lambert’s first incompletion was even a good play: Everyone was covered downfield and he rolled right and threw it out of bounds.
“Greyson did a nice job,” Richt said. “He’s been very, very sharp. He’s learned this offense extremely fast. He’s making good decisions, getting us in the right plays, the right protections, and guys respect that.”
The first rough spot came at the start of the second half: Lambert muffed a handoff to Chubb, who jumped on the ball to avoid the turnover. Then Lambert had balls batted down on second and third down, forcing a punt.
So it didn’t settle the quarterback competition. Far from it. But the constant evaluation and questions about job security are nothing new to Lambert now.
“I’ve been in this situation before,” he said. “So I’m a little more comfortable this go-around than I probably was last year, just knowing that I’m going to do what I can to help the team win, and I’m going to do my best in that regard.”