It certainly wasn’t the starting debut that Jacob Eason dreamed about, nor was it exactly what the Georgia Bulldogs envisioned when they tabbed the true freshman to start in the second game of the season.
Nevertheless, it was a Georgia win and represented some valuable and much-needed experience for the 6-foot-6, 242-pound quarterback from Lake Stevens, Wash.
Eason threw an interception that was returned 91 yards and nearly flipped the game early in the fourth quarter. Then, after playing every snap to that point, Eason was replaced by senior Greyson Lambert for the final two offensive series of the game with the outcome hanging in the balance. Lambert came through with a huge third-down conversion on third-and-7 at the Georgia 10.
But neither the start by Eason nor the finish by Lambert will dictate which quarterback will be the main man when the Bulldogs visit Missouri next Saturday night. Ultimately, Georgia’s quarterback competition will continue this week.
“It could always change,” coach Kirby Smart said after the Bulldogs eked out a 26-24 win over a team over which they were favored by seven touchdowns. “It was never set this week until late, until we decided who was going to start. So it’s not going to be a set deal for us. We’re going to look and see who performs well during the week and who gives us the best chance to be successful. We have to make that decision as coaches.”
The final numbers looked like this: Eason was 11-of-20 for 204 yards and a touchdown, a 66-yard hook-up with Isaiah McKenzie. Eason was also sacked once. Lambert came off the bench for the 11th offensive series with 7:50 remaining in the game. In a run-first, clock-killing scenario, Lambert was 2-of-3 for 2 yards but had the 9-yard completion to Michael Chigbu that essentially allowed Georgia put the game away.
Asked why they switched to Lambert late, Smart said: “We thought Greyson would handle that situation better, which is 4-minute offense, which is trying to grind it out and get first downs. … Greyson was able to do that. We thought he would do that best.”
Lambert started Georgia’s season-opening win over North Carolina, with Eason coming into the game on the fourth series and then sporadically throughout the rest of the game. In this outing, the Bulldogs clearly intended to get Eason some much needed reps and let him work on his area of deficiency, which include his operation times for interpreting and communicating play calls.
Teammates said they felt Eason showed more composure and presence than he did in opener and generally played well.
“I didn’t see any jitters or anything,” junior tailback Nick Chubb said. “I thought he played hard. He’s still young, got a ways to go, but he played good for us today.”
Eason connected with Terry Godwin on a 36-yard completion that set up a Chubb touchdown on Georgia’s opening possession. Later, he hit Isaiah McKenzie for a first-down gain over the middle. McKenzie then shook a tackle, got a big block from fellow wideout Javon Wims, then rambled downfield to complete the 66-yard score.
“He’s not scared,” said McKenzie, who finished with 142 all-purpose yards. “He’s not scared to get in the huddle to sit in that pocket and throw the ball, take a sack, or anything. … He kept his composure, threw the ball well. He had couple of slip-ups, but that’s with any quarterback. He did well and I commend him for that, and I hope he gets better during the season.”
Neither Eason nor Lambert was made available for interviews after the game, so we’ll have to wait to find out how they feel the competition is going.
“We don’t have a settled position,” Smart said of the quarterbacks’ availability. “So I’ll continue to do that until we feel comfortable with Jacob with the media or Greyson as the quarterback.”
That will be another week – at least.