Neither quarterback Greyson Lambert nor linebacker Jake Ganus were even a fleeting thought for the Georgia Bulldogs this time last year. They were actually wearing different uniforms. But as the Bulldogs celebrated their 13-7 season-ending victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday, it was hard for them to imagine where they would be without the two transfers.
Ganus, a senior linebacker, signed with Georgia in January after UAB dissolved its football program. He came in and became the Bulldogs’ starter at Mike linebacker and finished as the team’s leading tackler with 96.
Lambert somewhat controversially landed Georgia’s job as the starting quarterback. Though he didn’t prove a weekly difference-maker — there was that record-setting performance against South Carolina in Week 3 — but he proved to be the Bulldogs’ steadiest option and went 9-2 as the starter. He finished the season completing 64.4 percent of his passes for 1,844 yards with 11 touchdowns and just two interception.
“He’s done some very good things,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said of Lambert’s two interceptions for the season. “You think about him and you think about Jake Ganus, here’s two guys that were not with our program a year ago, and they both jump into offensive and defensive leadership positions. It’s pretty special what those guys were able to do. I’m just glad they chose Georgia and I’m proud of what they did.”
Both first-year transfers had a major impact on Saturday’s game. Lambert was solid in executing a conservative game plan but coming through in critical situations. No play was more important to the outcome of the contest as the one Lambert was asked to make when the Bulldogs took over deep in their own territory with 3:24 to play.
Clinging to a one-score lead and starting on their own 7, offensive coordinator called for play-action pass that would require Lambert to pass out of his own end zone. He did and, in fact, hit his second progression on a play in which the first option is to hit the fullback in the flat. He saw Christian Payne was covered and noticed tight end Jeb Blazevich coming open in the middle of the field. Lambert hit Blazevich on his back shoulder for a 27-yard gain that got the Bulldogs out of the shadow of their own goal posts.
“I appreciate trusting in me and allowing us to go out there and try to execute that play,” said Lambert, who finished with 224 yards on 18-of-25 passing. “If we got it we knew it was going to help us big time.”
Ganus also had a major impact on Saturday’s game. He finished with a game-high 12 tackles and had a two-yard tackle for loss. It was his fifth game of double-figure tackles this season and third in a row.
But Ganus was almost remembered in this game for the flag that was thrown on him late in the game. He was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty on fourth-and-seven with the Yellow Jackets at the Georgia 47. It was am extremely questionable call as Ganus said he did not to the intended receiver on the play but was merely excitedly doing the incomplete signal as he followed him in coverage into the UGA sideline.
“Then saw a flag at my feet,” Ganus said. “It was chippy all game. There were multiple scuffles and no flags were thrown. But we won so it’s OK and the coaches weren’t mad at me. That’s what you worry about more than anything.”
While neither of the players were involved in last year’s game — in which the Bulldogs lost to Tech for only the second time in the previous 14 years in 30-24 in overtime in Athens — both of them said it was this year’s seniors and the other players that were involved in that game that they were playing for on Saturday.
“Just to see how they lost last year, and especially those seniors who I didn’t even meet and they lose to Tech on Senior Day in overtime and they got their hedges ripped out in front of them? I mean, that didn’t sit well with me,” Ganus said. “Even though I wasn’t here last year, I took that to heart. And then they kept showing that on the scoreboard and that just kept fueling us. I loved that, ’cause I was tired and then I wasn’t tired thanks to that.”