JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There is nothing that stands out as impressive on Jacob Eason’s stat line from Saturday’s game. Georgia’s freshman quarterback completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes (15-of-33) and threw for 143 yards and a touchdown.
But placed into the context of what that Eason was having to deal with from Florida’s nationally-renown defense, those who left the Bulldogs’ locker room following the 24-10 loss Saturday were feeling pretty good about his work.
“With everything going on and with him being a freshman, I think he handled it very, very well,” sophomore receiver Terry Godwin said. “He came out and, even when he was being pressured, he scrambled and made plays, especially against a defensive front like this. He thought he did all right.”
Said senior center Brandon Kublanow: “I thought Jacob did a great job. He stayed strong, took a couple of hits here and there, made some plays on his feet. He did a great job. We just have things to work on and that’s what we’ll do.”
Eason, a true freshman from Lake Stevens, Wash., who was starting his seventh game in a row, was not made available for comment after the game.
Officially, Eason was sacked twice. But he was hit a lot more times than that and was left running for his life several other times. The Gators recorded 16 quarterback “hurries,” or “pressures.” They also had eight tackles for loss.
In fact, an 8-yard run by the 6-foot-6, 242-pound freshman Eason was Georgia’s longest dash of the day. And that was a big part of the problem. The run-based Bulldogs managed just 21 yards on 19 carries in the game, which allowed the Gators to come hard after the quarterback on third-and-long plays.
“You know, I think he’s growing up,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “He’s seeing it the hard way. That’s probably the best pass rush he’s seen, as far as the caliber of those guys. I think he got a little too deep on some drops, which negatively affected the tackles. He’s got to learn to trust the pocket and step up. Now he did create some time today. He did run the ball. He’s got to figure out when it’s time to run and when it’s time to throw.”
It was a tough task for sure. The Gators came into the contest leading the SEC in scoring defense, total defense, and passing defense. Their two cornerbacks, Jalen “Teez” Tabor and Quincy Wilson, both project as first-round NFL draft picks. Safety Marcus Maye is a first-team All-American.
Playing man coverage most of the game, Florida was able to load the box and stuff Georgia’s run, then let its corners suffocate the receivers. The Bulldogs knew that, but were hoping Eason and his big right arm might make them pay occasionally.
He did connect with freshman Riley Ridley on a 14-yard scoring toss, but couldn’t never hit “the big one.”
“Make no mistake about it: Those two corners can be beat,” Smart said. “That rush they’ve got, it’s hard, it’s tough, it’s challenging. We told them, ‘we’re going to try to attack and go get one of these guys.’ We didn’t have the ball enough to do it a lot. And that’s not all on the O-line, some of that’s on Jacob.”
Heading into the ninth game of the season, Eason has now has completed 128 of 241 passes for 1,509 yards with 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. For what’s it’s worth, that’s ahead of the pace established by Matthew Stafford, the last true freshman to start at quarterback for the Bulldogs.