I guess they call it the ‘Show Me State’ for a reason. In a game where Georgia squandered opportunity after opportunity, their quarterback, not their defense, not their running back, made the plays when the Dawgs needed it most.
Kirby Smart’s decision to start Jacob Eason was not made public this week, instead reporters had to clamor in the press box, chattering about who was taking first team reps in warm ups. Well, it certainly proved to be the right call. Georgia seemed to have found a consistent signal caller for the first time since Aaron Murray hobbled off the field on a torn ACL after throwing the last of his SEC Record 121st career touchdown pass.
The true freshman’s play is garnering a lot of attention from his teammates. They’ve experienced the quarterback woes as much as anyone over the past 2+ seasons. “He’s growing up in front of our eyes,” said Junior Linebacker Davin Bellamy.
I had begun to answer my pregame questions in the press box last night as time dwindled. As #10 began to mount a serious drive late in the fourth quarter, I slowly found myself deleting chunk after chunk of my article as Eason began to pick apart my analysis better than he picked apart a young Missouri defense.
While Georgia did emerge victorious, 28-27, and answered one glaring question, there is still plenty to address before the Dawgs head down to Oxford for an early morning showdown with a very talented team, absolutely desperate for a victory.
HAHAHAHAHAHA. I think Georgia fans all got the answer they’ve long been waiting for in Jacob Eason. Not only was he 29/55 for 308 yards and 3 TD’s, Georgia finally looked comfortable in the passing game. If last night was indicative of what is to come, Georgia fans – stay on the edge of your seats, this kid could be special.
-What will the role of Sony Michel be this week?
I predicted a big game for Georgia on the ground and boy was I wrong. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel only combined for 100 yards, but honestly, Michel looked like the more comfortable back. It’s good to see that #1 appears to be fully healthy and prepared to take on a full workload. As I’ve addressed plenty of times on the show, Georgia has to put the running game and the passing game together to beat the better teams on their schedule. If they continue to go into games and operate in only one dimension of the offense, they will be snuffed out as a fraud sooner rather than later.
-Will we see Mecole Hardman in action?
This one was interesting. Mecole Hardman was actually in on kickoff and punt coverage against Mizzou, but did not see the field other than that. (Elijah Holyfield was also seen on the front line on the kickoff return team). After J’Mon Moore torched Juwan Briscoe for almost 200 yards and 2 TDs in the first half, it was thought that a shift at corner would occur, meaning playing time for some of Georgia’s younger DB’s, one of which being Hardman. They stuck with Brisoce and it ended up paying off (he had an INT and a fumble recovery in the 2nd half). The bottom line in terms of these talented freshman: Georgia must put teams away early to allow these guys to gain some experience. Winning this game by 2 touchdowns would have allowed guys like Hardman, DeAndre Baker, and Tyrique McGehee some legitimate game experience.
-What will the offensive line look like?
Bad. That’s how it looked. This is probably the biggest point of concern for the Dawgs moving forward. Tyler Catalina just does not look like he is prepared to take on SEC defensive ends week in and week out. Charles Harris consistently burned him and for the second straight week, Catalina looked like he was going to need an oxygen tank on the sidelines. Surprisingly, the line was pretty solid on pass protection, but the push in the running game was more non-existent than a national championship trophy in Columbia, South Carolina. The Dawgs biggest issue: they have three great offensive linemen (Pyke, Wynn, and Kublanow) and two very average offensive linemen (Catalina, and the combination of Sims/Gaillard). Georgia has had true freshman step up in just about every single position group. It may be time to give some of them a shot up front.
-Matchup to look for?
I said before the game that my matchup to look for was Missouri’s physical wide receivers versus Georgia’s undersized corners. For 3+ quarters, that appeared to be a 100% accurate assessment. Fortunately, the secondary (primarily Quincy Mauger) stepped up in the second half, only allowing 128 total yards while forcing 5 turnovers (Aaron Davis and Dom Sanders forced the fumbles, Briscoe had an INT and Mauger had two INTs). The secondary is young, but they make adjustments very well and are generally still a very young group. They need to improve on their rotations and defending the hurry up offense, but there is a lot to be liked by the back five for the Dawgs.
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I said 27-14 Georgia. I thought they would get out to an early lead and then coast into next week on the backs on Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. It was quite the opposite actually. I don’t think anyone could have predicted a true freshman QB, in his first road start, to throw the ball effectively 55 times and lead clutch drive after clutch drive for the Dawgs. But, that’s why you play the game. Georgia gets a much-needed victory to move to 3-0 and a 1-0 mark in conference play. With a Eastern Division that is absolutely wide open, Georgia has as good a shot as any to return to Atlanta.