208 yards, zero touchdowns and no interceptions. To the naked eye, Jacob Eason’s statline seems very mediocre. But the numbers don’t always tell the story. For Eason, the 13-7 win over No. 9 Auburn showed why he was often regarded as the top quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class.
All season, Eason hasn’t been afraid to let it fly. Often times though, he would put it just out of reach of his receivers. One thing that was consistent was his inconsistency, but against Auburn, Eason was firing on all cylinders. He added some much-needed touch to his deep ball, allowing him to compete three 20-plus-yard passes. He could have had two more, but an offensive holding call and a missed pass interference call negated kept him from completing them.
While his physical talent played a significant role in those passes, his teammates attributed it more to the connections he’s been building with his receivers over the course of the season.
“It’s all about the quarterback-wide receiver connection,” wide receiver Terry Godwin said. “He has a connection with everybody now, and he can go to any receiver that we have.”
But it wasn’t anything they did in practice this week that got Eason clicking, all his work he’s put in this season just kind of came together tonight.
“I think it’s just him settling in,” offensive lineman Tyler Catalina said. “This is his ninth game, and every week he’s gotten better. He’s watched more film, he’s understands what defenses are doing. The kid just has unbelievable poise.”
Most true freshmen would be terrified of facing off against the 9th-ranked team in the country, but Eason relished the opportunity. As he has showed in prior games, Eason can demonstrate the poise of a seasoned veteran. Going up against one of the strongest defensive lines in the country, he didn’t cower. He stayed in the pocket and went through his progressions, leading him to easy completions. And in return, Eason led several long, sustained drives, giving the Dawgs almost double the time of possession against Auburn. UGA had only two drives with fewer than six plays. And Kirby Smart thought that was one of the biggest reasons why Georgia walked out of Sanford stadium with a win.
“People don’t give this enough credit,” Smart said. “Our defense got to rest, and going into this game that was my major concern because of their tempo. You negate their tempo when you eat clock with your offense… All of the things that we did wrong, we possessed the ball and that’s huge for a defense.”
Eason hasn’t been lighting up the box score by any means, but he hasn’t been putting Georgia in bad situations either. You would have to go back to last month at South Carolina — four games ago — to find the last time Eason threw an interception, something more seasoned quarterbacks can’t manage.
It’s never been a question of if Eason could would be able to step up, but rather when he would. He was on a timer, ticking down the time until he broke out. And thankfully for Georgia fans, it looks like that time has come.