Lawrence Cager was many things on Saturday — catalyst, Mr. Reliable and Georgia's Playoff savior
I’m assuming that as Kirby Smart sat down with his family to eat an electric chair-sized meal from Waffle House on Saturday night, he turned to them and repeated a line from the climax of the film “Billy Madison.”
“Man, I’m glad I called that guy.”
“That guy” is Lawrence Cager. It was easy to forget about the Georgia receiver heading into Saturday’s de-facto SEC East Championship in Jacksonville. After all, he was injured the previous 2 games. His return wasn’t talked about like Florida’s injured returnees Jon Greenard, Jabari Zuniga and Kadarius Toney.
But by day’s end, though, it was undeniable how badly Georgia missed Cager the past couple of games. He was everything Jake Fromm and the Dawgs could have hoped for with Playoff hopes on the line — reliable, clutch and efficient.
Those 3 words haven’t been used to describe Georgia’s offense very much this year, and especially not in the loss to South Carolina when Cager was injured. Part of that was because with the offseason dismissal of Jeremiah Holloman, Georgia was trying to become the first team to make the Playoff after losing its top 5 receivers from the previous season. In this game last year, Holloman provided the difference for Georgia while Cager was wearing a Miami uniform.
On Saturday, few players in the country were more valuable than Cager. On a day in which 5-star Georgia receivers Demetris Robertson and George Pickens were held to a combined 3 catches for 28 yards, Cager had a career-high 132 receiving yards.
This back-breaking touchdown put the exclamation point on his career day:
The fans in red are very excited, the fans in blue are not. pic.twitter.com/sBUgXBpIxH
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 2, 2019
How fitting that Florida forgot about Cager on that play.
(They didn’t prevent him from catching the ensuing 2-point conversion, either.)
Including Saturday, Cager has a touchdown and at least 5 catches in 3 of his past 4 Georgia games. Call me crazy, but that sounds like a go-to receiver.
When it was 3rd down, Jake Fromm called Cager’s number. A lot. He did so on Georgia’s first 3rd down of the game, a crossing route in which Cager caught the ball in space well short of the sticks and picked up 15 yards to move the chains. He had 3 3rd-down conversions by himself, which was more than Florida had all day.
Cager came into Saturday leading the country with 9 catches on 10 contested attempts (via College GameDay). Watching Fromm struggle in Cager’s absence the past couple of weeks, it was evident that Georgia didn’t have another receiver who was trusted to make contested catches.
That 52-yard score was the furthest thing from a contested catch, but on a day in which Fromm needed someone who could be a possession receiver against that loaded Florida secondary, Cager was that guy.
And before he did what he did Saturday, Cager was the guy who Georgia needed in that inexperienced receivers room. While Cager was sidelined, Smart praised his impact on the younger receivers. Smart used words like “mature” and “impact” to describe Cager.
How about another one — “toughness.” After all, the guy did separate his shoulder earlier in the year and he’s just 3 weeks removed from suffering a rib injury.
Um, about that.
Lawrence Cager: “I was going to play even if I had a broken leg.” Cager had missed time with shoulder and rib injuries.
— Anthony Dasher (@AnthonyDasher1) November 2, 2019
Thankfully for Georgia, Cager’s leg wasn’t broken. Both of them were working just fine all afternoon. With plenty of plays lined up against CJ Henderson, who might be the best cornerback in the country, a broken leg probably wouldn’t have been passable.
But in many ways, that effort was exactly what Georgia had been missing as many (myself included) questioned if this team was bound to fork the division over to Florida.
Cager signed with Georgia for his final year of eligibility to play in games just like that. Not a single Georgia receiver who caught a pass in last year’s Cocktail Party was on the field this year. That includes the aforementioned Holloman, who had his coming-out party against the Gators.
Speaking of Holloman, there was irony in Cager’s performance Saturday. When Cager was at Miami back in Nov. 2016, he actually hosted Holloman on his recruiting visit. Go figure that 2.5 years later, Holloman hosted Cager at Georgia when he was deciding his next home as a grad transfer.
But wait, there’s more!
Who recruited Cager to go to Miami out of high school? It was then-Hurricanes offensive coordinator James Coley. Coley, now as Georgia’s offensive coordinator, has been under scrutiny recently for the Dawgs’ offensive struggles during his first season as the team’s play-caller.
Cager’s performance certainly took some heat off Coley, who would’ve had a long trip home had Georgia’s offense sputtered in a losing effort.
That didn’t happen, though.
Instead, I’m sure Coley sat down with a smothered and covered dinner of his own as he mentally recapped Saturday’s season-saving win and had a thought that was similar to Smart’s.
“Man, I’m glad I called that guy.”