'Third and Grantham' is coming for Jake Fromm. How will he handle it?
“Third and Grantham.”
You know it’s coming on Saturday. Jake Fromm knows it’s coming, too.
It’ll be a third-and-long play in which Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham puts Jachai Polite or Vosean Joseph in a spot to get a clean rush on the Georgia quarterback. Get rid of the ball quickly to an open receiver and watch Mecole Hardman make a big play after the catch, or get swallowed whole and watch the Gators get more and more confident.
Those moments Saturday could define Georgia’s season.
When the Dawgs and Gators meet in Jacksonville, it’ll essentially be an elimination game in the SEC East. The winner will keep control of its destiny and the loser will likely have to wait until next year to make a trip to Atlanta (not to overlook the Georgia-Kentucky matchup the following Saturday).
That’s not to say that Fromm’s handling of pressure is the only thing that will matter. Georgia’s ability to establish the run and force a key turnover or two on defense will have a say in who marches on.
But given what we’ve seen from both sides in the past month, it’s safe to say that “Third and Grantham” could make or break Georgia’s attempt to repeat as SEC champs.
Fromm already is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in the country. What he did last year to win the SEC and nearly win a national championship as a true freshman is why I don’t think there should be any question as to whether he should be starting.
Having said that, his struggles against LSU shed some light on his biggest issue this year. That is, he hasn’t been very good on third down. Like, at all:
On Third Down this season UGA has the 3rd most favorable distance in the SEC (6.2 yds) 9th best in the Power 5. Meanwhile, Jake Fromm has the SEC’s worst & 3rd WORST QBR in the entire Power 5 on Third Down.
There’s your QB stat of the day.
— Jordan Rodgers (@JRodgers11) October 16, 2018
Part of that is on a young offensive line that has had a lot of moving parts this year, and part of that is on a veteran quarterback who can’t take costly sacks like he did against LSU.
Speaking of LSU, remember what Grantham’s defense did against the Tigers in The Swamp a couple weeks ago? It felt like Joe Burrow had backside pressure nearly every third down. That’s why he was sacked 5 times and hurried 8 times. Between the moment that LSU snapped the ball on that late third down to the time that Burrow threw the pick-6 to Brad Stewart, CBS announcer Brad Nessler said one word.
That play, of course, was the back-breaker in that game. It was Burrow’s first interception of the year, and while it was a tremendous read by Stewart, that was a product of pressure. A rushed throw and a pair of Gators edge-rushers barreling down on him forced the ultimate mistake.
My question is, will Fromm have a moment like that? He certainly looked vulnerable against pressure against LSU.
On 3rd-and-4 or longer against the Tigers, Fromm was 2-for-9 for 23 yards, he was sacked twice and picked off once. No wonder Georgia never had a chance. Well, at least not after Fromm took that inexplicable sack to drive UGA out of field-goal range down 10 early in the fourth quarter.
Can Grantham make Fromm look that uncomfortable? It’s certainly possible. Florida’s front seven is just as capable of generating pressure as LSU’s.
Keep in mind that this is a big-time revenge game for Grantham, and not just because of the way things ended at Georgia for him. Last year, Fromm and the Dawgs had a big day against Grantham’s Mississippi State defense.
Who could forget that first play from scrimmage for Georgia?
Fromm ➡️ Godwin.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 23, 2017
That night, Fromm only had to pass on 3rd-and-4 or longer 3 times. With he and that Georgia ground game having the game that it had, Fromm never really got the full “Third and Grantham” experience (I know Georgia fans laugh at that after Grantham’s defense at UGA ranked No. 100 in scoring in 2013, but his units ranked No. 31, No. 27 and No. 15 the past 3 years).
Something tells me Fromm will have a different experience Saturday.
That’s not to say that he’ll struggle. But if the over/under on times Fromm has to pass on 3rd-and-4 is 3, I’m taking the over. Georgia hasn’t been consistent enough offensively for me to think that it’ll avoid those situations.
And to Grantham’s credit, nobody has been able to impose its will on Florida’s defense all year. The Gators have been as good as anyone at pinning their ears back and making big plays at opportune times (Florida is fifth in FBS in takeaways).
This is going to be a well-rested Gators team that has something to play for. The same could be said about Fromm, who has inevitably had to block out the Justin Fields chatter. The good news for Fromm is that he’ll have had 2 weeks to study up on Grantham’s blitzes. Figuring out how to evade the likes of Polite, Joseph, Jabari Zuniga and Cece Jefferson won’t be an easy task.
To this point, no SEC East foe has been able to truly apply pressure on the Dawgs since the start of 2017. In that stretch, Georgia is 10-0 vs. the East with a 410-143 scoring advantage (26.7 average margin of victory). To say that the Dawgs have been the cream of the crop in the division with Fromm as the starter would be an understatement.
Florida is going to do everything it can to apply pressure on Saturday. How Fromm and the Dawgs deal with it could determine if a torch is passed or if an old friend comes up empty.
Bring on the pressure.