Georgia QB Jake Fromm steps in for Eason, handles first game with aplomb
It was expected Jake Fromm would play this season. But no one could have predicted how quickly he’d be pressed into service.
Less than 10 minutes into Saturday’s opener against Appalachian State, Georgia starting quarterback Jacob Eason ran toward the sideline, hoping to make something out of a play gone awry. But Appalachian State defensive tackle Myquon Stout was there, too. He hit Eason well out of bounds and was assessed a personal foul.
The Mountaineers lost 15 yards. The Bulldogs lost their quarterback.
So on came Fromm, the highly touted true freshman. From the moment he stepped on campus, coaches and teammates have raved about his talent, praising a poise well beyond his years. Of greater import, he picked up Jim Chaney’s offensive scheme at a pace few would expect from a player so young.
Given the circumstances, Fromm fared well, completing 10 of 15 attempts for 143 yards and a touchdown as the Bulldogs eased past the Mountaineers 31-10.
Fromm did exactly what was asked of him: He played within the constraints of the offense, doing so as efficiently as the coaches could have hoped — note that he finished with a quarterback rating of 168.7. He connected on 8 of his first 11 passes and led the Bulldogs on three consecutive touchdown drives in the first half.
His objective when he took to the air was to avoid mistakes.
Consider that mission accomplished.
But let’s face facts.
Say Fromm had started the game instead of coming on in relief. Does anyone think the final score would have been much different? Regardless of who plays quarterback, one expects Georgia to easily dispatch of a team like Appalachian State. (The Mountaineers’ past showings against Michigan and Tennessee notwithstanding.)
So the result itself isn’t newsworthy. The only real question was the margin of victory. Fromm’s raw numbers aren’t all that significant, either.
What’s more pertinent to focus on is what Fromm didn’t do Saturday.
He didn’t appear overwhelmed by the moment. He didn’t botch any snaps. Yes, he might have forced a throw or two in the red zone, where windows are tight and open for a split second. Still, he didn’t throw an interception. He didn’t have to put the team on his back because that isn’t needed against a team from the Sun Belt.
And it didn’t hurt that Fromm never felt scoreboard pressure.
Georgia’s defense, expected to be among the nation’s best, did its job Saturday, completely suffocating the overwhelmed visitors. The Mountaineers managed 284 yards of total offense — and had less than 200 yards and just seven first downs through three quarters. Not surprisingly, their 10 points came in garbage time, scoring twice in the final six minutes with the Bulldogs’ top defenders on the bench.
Oh, and don’t forget about Georgia’s dynamic duo in the backfield, as Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined to carry the ball 31 times for 183 yards and three touchdowns.
But Saturday’s game will center around Georgia’s quarterbacks.
The Bulldogs and their fan base were robbed of seeing how much progress Eason had made from the end of last season. All they got Saturday was nine minutes and three throws, one completion and three yards, two carries and a knee injury.
How long he’ll be out isn’t known. Afterward, all Georgia coach Kirby Smart knew was that Eason had suffered a sprained knee.
“Right now we don’t know the extent passed that,” Smart said. “We don’t know how long. We’ll know more tomorrow.”
Smart refused to speculate whether Eason would be ready to play next week, when Georgia tangles with Notre Dame in its first trip to South Bend.
But Smart sure liked what he saw from Fromm — even if it was exactly what he expected.
“There’s not been a moment,” Smart said, “that’s been too big for Jake Fromm.”
That composure was on full display Saturday. Undoubtedly, it was an impressive showing from a player in his first game.
One could say Fromm handled his college debut with aplomb.