Georgia QB Jacob Eason delivers on hype in splendid debut
As many expected, Jacob Eason made his debut in a Georgia uniform Saturday. Entering the game early in the second quarter, Eason took the field to a chorus of cheers.
It wouldn’t be the first time Eason would hear cheers, as the 5-star freshman quarterback delivered time and again for the Bulldogs in the 33-24 victory against North Carolina. He led Georgia on three scoring drives, completing 8 of his 12 pass attempts for 131 yards and a touchdown while looking poised playing in front of a frenzied crowd.
Eason’s first pass attempt for the Bulldogs ended with a 23-yard completion to receiver Terry Godwin on a bubble screen. It was a moment that could have been a highlight, but will be remembered as one of a handful of bright spots for Eason.
Down 24-14, Georgia faced a crucial point in the game early in the third quarter. North Carolina had stolen much of the momentum with back-to-back touchdowns, and the Bulldogs needed to respond.
Instead of opting for the veteran Greyson Lambert, the coaching staff went with Eason and he responded. After completing a 7-yard pass to Michael Chigbu for a first down, Eason went deep on consecutive third-down plays and drew pass interference penalties on both. The passes were into double coverage and perhaps ill-advised, but the results were a thing of beauty for Bulldogs fans aching to see a ball thrown deep down the field.
Once inside of the red zone, Eason delivered another first. On first down, the freshman quarterback completed a shovel pass to Isaiah McKenzie for a 17-yard touchdown, the first of Eason’s career. It was a drive the Bulldogs needed, delivered, in part, by the arm of its top recruit.
Georgia continued to utilize both of its quarterbacks, and coach Kirby Smart had compliments and criticisms for each after the gamed.
“Both kids competed hard in the game,” Smart said at the post-game press conference. “We struggled a little bit with the execution with Jacob in there, as far as getting in and out of the huddle and communicating and doing things, but he’s got some other strengths. I’m really proud of both of them, because I went to Greyson several times while Jacob was in there, and he was cheering for Jacob; he wanted him to do well.”
Later in the game, he would be called upon in another tight spot. Trailing 24-23, but with momentum on their side, the Bulldogs began a drive at their 17-yard line. Georgia advanced to its 33-yard line but faced a crucial third-and-five.
In that moment, Eason delivered one of the game’s top plays. Dropping back, he let a pass fly that found McKenzie in stride down the right sideline for a 51-yard play. It was the longest pass play for Georgia since the 2013 season and a sign that the Bulldogs may indeed have their quarterback of the future.
Eason’s pass put Georgia into field goal position, giving them a 26-24 lead. It was the Bulldogs’ first lead since the opening kickoff of the second half, but one they would not relinquish.
Many were disappointed when the coaching staff chose Lambert as the starter but understood that he provided the experience needed in a game like this. When it mattered, however, the Bulldogs gave Eason a shot to make a difference.
Whether his performance in Saturday’s victory was enough to earn Eason the starting job remains to be seen.
“There is no plan, right now,” Smart said of his quarterbacks. “Right now we’ll assess the tape, we’ll make another decision… we’ve got to figure all of that out.”
There is surely some work that still needs to be done, but for one night, Eason came through for a fan base longing to see him succeed.