Where does Jacob Eason’s comeback rank among those in UGA history?
Jacob Eason engineered a memorable fourth-quarter comeback against Missouri on Saturday to help Georgia improve to 3-0.
The freshman quarterback delivered in his first start on the road and created a memorable moment in UGA history along the way.
Eason attempted 55 passes in the Bulldogs’ 28-27 win, a single-game school record by a freshman, but his most important pass was the final one, a 20-yard touchdown strike to Isaiah McKenzie on fourth down.
With little over three minutes remaining in the contest, Eason led Georgia on a 10-play, 80-yard drive to score the game-winning touchdown. It was a tremendous feat, and one that deserves to be compared to other great moments.
It’s important to keep perspective after a thrilling victory like Saturday’s. The comeback likely hasn’t preserved a championship season and didn’t knock off a Top 5 team, but it still has significance due to the moment and the players involved.
Because ranking moments in a team’s history can be subjective, let’s separate the various memorable comebacks into separate tiers. This should help place Eason’s moment among the others, without having to worry whether it should be No. 7 instead of actually No. 8.
Tier 1: Moments you tell your grandkids about
Buck Belue’s 93-yard touchdown pass to Lindsay Scott: Considered by many to be the greatest play in Georgia history, Belue’s pass to Scott not only earned a 26-21 victory over Florida but helped preserve the Bulldogs’ undefeated season. It also provided one of Larry Munson’s legendary calls.
Herschel Walker’s 1-yard touchdown dive: In back-to-back years, Georgia provided incredible comebacks against the Gators. Down 21-20 with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game, Belue orchestrated a 17-play, 95-yard drive that chewed up nearly eight minutes and culminated in a game-winning 1-yard touchdown leap by Herschel Walker.
David Greene’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Verron Haynes: The first signature win of Mark Richt’s UGA career came in the legendary “Hobnail Boot” game. With 44 seconds remaining in the game, the Bulldogs began their drive at the 35-yard line. David Greene moved Georgia down the field to the Tennessee 6-yard line. He found fullback Verron Haynes for a 6-yard touchdown pass with under 10 seconds remaining to secure the improbable 26-24 victory.
Kevin Butler’s 60-yard field goal: In the ’80s, Georgia and Clemson had one of the top rivalries in college football. There were many memorable moments delivered in these clashes, but Kevin Butler’s game-winning 60-yard field goal stands out. Georgia began their drive at the 20-yard line with just over two minutes left in the game, moving into position to let Butler shine with 11 seconds remaining and knock off No. 2 Clemson, 26-23.
Tier 2: Did that just happen?
David Greene’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Michael Johnson: Another memorable comeback from Greene helped the Bulldogs secure Richt’s first SEC East title. This drive bears resemblance to the one Eason just orchestrated. Georgia gained possession at its 41-yard line with 1:58 remaining. Greene led his team to the red zone before connecting with Johnson on fourth down to defeat Auburn 24-21 and secure the division title.
Aaron Murray’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Justin Scott-Wesley: One of the best Georgia games in recent memory, the Bulldogs prevailed in a 2013 shootout against No. 6 LSU. Aaron Murray and the offense began the game-winning drive on the 25-yard line with 4:09 left on the clock. Murray moved the Bulldogs to LSU’s side of the field before finding Justin Scott-Wesley down the left sideline for a 25-yard touchdown with 1:47 remaining to secure the 44-41 victory.
Jacob Eason’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie: Eason’s first true defining drive at Georgia started at his 20-yard line with 3:18 left on the clock against Missouri. Eason moved the Bulldogs into opposing territory but misfired on three passes before the Dawgs called timeout to set up a 4th-and-10 call. Eason found McKenzie in the end zone with just over a minute remaining to cap the 28-27 victory.
Matthew Stafford 3-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Massaquoi: Like Eason, Matthew Stafford delivered in a clutch situation during his freshman season. Against Georgia Tech, Stafford led the Bulldogs on a fourth-quarter drive that chewed up 6 minutes and 26 seconds and culminated in a 3-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Massaquoi to give Georgia the 15-12 victory.
Eason’s drive to secure the road victory against Missouri is important for a couple of reasons.
Most important, it shows that Eason has composure when the game is on the line and can deliver in those moments. Scouts can measure a player’s throwing ability and even his decision making during the course of a game. Rarely, however, do people know how someone will react in those win-or-lose situations before they happen.
Georgia also won a game on a day when Missouri dared Eason to beat them. With very little run support, Eason had to carry the offense for much of the night. It wasn’t pretty at times — he missed six consecutive throws before the game-winner — but he led the Bulldogs to a victory.
This should only help Georgia moving forward. As the season wears on, teams will likely come to respect Eason’s ability and ease up on loading the box. Saturday’s victory was the first step in helping accomplish that.
The Bulldogs’ galvanizing comeback against Missouri might not go down as one of that all-time great comebacks, but given the circumstances, it deserves its proper due.
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.