In its two losses, Georgia has established plenty of obvious problem areas in need of fixing on both sides of the ball. Although that includes certain facets of Bulldogs rookie quarterback Jacob Eason’s game, it’s worth appreciating that the freshman has steadily been compiling some of the most righteous fourth-quarter throws in college football this season.
The fact that Eason has already proved himself to be an entertaining watch late in games isn’t a surprise. After all, the Lake Stevens, Wash. product was the No. 1 quarterback in last year’s recruiting class and was more or less already deemed the new savior in Athens before he even dazzled them with his deep-throw ability in the spring game. Even with head coach Kirby Smart giving everyone the usual quarterback-competition bullshit all the way up through the season opener against North Carolina, it was understood that Eason was going to usurp Greyson Lambert as the new starter before SEC play. Eason really seemed like he was going to be the next beefy, long-haired, gun-slinging bro Bulldog fans have yearned for every Saturday since their beloved Matthew Stafford left, but also because life is cruel and Nick Chubb can’t stay healthy and Georgia needed someone under center who can air it out.
He’s not there yet—his 16-for-36 performance in a Week 4 blowout loss to Ole Miss proved that much to be true. Even through Saturday’s game, Eason is still only completing 53.6 percent of his passes, including a paltry 43.2 completion percentage on third down, which wasn’t helped much when he went 4-for-7 with one interception on third down in the team’s loss to Tennessee. His offensive line isn’t doing him many favors, either, allowing 2.8 sacks per game, which is not great! Still, with all the imperfections that beset Eason and the Georgia offense, I’ll be damned if this kid isn’t fun as hell in the final 15 minutes.
The first time he really took center stage came in the fourth quarter of the Bulldogs’s 33-24 season-opening win against North Carolina. With eight minutes remaining and a third-and-5 facing the Bulldogs, Eason lined up in an empty backfield and took a short drop before unloading to Isaiah McKenzie, who was streaking down the sideline. The rookie dropped the ball in beautifully over a pair of Tar Heels and the junior speedster racked up 15 yards after catch thanks to the perfect ball, completing a 51-yard play that would lead to the go-ahead field goal.
Two weeks later, down 27-21 to Missouri with no timeouts and 1:34 remaining, Eason and Georgia faced a fourth-and-10 from the Tigers’ 20-yard line. The Bulldogs sent four receivers on seam routes; Eason again saw McKenzie creating separation and put just enough air on the ball to deliver McKenzie the game-winner. The Bulldogs probably shouldn’t have been in that situation considering it was Mizzou, but Eason’s heroics helped assuage those worries.
His latest entry came at the close of Saturday’s game against Tennessee. In the spirit of Marcus Paige’s double-clutch miracle 3-pointer, the rookie quarterback’s throw will be lost in the mayhem that was the final 10 seconds, but it deserves some appreciation as some of his finest work to date. This time, it was Riley Ridley, not McKenzie, that Eason picked out. Down 28-24 and with 10 seconds remaining, Eason roped a beautiful 47-yarder to the front-left corner of the end zone, hitting Riley in-stride for what the Bulldogs all thought was the miraculous game-winner. Unfortunately, one of those obvious issues from earlier—Georgia’s secondary is playing like shit this year—came back to bite them.
Like Paige’s shot, Eason’s throw deserved better; until next year, Bulldog fans will have to be content with his big-ass arm making jaw-dropping throws and once again coming up exactly one healthy Nick Chubb short of being actual SEC East contenders.