Photo Credit: John Paul Van Wert / UGA Athletics
God, if you're up there, it's me, Jacob...
Man, that Jacob Eason is pretty good, huh?
Georgia snapped out of its two-game losing streak on Saturday with a 27-24 victory over Kentucky in Lexington thanks to a last-second field goal from Rodrigo (aka GODrigo) Blankenship. However, while Blankenship scored the final points, it was Eason—who wasn't spectacular against Kentucky, passing for 245 yards and a touchdown, but only completed 17 of his 31 attempts—who engineered the final drive.
The score was tied 24-24, and the Bulldogs started the possession on their own 25 with 2:47 on the clock. From there, Eason methodically moved the ball down the field. He completed all four of his passes on the drive, including two 12-yarders to Javon Wims and a 16-yarder to Terry Godwin, to get to the UK 47. From there, a few rushes from Sony Michel put Georgia in range to get the win.
This isn't the first time Eason has come on strong to end a game this year. It's the second game-winning drive of his young career after his 20-yard TD pass to Isaiah McKenzie on fourth down to beat Missouri. There was also Georgia's final drive against Tennessee, which featured a bomb to Riley Ridley that should have been the the third game-winning drive of his career had it not been for... well, you know what happened next. If we're being charitable—and I always feel charitable after a win—I'll also give him some credit for the final drive against Vanderbilt. Eason completed a long pass on fourth down to keep that drive alive before terrible play-calling by Jim Chaney ended it.
Eason has proven to be so effective in the two-minute drill because it's the one time in the game he's forced to take what the defense gives him. For most of the game, it seems like he has an idea in his head of whom he wants to throw to and looks only that way from the snap, a common problem among young quarterbacks. But he seems to understand that isn't possible when the game is on the line and you have to score. He's somehow calmer when the pressure ratchets up. If the secondary is backing off, like Kentucky's did, he'll dink and dunk. If the secondary is pressing, like Tennessee's did, he'll look for a man to beat his defender and go long. He seems more deliberate and decisive in late drives, an attribute you only expect from the most seasoned quarterbacks.
There are still plenty of things for Eason to work on, of course. The most important of those, in my mind, is his accuracy on deep balls. Eason consistently overthrows or underthrows receivers who go long. And that really sucks, because he can throw the ball a quarter-mile. He has the arm strength to put the ball anywhere on the field. As he gets more accurate on those throws, it will create a whole new dimension for the passing game.
Then there are some things outside of his control, like the quality of the offensive line and his receivers. The line can't stop a car with a red light, and the receivers, as I established earlier this season, suffer from the worst-case of weiner fingers I've ever seen. Both of those units should improve along with Eason over the next few seasons. When they get close to playing the same level as Eason and Georgia's tailbacks—who finally got it going again with 215 yards on the ground—this offense could be dangerous. And even if they don't close that talent gap, Eason looks good enough to give Georgia a damn fine offense with his individual skill alone.
Auburn is next, and that will be a huge challenge for Eason. He had more time to pass against UK than he did against Florida, thanks to UK's relatively weak pass rush. Auburn has some of the best defensive linemen in America, though, and I guarantee they're licking their lips while watching film of Georgia's line. That could create another really bad day for Eason. But even if he does, if Georgia can keep it close until the end, and Eason has the ball with a chance to win, I wouldn't bet against him.