ATHENS — Jake Fromm was down after the G-Day Game on Saturday. Not down like “woe is me” and “everything was terrible.” More like he was saying all the right things but deep down was kind of bummed.
Fromm’s Red Team lost to the Black team 21-13, and that was his chief gripe. But he also didn’t play up to the level we saw most of last season when he was leading the Bulldogs to a 13-2 record, SEC championship and national runner-up finish.
To start with, he never threw 2 interceptions in a game all year. Well, up until the last game of the year. He had that many on Saturday, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and a couple of other throws that maybe could have been picked.
His final line was 19-of-38 passing for 200 yards. He finally connected with Riley Ridley on a 57-yard touchdown pass with 1:42 to play in the game. But just the fact that Fromm was still in the game that late speaks to the struggles.
“You want some throws back,” said Fromm, who completed 62 percent of his passes and threw only 7 interceptions all season last year. “I thought I threw a couple of deep balls pretty well, but at the end of the day I could definitely can play better. There’s no excuse for that. I can’t wait to come back out and get with the guys in camp and keep going.”
Conversely, Fromm’s counterpart, the highly touted Justin Fields, had a very good day. The No. 1-rated dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2018 looked the part on Saturday. He was 18 of 33 for 207 yards passing and a touchdown and slipped out of the pocket on several nice runs, the best a 22-yard scamper. He threw an interception, too, but his offense generally seemed to move better.
Now, for some perspective.
Coach Kirby Smart was happy to provide it, just like he did last year when was addressing Fromm outpacing an incumbent starter by the name of Jacob Eason at that G-Day.
The key difference here is one quarterback is facing the No. 1 defense while the other is not. It’s not uncommon for the backup quarterbacks to outshine the starters during spring intrasquad games. Georgia sets up its annual G-Day Game where the No. 1 offense is going against the No. 1 defense, the 2s versus the 2s, and so on. So that first group, either way, has the tougher job. Conceivably at least.
“You all were sitting there last year saying the same things you are now because the other guy was throwing against the No. 2 defense and he was throwing it pretty good,” Smart said of Fromm, who was 14 of 23 with 277 yards and 2 touchdowns this time last year. “Jacob Eason was in there going against the No. 1 defense, which at that time was really good. So, there’s a lot of similarities between those two situations.”
Fromm didn’t make any bones about it; he didn’t think he played real well. Then, again, he did note that the defense he was playing against was exceptional. They also had some other more subtle advantages.
“Going into it, we felt like we’re playing one of the best teams in the SEC, one that’s great,” Fromm said. “They know a lot of our calls and a lot of our [routes] and stuff. It just is what it is. I had some throws I’d like back.”
Mainly the one Deandre Baker picked off and returned 32 yards for a touchdown 11 minutes into the game. There were some others he’d like to have had caught as well.
Earlier in the first quarter, Jayson Stanley was running free down the right sideline, but he was unable to time his reach to haul in Fromm’s well-aimed pass. Later that quarter, Fromm hit Riley Ridley perfectly in stride for what should have been a 44-yard TD. But Ridley landed hard in the end zone — nearly knocking himself out in the process — and failed to maintain possession of the ball.
“I got a little dinged up hitting my head,” Ridley said. “Otherwise I’d hold on.”
One of the best offensive plays of the game was when Fields hooked up with redshirt freshman Matt Landers for a 15-yard TD on third down late in the third quarter. Fields had extended the drive earlier when he fled the pocket on third down to get the Black team to the 34.
In all, Fields had 44 yards on quarterback runs. But he also had 41 in losses because of the liberal use of referee whistle to honor the non-contact rule on the quarterbacks.
Fields, who is under Smart’s perennial gag rule for freshmen, wasn’t available for comment. But Fromm, for one, liked what he saw from the kid, just like he has all spring.
“Yeah, he’s made countless plays this spring where me and Coach [James] Coley look at each other and go, ‘Dang, that was a good play,'” Fromm said. “He’s a good football player. That’s what he should be doing. … He does a great job of extending plays. He’ll throw the ball down the field sometimes, he really does it all.”
Which is not to say Fields is about to unseat Fromm as the Bulldogs starting quarterback. It only means that Georgia has a really good backup behind him, and maybe another one still as walk-on Stetson Bennett played well also.
But it’s Fields and Fromm that everybody was watching and evaluating, Smart especially.
“Both quarterbacks managed things pretty well,” Smart said. “I learned more about them being able to handle things on the field, with a crowd presence, and the shot clock and took the coaching of the players, which I liked.”
As for Fromm, he’ll probably feel better Sunday after he looks at the video and sees how close his bad plays were to being good, and vice-versa, of course.
Fromm was asked if he felt he should be extended a certain amount of grace considering what he did on the field for the Bulldogs last fall.
“At the end of the day, whether it does or doesn’t is not up to me,” Fromm said. “You kind of come in and you do what you do. You come in and throw the ball around and try to put guys in position to succeed. That’s all I do at my position and try to lead the best I can.”
As Georgia fans know well, Fromm’s best is pretty awesome.
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