Jacob Eason's Heroics in UGA Comeback Win the Jump Start Bulldogs Greatly Need

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 18, 2016

Georgia QB Jacob Eason
Georgia QB Jacob EasonEd Zurga/Getty Images

Georgia entered its first SEC road trip of the season with a massive quarterback question.

It exited with an answer.

True freshman Jacob Eason went most of the way in a sluggish win over FCS Nicholls last weekend, but he was replaced by senior Greyson Lambert late in a game that should never have been in doubt. 

After throwing the game-winning touchdown on the final drive, those questions are all but gone. The answer is Eason, was Eason and should be Eason for the foreseeable future.

The 6'5", 235-pounder went the distance in Georgia's 28-27 win at Missouri, establishing himself as a star in the process. On a night in which the Tigers' defensive front limited the impact of running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Eason went 29-of-55 for 308 yards, three touchdowns and one pick in a hostile environment in Columbia.

COLUMBIA, MO - SEPTEMBER 17:  Jacob Eason #10 of the Georgia Bulldogs drops back for a pass against the Missouri Tigers in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

His last touchdown was the most important. 

After throwing up two purposeless deep balls to Isaiah McKenzie down six with under two minutes to play, and another incomplete pass on 3rd-and-10 from the 20-yard line, the game fell on Eason's shoulders.

One perfect toss over a defender and into the waiting arms of McKenzie in the end zone later, he cemented his status as not only the future of the program, but the present.

"I saw that the linebackers were down the middle, McKenzie said, according to Georgia. "I had to get the corner to the middle of the field and once they called hike I said 'I got to get to the middle before he does. Before he beats me there.' That's what I did. He threw a good pass I had to adjust and come down with it and secure it. That put us on top."

It wasn't a miracle. It wasn't a fluke. It wasn't luck.

It was a statement.

As head coach Kirby Smart noted (via, Anthony Dasher of UGASports.com), his youngster needed this.

It doesn't matter that Georgia was a seven-point favorite, yet needed a last-second drive to knock off a team that it should handle with a relative amount of ease.

What matters is that Smart put the ball and his trust in the hands of Eason in the first road conference game for both at Georgia, and Eason came through when it mattered most. 

In an SEC East that is unpredictable, Smart decided to roll the dice with Eason, which could pay off.

Tennessee looked sluggish—again—in a win over Ohio on Saturday, and it hasn't put together a complete game yet. Florida saw starting quarterback Luke Del Rio exit Saturday's win over North Texas with a knee injury on a dirty hit. He is unlikely to play next week. South Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Missouri are all messes of various temperatures.

What we know about Georgia is that its quarterback can be trusted to win tight road games in the conference, and that its head coach is fully in the corner of the former 5-star prospect.

Plus, he got very little help from his supporting cast. 

His offensive line was a sieve against the fast and physical Missouri front, with the Tigers racking up four sacks on the night including three from end Charles Harris. Chubb was held to 3.3 yards per carry, no running back had a carry of more than 16 yards and Eason's wide receivers acted like the football was coated in Crisco with several drops, as Rusty Mansell of 247Sports noted, including one by Reggie Davis on 3rd-and-7 with under six minutes to play with the Bulldogs trailing by six. 

Eason was dealing with more stuff than Crash Davis and the Durham Bulls were while meeting on the mound in Bull Durham. Despite that, he—with the help of his defense forcing five turnovers—found a way. 

"Confidence," Smart said. "I am a firm believer in situational football and we put them in a lot of situations, we do situations all the time and they responded to the situation. We had to get the ball back, so we got it back. Then the offense had to score and they did. I was proud of the way they battled."

In the process, Georgia's offense found an identity other than the running game, found its full-time starting quarterback and might find itself in the driver's seat in the division if everybody else keeps spinning their wheels.

Don't discount what Eason did on Saturday, because it's important.

Will there be bumps in the road? Absolutely. 

They're unavoidable for first-time starting quarterbacks, regardless of experience, conference or pedigree.

But Eason came of age in just his third game, which bodes well for his and the Bulldogs' future.

        

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Odds provided by Odds Shark.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Related

    Former OSU Football Players Allege Sexual Abuse by Team Doctor

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Former OSU Football Players Allege Sexual Abuse by Team Doctor

    Kyle Newport
    via Bleacher Report

    EA 'Very Interested' in Reviving NCAA Football If NLI Rules Change

    College Football logo
    College Football

    EA 'Very Interested' in Reviving NCAA Football If NLI Rules Change

    Timothy Rapp
    via Bleacher Report

    5-Star DE Myles Murphy Commits to Clemson

    College Football logo
    College Football

    5-Star DE Myles Murphy Commits to Clemson

    Paul Kasabian
    via Bleacher Report

    Inside UCF QB’s Brutal Injury

    A look into McKenzie Milton’s long recovery after a scary in-game injury left him minutes from having his leg amputated ➡️

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Inside UCF QB’s Brutal Injury

    A look into McKenzie Milton’s long recovery after a scary in-game injury left him minutes from having his leg amputated ➡️

    Matt Hayes
    via Bleacher Report