With a willing opponent in town Saturday, it was the perfect day to indulge The Two Georgias. Both personalities haven’t had much of a chance lately to come out and play in equal measure.
Both had ample opportunity against UMass. So, something was accomplished on a day when the Bulldogs probably would have gained more by just scrimmaging themselves.
Certainly nothing they saw from the Minutemen prepared them in the least for Georgia Tech’s option offense next week. And definitely, the Yellow Jackets don’t have anyone like UMass wide receiver Andy Isabella - 15 catches against Georgia Saturday, for 219 yards. And if they did, who would get him the ball that often without pitching it backwards?
Anyway, back to The Two Georgias.
There’s The Jake Fromm Georgia – also known as business as usual. It is the version as snug and reassuring as a down comforter. It is the known quantity, the sure thing. You’re pretty certain of what you’re going to get from this Georgia, and it is almost always something useful.
And there’s The Justin Fields Georgia. Maybe this Georgia isn’t as experienced or as grounded as its other self. But it has an added element of danger that is appealing to a lot of people. It fires the imagination, and for some, what they dream up is always more attractive than what they see with their very own eyes.
The Jake Fromm Georgia went for 28 points on four possessions.
The Justin Fields Georgia went for 31 points on five possessions.
Put them together – because there is only so much room, even on the largest of scoreboards – and the Bulldogs were on their way to a 39-point victory Saturday.
And seeing how everything the Bulldogs do between here and the Dec. 1 SEC Championship game must be placed in some kind of Alabama context, here is the obligatory Crimson Tide comparison:
Earlier Saturday, Alabama played around with The Citadel, the nation’s No. 1 finding itself tied with an FCS opponent after one half. The Crimson Tide wiped the sleep from its eyes in time to go on and win 50-17.
The Bulldogs, at least, were not interested in building up any kind of false drama. They stepped up and scored on every first-half possession, starting fast and going on to lead the Minutemen 42-13 at halftime. Dare we say Georgia won this week’s long-distance stare-down with the Tide, just in terms of sheer focus alone?
Then there was the inevitable comparison between the two quarterbacks wearing the same colors, now that both the sophomore Fromm and the freshman Fields were practically guaranteed significant playing time with the last cream puff of the season on the docket.
It was difficult to draw any clear contrasts between the Bulldogs of Fromm and the Bulldogs of Fields, because UMass was physically incapable of resisting either. Based on the way both played against the Minutemen, it looked like the Heisman Trophy people should just split the trophy in half like a Keebler cookie and give a share each to Fromm and to Fields. Georgia churned out 701 yards of total offense, rushing for 426 of those.
Which should be nothing but good news to those who insist upon constantly pitting one against the other.
Sure enough, the Fields Georgia displayed the added spice of a quarterback who could create with his legs. The Bulldogs looked at a third-and-1 on their own 29-yard line at the end of the first quarter, which Fields more than took care of with a 47-yard run. In all, he rushed for 100 yards against UMass, more than any other Dog.
But never should we box in Fields as merely the running option. Those tightly spinning passes he broke out against UMass were nothing less than aerodynamic artworks. Take your pick of a couple of second-quarter completions, the 54-yarder to tight end Isaac Nauta or the 57-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman. (Not to mention another perfect touchdown-ready pass that was dropped). Any of those were suitable for framing.
“I was really happy he got to throw that touchdown to Mecole, because not a lot of people get to see his arm strength and we get to see it every day in practice,” Bulldogs runner Elijah Holyfield said. “That’s why everybody was so happy when he threw that, because not a lot of people get to see that.”
“I see that game every day,” confirmed Fields’ coach, Kirby Smart. “I see him go out there and do things and make good decisions. He’s making decisions with the ball quicker, he continues to grow. That’s no surprise to me because I see him do that a lot in practice.”
While the Fromm Georgia, in its little more than a quarter-and-a-bit of action, came as close to perfect as any human undertaking is allowed. He was 5-for-5 throwing for 106 yards (Fields 5-for-8, 121 yards). Every possession ended in the proper end zone. He scored 28 points running just 19 plays, averaging 14.4 yards per play.
What more would you want Fromm to do – a little song, a little dance, too?
Here, though, we would draft a memo to Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney: Note that three times Saturday, Fields drove the Bulldogs to a first-and-goal situation. This has been the one particularly maddening aspect to the Georgia offense – its inability to punch the ball into the end zone from inside the 10. There had been five failures to convert first-and-goal into a touchdown in the past three games. But three times Fields got the Bulldogs to first-and-goal, and all three times the result was a touchdown. Granted that came against a lesser defense than they have faced in that past month, but, still, just a little something to keep in mind should the situation come up again, against a more important opponent.
If not for the quarterback thing, intrigue was hard to come by this Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
Plenty of people decided to spend their perfect Saturday afternoon elsewhere, deciding that a university-sanctioned public fraternity paddling was unnecessary.
Returning from the pros, former Bulldogs backfield buddies Nick Chubb and Sony Michel may have drawn the loudest cheers of the day when they were introduced on the field. Right behind them on the decibel scale was Timothy Miller, who brought his stirring version of “God Bless America” from the Braves park to that of the Bulldogs.
The remaining cheers, we’ll say for politics sake, were shared equally by Fromm Georgia and Fields Georgia. Just trying to keep everyone happy here.
And we’re not even going to get into The Matthew Downing Georgia (yes, the Bulldogs third-string walk-on quarterback got a fourth quarter of work). It would be impossible to factor another quarterback into this season-long conversation without heads exploding.