It appeared that Jake Fromm might’ve done it again. He led Georgia on a 13-play, 96-yard drive Saturday to tie the score against South Carolina with a less than two minutes remaining, then got the Bulldogs in position to win in regulation. But that’s not what’s going to be remembered about the game.
What will be remembered was the career-high three interceptions that came off passes thrown by Fromm, a junior quarterback from Warner Robins, and how they contributed to what was a stunning 20-17 loss in two overtimes against the Gamecocks at Sanford Stadium.
While there was probably an unfair amount of blame being chucked in his direction afterward, Fromm wasn’t doing much to sidestep it.
“I was not as clean as I wanted to be,” said Fromm, who established career highs in attempts, completions and interceptions. “Had some turnovers and interceptions, so I wish I’d played more clean. But that’s part of it. I wish we’d just executed better on offense.”
Fromm, who entered the game completing 78 percent of his passes, was good on only 54.9 percent of his 51 attempts Saturday. He finished with 295 yards and three interceptions.
Fromm had thrown two interceptions two other times in his career, and Georgia lost both times, to LSU last season and to Alabama in the 2017 national-championship game.
As it is, the Bulldogs fall to 29-6 with Fromm as their quarterback. He has started all but one of those games.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart defended his quarterback during the postgame news conference.
“I believe in Jake Fromm,” Smart said. “Jake Fromm is a leader of men. He gives tremendous effort week in and week out. … It’s tough. It was a tough day.”
It was a tough day for Georgia’s entire offense. The Bulldogs out-gained South Carolina 468 yards to 297, ran 27 more offensive plays and rushed for 173 yards. But in addition to three picks, they also turned the ball over on a mishandled exchange between Fromm and center Trey Hill. That miscue came on the first play of the fourth quarter with Fromm under center and Georgia eyeing a first down at the Gamecocks’ 30-yard line.
“That rarely happens with our guys; it happened today,” Smart said. “I can’t tell you exactly why it happened.”
Said Fromm: “It was just not showing up. That’s part of the focus process in what we do. … That’s part of playing in the SEC. Anytime you don’t play your best, you’re probably going to get beat.”
All three of Fromm’s interceptions were picked off by South Carolina cornerback Israel Mukuamu. A 6-foot-4, 205-pound sophomore from North Charleston, S.C., Mukuamu came in with two interceptions in his career, and one this season.
Mukuamu was very fortuitous on this day. His final pick came on what should have been a first-down pass to Georgia’s Tyler Simmons in overtime. The first – which he turned into a 53-yard touchdown – occurred when Fromm was trying the throw the ball out of bounds.
The sum total was four turnovers by the Bulldogs, none for South Carolina.
“You can’t go 4-0 in the turnover margin and expect to win a game. It just doesn’t happen,” Smart said.
That ruined what could have been a heroic finish for Fromm. His work on a 13-play, 96-yard drive allowed Georgia to tie the score with 1:48 to play. Then, after the Bulldogs got the ball back with one minute to go, Fromm quickly got Georgia to the Gamecocks’ 38 with 13 seconds to play. An incomplete pass to Eli Wolf with eight seconds left was followed by another one to Simmons that was further complicated by an illegal-shift penalty.
That kept the Bulldogs from trying what would have been a 55-yard field goal. They elected to try a Hail Mary pass from the 43 rather than give Blankenship a shot from 60 yards.
Fromm was sure after the 96-yard drive that the Bulldogs were destined for victory.
“I definitely did, and I really wish it would’ve happened, too,” Fromm said.
Told Fromm was enduring some harsh criticism on social media, Smart bristled.
“I don’t have to say anything to those people,” he said. “I’ll be honest with you, they have a right to (say) and display whatever they want. That’s what Twitter is about.”