‘Third-and-Fromm:’ The phrase that pays for Georgia Bulldogs

VIDEO: UGA QB Jake Fromm discusses the win over Florida Saturday. Video by Chip Towers.

Nobody knows for certain what was discussed during the lunches Jake Fromm and Kirby Smart shared these last two weeks but Fromm and Smart. They didn’t say, exactly.

All we know was that the Georgia Bulldogs’ head coach was concerned enough about his starting quarterback to think they needed to have them. So at least “a couple times” the past two weeks, they “broke bread” and talked in the middle of the day.

Whatever was said eventually should be chronicled, for if it had anything to do with Fromm's production in Saturday's 24-17 win against the No. 6 Gators, it should be saved into perpetuity.

Yes, Fromm passed well after listening for the last two weeks about how he can’t pass. He finished with 279 yards on 20-of-30 passing and two touchdowns and zero sacks. And that’s great.

But the real numbers that distinguished Fromm on Saturday was what Georgia did when it faced a third-down situation. The Bulldogs were 8-of-12 on the most critical down in football. They were a diving touchdown catch by Lawrence Cager from being even better than that.

» MARK BRADLEY: A big win for Fromm, Bulldogs

It was an incredible piece of work by a player who has been mostly incredible for the Bulldogs. They improve to 31-6 with him as their quarterback.

Fromm is now 3-0 against the Gators. Only Johnny Rauch (1945-48) has been 4-0 and only Buck Belue (3-1) and Aaron Murray (3-1) have won three as quarterbacks in the rivalry.

So why would Smart feel like he needed some one-on-one time with his signalcaller?

“I had those lunches to talk, to communicate,” Smart revealed in the postgame press conference. “I think relationships are important, to communicate, and to talk and hang out. He was getting ready to go hunting somewhere, but it was good for both of us.”

The revelation that they’d been getting together didn’t come until after interviews with players were concluded, and Fromm didn’t mention it during his 15-minutes-plus session with reporters. But it follows that Smart might’ve wanted to set the record straight with his quarterback and reassure him that he didn’t want any other player running his offense and that he trusted him to throw the ball whenever and however much was needed, but maybe also that he was always going to be a run-first guy.

Some of that can be disseminated from Smart’s comments.

“He’s had a lot of people that have questioned him, and he is a chip-on-his-shoulder guy,” Smart said. “Y’all have seen it over and over again, where people doubt and continue to doubt and he continues to rise above it. He’s not a silver-spoon fed kid; he’s a working kid. He works himself into it, he wills himself into it. I’m really proud of the way he played and led his team.”

It was evident that Fromm was proud of his work, too, particularly all that good stuff that kept happening on third down. His first touchdown pass of the day came on third down to Dominick Blaylock, from three-yards out. Seven of his 11 completions in the first half came on third down.

Asked after the game if he’d heard the new phrase that’s gaining favor among the Bulldog Nation — “Third-and-Fromm” — he said he hadn’t. But he likes it. A lot.

“I think that’s awesome,” Fromm said. “One, I think it says a lot about the preparation. I don’t want to boast by any means, but we put in a lot of work on third down. I think that says a lot about preparation. I wouldn’t expect anything less from us and I’m thankful that it worked out like it did.”

» PHOTOS:  The game |  The scene 

Fromm’s teammates did most of the talking for him. There’s a national narrative being floated around that Georgia picked the wrong quarterback to run the offense when Justin Fields was still on the roster. Fields, as most know, has been producing arcade-like numbers in the Ohio State offense he’s been piloting since his self-initiated transfer.

But while Fromm’s numbers are different, they’re still incredibly impressive. And not only are they being produced in the intensely-competitive SEC, they’re generally best in the biggest games. Everybody wearing red helmets Saturday night was trying to emphasize that point.

"Yeah, he's cool, calm and collected," said senior Lawrence Cager, who led the Bulldogs' receivers with 132 yards on 7 receptions and 52-yard touchdown. "That's all you can ask for from your quarterback. And when you have an offensive line like we have, it's a blessing. When you have Jake Fromm and our offensive line, that's great, but 12-of-18 (on third down), that's ridiculous."

None of the conversions were bigger than the last one of the game.

Clinging to a one-score lead with 2:12 to play, Fromm connected with tight end Eli Wolf on a 22-yard pass on third-and-seven at Georgia’s own 35. With the Gators out of timeouts, the pass was a gutsy call and required precision execution.

“Jake’s an awesome quarterback and I think that’s pretty obvious,” said Wolf, a graduate transfer from Tennessee. “He can throw the ball. We needed a first down there and we just said what’s our best play and that was to throw it. It looked like Jake got rid of it pretty quick and it was right there when I ran my route.”

This is a movie Smart and the Bulldogs have seen before, Fromm delivering the clutch pass in the most critical situations. But then everybody wants to talk about how he can’t pass.

That includes SEC Nation’s Tim Tebow and Georgia’s very own fans, which Smart made a point to point out Saturday. He definitely had Fromm’s back after Saturday’s game, and it sounds like he wanted Fromm to know he did during those lunches.

“I was concerned about him, because he doesn’t get frustrated, he handles things very well, but he and I are wired in very similar ways,” Smart explained. “We’re both very competitive, we both want to win. There’s a lot of same hard-wiring there. And I think him being able to talk to me and me being able to talk to him, see where we can help him and what we can help him do from a confidence standpoint, I’m just proud of him. Every time his back is against the wall, he just comes out swinging.”

No one thought to ask what was eaten or where they ate. But they both surely will be encouraged to continue the routine after what took place Saturday.

Both men ate well at TIAA Bank Field.

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