Jake Fromm unable to lift Georgia in SEC Championship game

12/7/19 - Atlanta - Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm (11) is injured during the first half of the Georgia vs. LSU SEC Football Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Alyssa Pointer / alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

The South Carolina-game version of Jake Fromm, the one that a depleted Georgia offense couldn’t withstand if it hoped to defeat LSU in Saturday’s SEC Championship game and advance to the playoff, made his return at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Not helped by dropped passes, missed blocks and a hard sack, Fromm didn’t do much well either, topped by two interceptions in Saturday’s 37-10 loss to the No. 2 Tigers. They were his first two interceptions since throwing three in a 20-17 double-overtime loss to South Carolina on Oct. 12. For the season Fromm has thrown five interceptions, all coming in the Bulldogs’ two losses, with one bowl game remaining.

Against LSU, Fromm completed 20 of 42 attempts for 225 yards and a late touchdown pass that must have felt like not hitting a good drive until the 18th hole. It was the fifth consecutive game that Fromm completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Fromm was sacked twice.

It hasn’t been an easy last one-third of the season for Fromm.

Since his crucial pass against Florida to clinch that win Nov. 2, he hasn’t looked sharp in the past four games. But UGA won each to set up Saturday’s SEC Championship game appearance.

Some thought Fromm was ready for a breakout game. A coach who has worked with Fromm said he expected him to "play really good on Saturday."

But the issues, whatever they may be, continued against a Tigers defense that ranked ninth in the 14-team SEC with an average of 221.4 yards per game allowed.

12/7/19 - Atlanta - Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm (11) leads his team onto the field for warmups during the Georgia vs. LSU SEC Football Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Alyssa Pointer / alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

First, Fromm was playing without Lawrence Cager, who suffered a broken ankle weeks ago, and George Pickens, who was suspended for the first half after getting into a fight in the second half of last week’s win against Georgia Tech. They were Fromm’s two leading receivers during the season, with 33 catches each entering Saturday for a combined 10 touchdowns and almost 1,000 yards. During Saturday’s game, Fromm lost Dom Blaylock and Kearis Jackson to injuries.

“It’s kind of tough on us, but for us, it’s a ‘next man up’ mentality,” Fromm said. “I think the guys were ready. They understood the plan. It’s just an opportunity for them to go out and make a couple of plays.”

The receivers remaining didn’t help Fromm or their teammates against LSU.

Tyler Simmons dropped a 40-yard pass perfectly thrown by Fromm on the game’s first play.

“Stuff happens in football,” Fromm said. “There’s lots of ups and downs in football, especially in big games like this. You just kind of have to weather the storms at times and go and try to make the next play.”

Pickens, when he returned in the second half, dropped the first pass thrown to him. Simmons dropped two passes, including a potential touchdown in the second half. Matt Landers dropped one in the first half.

“I don’t know how many drops we had tonight,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said as part of a soliloquy on how losing several wide receivers to the NFL, and injuries to others affected the offense this season, “but I feel like we had to have had five or six that you can say should have probably been caught, and we would have been more explosive. I don’t mean that as disrespect. When we had good wideouts, we were more explosive.”

Fromm’s blockers didn’t help.

Trailing 14-3 and facing second-and-8 at the 43 in the second quarter, LSU safety Grant Delpit blitzed between the left tackle and tight end. Unblocked, he tackled Fromm for a 9-yard loss. Fromm’s knees and ankles were contorted during the tackle. Trainers came out and examined his left knee. Fromm did return, but his passes seemed to lack their customary zip.

Lastly, and most important, Fromm didn’t help himself.

On third-and-9 at the 44 in the first quarter, Fromm underthrew Demetris Robertson, who was wide open running deep across the middle of the field. Had the pass had a bit more steam, Robertson likely would have had a touchdown.

On the second series, Fromm overthrew Blaylock running across the middle on third-and-10 at the 35-yard line. The Bulldogs were forced to punt.

Near the end of the first half, Fromm was intercepted by corner Derek Stingley on a pass down the left sideline to Tyler Simmons that again appeared to be underthrown. It was Fromm’s first interception in 172 pass attempts, dating to the loss to South Carolina.

12/7/19 - Atlanta - LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. (24) catches a throw in front of Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Tyler Simmons (87) during the first half of the Georgia vs. LSU SEC Football Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Hyosub Shin / hyosub.shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Trailing 27-3, things got worse when Fromm’s first pass of the next series was again underthrown and again intercepted. Again it was Stingley, who jumped a pass into the flat and returned it 17 yards to Georgia’s 13.

LSU took advantage with another touchdown for a 34-3 lead before the start of the fourth quarter.

“Unfortunately, we just couldn’t make enough plays tonight,” Smart said. “That is a really good football team, and we knew that coming in. We were going to have to play well. We were going to have make explosive plays. We were unable to do that.”

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