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Day 14- A Detailed Review of Jacob Eason at Georgia, Part 2

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Look Back at Everything Eason did before he was a Husky

NCAA Football: Georgia vs Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, I reviewed the first seven games of Jacob Eason’s career at Georgia. Today, I will finish with the final five games of the 2016 season and wrap up with some of the lessons I learned by reviewing each game.

Georgia 27 – Kentucky 24

Traditionally, a trip to Lexington has been a reprieve on the SEC schedule, but the Wildcats entered this game 4-2 in conference. Eason got his team off to a good start with a 3rd-and-long slant that Isaiah McKenzie broke for a TD. The teams went back and forth for four quarters. Georgia piled up more yardage, especially through the air, but three lost Dawg fumbles allowed Kentucky to stay competitive. Georgia regained the ball with the game even at 24 with under three minutes to play. Eason went 4-4 for 42 yards on the drive and lined up “Hot Rod” Blankenship for a chip-shot field goal to win the game as time expired. It wasn’t the sexiest performance by Eason, but he did what had to be done and secured a difficult road win. Unlike some previous games, he took what was available to him and did not make the fatal mistake of forcing the ball into traffic at the wrong time. The final drive also demonstrated an evolving understanding of the offense as he read Kentucky’s coverage and knew instinctively where to go with the ball.

Georgia 13 – Auburn 7

It seems like every SEC team is good for one game per year that’s bowling shoe ugly. This one fit the bill. Auburn QB Sean White averaged 1.4 Y/A and his interception accounted for Georgia’s only TD. Eason had a slightly better go of it at 20/31 for 208 yards. Georgia did throw an interception on a trick play, but it didn’t come from Eason. Auburn scored on the ensuing drive and tried to end the scoring there. Instead, Eason, Michel, and Chubb patiently chipped away at the Tiger defense. In a drive that was straight out of the 1950s, the Bulldogs went 50 yards in 13 plays over 6:45. Eason went 7/8 on the drive and didn’t throw a ball further than 10 yards in the air. A bad snap forced Hot Rod to kick a 45-yard FG, but that score put Georgia up for good. Two drives later, Georgia somehow held possession even longer (6:48). Eason threw the ball exactly once on the drive and Blankenship extended the lead with another FG. Once again, Eason played within himself in the most difficult part of the game and came away with a hard-earned win.

Georgia 35 – Louisiana Lafayette 21

Georgia adhered to the bizarre SEC tradition of scheduling a relative patsy late in the season. On the heels of two big wins, it was a chance for them to feel good about themselves after their mid-season swoon. Eason played reasonably well, going 13/19 for 165 yards, 2 TDs and an INT. The pick ended a four-game stretch without an interception after he had turned the ball over in each of his five previous games. The game followed the type of script one would expect- Georgia dominated the first half and pulled their starters with a 35-7 lead in the fourth quarter. The Ragin’ Cajuns scored twice late to make it look closer than it was. The interception Eason threw in the 2nd quarter bounced off of his receiver’s hands, making it the third INT of his six to that point that came as the result of a friendly-fire deflection. His TD pass to Nick Chubb over the top of a blitz showed nice touch. He also read the linebacker correctly on a TD pass to his TE Isaac Nauta and delivered an easy completion in the back of the end zone. Altogether, this game is the sort you would expect to see the Bulldogs dominate and they did just that.

(YouTube does not have highlights for this game, so we’ll have to settle for these ESPN links)

http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=18086901

http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=18086901

Georgia Tech 28 – Georgia 27

The Bulldogs play their in-state rivals in their regular season finale each year, so the build to the Apple Cup will be familiar for Eason. Hopefully, he shows up with a better performance than he did in this rivalry game. He threw two interceptions for the only time all year and completed 14/27 passes for 139 yards (5.1 Y/A). The Dawgs appeared to have the game in hand, up 27-14 in the fourth quarter. From there, Georgia went three and out and the Yellow Jackets answered with a quick TD to cut the lead to six. Eason got the ball back with under six minutes to play and threw a costly interception. Yet again, Eason’s throw bounced off his receiver’s hands and straight to the defense. Eason shoulders some of the blame for a throw behind the pass-catcher. Georgia Tech took the ball down the field again to take the lead. Eason had to attempt a Hail Mary and it led to his second interception. Georgia clearly erred on the side of the running game in this one with a 42/27 ratio of runs to passes, but even when they did pass, Eason was not effective enough to put the game away.

Liberty Bowl: Georgia 31 – TCU 23

At 7-5 (4-4 conference), Georgia was invited to the Liberty Bowl with a chance to end a turbulent season on a high note. The Dawgs stuck with their run-heavy formula (42 runs, 21 passes) and got the result they wanted. Eason was decent in the game. An early fumble led to a TCU score that contributed to a 16-7 deficit for Georgia. He completed 12/21 passes for 164 yards. His key stats were two TD passes on either side of halftime and no interceptions. On the fumble, Eason’s left tackle was beaten badly around the corner and Eason did not feel the pressure coming, so the ball popped loose when he was crunched from behind. Eason’s first TD pass was a dump-off into the flat to Michel on 3rd and 13 that Michel broke on his own. It looked like Georgia was just trying to get enough yardage to get back in FG range, but the electric playmaking ability of the future Patriot turned it into a score. Eason’s second TD pass capped a drive that lasted over six minutes and put Georgia ahead. He faked a pitch and lofted a ball over the middle when the safety bit on the play fake. It was a relatively simple play that Eason executed well. Unlike in the Georgia Tech game, Georgia took no risks with the lead and the ball late. They ran eight straight times for a 4th quarter TD to seal the game.

Takeaways

  • While there are some similarities between the Georgia and Washington offenses, Eason will have to adapt his play, as well. Interestingly, Georgia ran the ball 58% of the time in 2016. In each of the last two seasons, the Huskies have also run on 58% of their plays. Both teams liberally use play action passing. Like Chris Petersen, Kirby Smart shows a tendency to run a few core concepts out of many different formations to keep the defense guessing.

  • Despite Eason’s vaunted big arm, he averaged only 6.6 Y/A for the season. In four years as UW starter, Jake Browning was never below 8 Y/A. Part of the difference is that Browning always completed a higher percentage of passes (all those 0 yardage attempts bring down the average). Will Eason be able to have a significant leap in completion percentage in the UW offense?

  • Despite the SEC’s reputation as having the best defenses in the country, Eason’s schedule might not have been as difficult as that reputation. In 2016, Georgia played only two defenses that finished the year in the S&P+ top 25 (Florida and Auburn). In 2018, UW played twice as many top 25 defenses (Utah twice, Auburn, Cal, with Ohio St at 26).

  • Eason’s 16/8 TD/INT ratio is fine, but not exceptional. It’s noteworthy that four of his eight INTs were tipped by his own teammates, and another came on a Hail Mary to end a game. That leaves only three other INTs all year, all of which happened in the first five games.

  • Eason’s big-play reputation is real. On top of some of the impressive highlights I linked in these articles, he totaled six completions of 50 yards or more. Browning only had two 50+ yard completions last year. Still, Browning’s excellent completion percentage led to greater overall efficiency despite the lack of big plays. The dream for Washington fans is that a combination of the UW offense and Eason’s maturity allows him to complete 60%+ of his passes while maintaining his explosiveness.

  • Eason was at his best when he was able to read a defense before the snap, make a quick decision, and deliver a crisp pass. He showed significant improvement through his freshman year as he got more comfortable reading defenses. That experience plus his year on UW’s sideline should help him come into the season more comfortable than he was at the start of his time with Georgia.