Has Kirby Smart watched the national championship game after the fact?
Jake Fromm’s freshman season at Georgia ended with crimson-and-white confetti falling down at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It was a run of recognition that ended in the most somber of ways for the Bulldogs. After the game, he stood in the locker room and took every question from reporters in a 30-minute period and spoke on his anticipation for future seasons.
“The experience is something you can’t have any other way,” Fromm said, a few moments after the clock hit midnight on Jan. 9. “We’ll be back next year.”
It was after a game in which he was 16-for-32 for 232 yards and showed he belonged on the big stage. But there was a costly sack in overtime and a third-down interception that showed Fromm’s freshman moments.
As he spoke about his team’s future, little did he know things would be a carbon copy nearly a year later. Same opponent. Same venue. Same stakes — well, sort of, but both games are championships nonetheless.
Georgia prepares to rematch with Alabama Saturday in the SEC Championship game. Fromm said he’s “flushed it” from his mind. He has watched tape from last season’s game because the Crimson Tide uses a similar scheme (which is also similar to Georgia’s, the one Fromm faces in practice each day).
“It’s a big week, but it comes down to the process and preparing,” Fromm said. “We have a process and have it down. Let’s continue to do that and see if it works out.”
Otherwise, it’s a new game. And a new Fromm.
Fromm is in the closing stages of his sophomore season, and has quietly emerged as one of the nation’s elite. No, he doesn’t have the dual-threat abilities of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa — although the two are close friends after meeting at Elite 11 camps as recruits — or the gaudy passing numbers of Washington State’s Gardner Minshew in an Air Raid offense.
In fact, Fromm is 75th amongst the nation’s best in passing yards. For Georgia, that’s not what matters.
What Fromm does have is a meticulous approach to each move he makes. It has been said time-and-time again how Fromm can read an opposing defense before it even lines up. As a result, he’s able to manage his offense toward an 11-win regular season and a torrid pace to finish the campaign.
Fromm ranks third in passer-efficiency rating at 179.4, behind only Heisman contenders Tagovailoa and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. He has a ratio of 24 touchdowns to five interceptions. He’s become nearly-automatic as a passer on third downs. He was named as one-of-11 semifinalists for the Manning Award on Thursday.
There has been hoopla around a two-quarterback system with Fromm and freshman Justin Fields. There has been the need for a bounce-back game after a career-worst performance and 20-point loss to LSU. Fromm answered that call with a 240-yard, three-touchdown performance against Florida.
“He’s came in mature, but he’s gotten a lot more mature,” tight end Charlie Woerner said. “He knows everything in the playbook, and he now handles himself better in situations. He’s a better quarterback.”
So, does Fromm’s experience against the Crimson Tide help him? Maybe, in the sense of knowing the atmosphere and what’s at stake in a game of such magnitude.
The stretch from April to now, however, may be of most value.
“I don’t think it hurts anything. He’s played and gotten experience,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “He’s gone against our defense all spring. He’s gone against our defense all fall, and he goes in all these games and plays. That’s more valuable than just playing Alabama.”
Fromm has changed, and so have the dynamics of the looming Georgia-Alabama matchup. One thing, however, stayed the same in the Fromm household.
The weekend prior to the SEC Championship in each of the last two seasons, Emerson Fromm took his family for a weekend of duck hunting in Warner Robins. Jake said it served as a quick break from football before preparation for Alabama.
A superstition? Not yet, but it could be if the scene of confetti falling goes differently than before.
“It worked last time,” Fromm said. “Hopefully it works again.”