It was almost like a broken record when Georgia players and head coach Kirby Smart were asked about freshman quarterback Justin Fields’ performance in Georgia’s 66-27 victory over Massachusetts.
They all repeated the same thing: “It’s no surprise, we see that all the time in practice.”
Georgia fans and media don’t see it all the time in practice, so the freshman’s performance was indeed eye-opening, even if the competition wasn’t the best Georgia will play this year.
Fields finished the day going 5-for-8 passing, with 121 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed seven times for 100 yards and one touchdown, his rushing total marks the first time he’s gone over 100 yards in his career.
“He makes good decisions, he’s getting better with his vision downfield,” Smart said. “[He’s] making decisions with the ball quicker. He continues to grow and get better, [but] I see him do that a lot in practice.”
The biggest area that Fields shine was with his arm. In previous games, Fields threw a few times, with dump passes and screens, but he looked like more than just a dual threat in the first half.
With 13:55 to go in the second quarter, Georgia entered the red zone, an area the Bulldogs recently have struggled with, mainly failing to score touchdowns. Fields dropped back, was hit as he threw, and delivered an 11-yard touchdown pass to Riley Ridley.
“Justin is a freak of nature, he’s a freight train when he’s running. He’s the best of both worlds."
- Mecole Hardman, Georgia wide receiver
Earlier on the drive, Fields scrambled for 47 yards to put Georgia at the UMass 20-yard line. Starting quarterback Jake Fromm thought Fields could’ve maybe done more with the run.
“I was a little upset that he didn’t take off on his run to the house,” Fromm said. “That’s a little uncharacteristic of him, just because of how fast he is.”
It was Fields running ability that proved to be another asset in the red zone. He scored on a 3-yard run with 6:13 to go in the second quarter.
What ignited the Georgia crowd wasn’t the red zone scoring abilities of the freshman. Rather, it was he did with 2:22 left in the first half with Georgia up 35-10 and the game clearly in hand.
Fields threw a beautiful pass that dropped right in the hands of junior receiver Mecole Hardman, who scored from 57 yards out. Hardman said he and his fellow teammates had been talking all week that if Fields gets a chance to throw the ball, he’ll throw the ball and show off his arm.
“Man, Justin can throw that thing,” Hardman said. “It was a good throw, Justin is doing good. He’s keeping his head up and staying strong, we’re definitely proud of him.”
He continued to perform well in the second half. The freshman showed that he isn’t afraid of contact on a long 30-yard run near the end of the third quarter. He lowered his shoulder and ran over not one, but two UMass defenders.
Hardman had a lot to say about his running ability as well.
“Justin is a freak of nature, he’s a freight train when he’s running,” Hardman said. “He’s the best of both worlds. Hopefully, ya’ll could get a chance to see the potential that he has.”
Fields finished as the leading rusher and passer in the game against the Minutemen. The competition isn’t exactly comparable to what the Bulldogs will see in the next two weeks, but the performance is impressive, nonetheless.
Georgia’s starting quarterback is Jake Fromm and that probably won't change anytime soon. But, head coach Kirby Smart knows he has a weapon in Fields, he’s as good as advertised and as bigger games loom, he just might be needed when the right situation calls.