On fourth down, down by six points with just over a minute remaining, Georgia freshman quarterback Jacob Eason found his receiver Isaiah McKenzie for a 20-yard pass.
Touchdown Georgia, and many emotions ensued.
Eason and McKenzie were mobbed in the end zone as the freshman led his team to their first conference victory, on the road. With that, the craze for the fan-favorite grew tremendously as the deep strike goes down in Bulldog lore.
It was also a special moment for Eason’s former coach, Tom Tri, who was watching his quarterback’s thrilling comeback nearly 3,000 miles away in Lake Stevens, Washington.
Tri has followed Eason’s development as a quarterback since his sixth grade season, making his way through the ranks of the local youth football program. Tri knows all about the former five-star and what he’s made of. In Eason’s third game donning the red and black, Tri said he saw improvement from the new Bulldogs starting quarterback, leading his team to victory.
"I thought (against Missouri) that he put some balls on time to receivers, and that was fun to see," Tri said. "As a result, I see defenses are trying to disguise their coverage and bring guys to different areas of the field."
From week to week, Eason has seen more playing time in each of Georgia’s early season matchups. And recently, Eason’s current head coach Kirby Smart indicated that the plan is for Eason to remain the starter, given that all goes well in game week preparation.
Tri said that many different factors attribute to that trust as a freshman, including his dedication to the game itself. He continued to say that Eason possessed the quality of persistence and passion throughout high school, and Tri has seen it pay off at the collegiate level.
"He loves watching film and he’s a gym rat," Tri said. "What I love about him is that he never gets too high or too low regardless of the situation. He’s very even keel."
Eason’s progression as his freshman season continues were also indicated by Tri, and is pleased with how he’s handled himself. Eason has displayed that in each game, his total yardage and touchdown passes have increased as each game passes.
Tri believes that the future will only get brighter for the freshman as the amount of blunders diminish. The learning curve is big from the high school to collegiate level, according to Tri, and he sees Eason getting past that quickly.
"I think Jacob has handled himself well," Tri said. "He’s made some mistakes that I know he’s seen, and the impressive thing is that he’s getting better each week. I also think as he improves as a freshman, he will continue to get better as he polishes the offense."
As Eason walks his way through a new stage of life, both athletically and academically, Tri reiterates the support that he has back home in Lake Stevens. Regardless of how things transpire at Georgia for Eason, he has plenty of encouragement across the country.
It also seems to reciprocate, as Tri said Eason checks in on his folks back home.
"Jacob and I still talk fairly often," Tri said. "He’s doing his thing, but he’s always supporting Lake Stevens, and we try to show him the same type of support, whether he does well or struggles."
Eason has quickly amassed 643 passing yards in only two starts as his college career has quickly began. The exposure was drastic for Eason, even before he arrived on campus in Athens, and Tri believes it was for good reason.
In Eason’s senior season in the Pacific Northwest, he threw for 3,585 yards and 43 touchdowns for the Lake Stevens Vikings, serving as a representation of his talent and skill set.
Tri raves over Eason’s potential, and believes he could be highly-recognized if his former quarterback continues to grow and have success. He takes Georgia’s offensive style into account, and realizes that they obtain a run-first style. But Tri said his arm talent and ability to be a game manager could lead to exemplary recognition.
"Jacob’s going to go as far as Georgia will go," Tri said. "I think he’s going to be a big part of their success, but at the same time they’re run-oriented with (running backs Nick) Chubb and (Sony) Michel. He’s just going to have to continue to run the offense and have a lot of success, and with that success comes more confidence to his own growth. I think the sky is the limit, with potentially being an All-Conference quarterback someday, and maybe even better. With improvement and more success will come the accolades."
Eason’s potential was recognized as he entered his high school days, and he got his opportunity in offseason preparation. Their starting quarterback was away at a baseball tournament, and Eason was given the opportunity to play at the varsity level.
The Lake Stevens’ coaching staff were amazed by his talents, and he was given the reins soon thereafter. His workload increased and the formerly known "skinny quarterback" improved, and Tri realized he had a player with a special future.
"We realized he was going to be a quarterback as an incoming freshman," Tri said. "He was our quarterback in a 7-on-7 tournament, and he was slinging the ball all over the field. From then on, we changed our offense from a read option style to a run-pass option type of attack. He’s continued to get better from that point on, and we had fun with him."
Eason brought the obvious to Lake Stevens, putting the program on the map. As a result of being rated as a five-star and ranked as the top overall pro-style quarterback, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, there were many college coaches who flocked to Washington to see his talents on display.
Tri believes that it was more than that however, as he spoke highly of his character. Eason bought into Tri’s team-first concept, and by enjoying his teammates he became a team leader.
"He brought everything to Lake Stevens," Tri said. "He was a hard-working kid who loved the game of football and an outstanding teammate. He wasn’t a natural-born leader, but by always making the right decisions, but he grew into that leadership position after just being the guy."