Pickens and Fromm Lead Georgia to 26-14 Allstate Sugar Bowl Victory Over Baylor
By Trey Iles
NEW ORLEANS – Georgia junior quarterback Jake Fromm will have a decision to make soon on whether or not to enter the NFL Draft or return for his senior season with the Bulldogs. Freshman wide receiver George Pickens made that decision a little bit harder in Wednesday night’s (Jan. 1, 2020) 86th Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Fromm hooked up early and often with Pickens to help lead the fifth-ranked Bulldogs (12-2) to a 26-14 victory against seventh-ranked Baylor (11-3) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Pickens, honored as the game’s Most Outstanding Player, caught 12 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. He made 11 of those catches for 165 yards and the score in the first half as Georgia built a 19-0 halftime lead. He also was on the receiving end of Fromm’s first eight completions and caught nine of his first 10 completions.
“The thing is he (Pickens) loves football,’’ Fromm said. “He loves competing. He’s the same competitor every single day in practice and in the game. So seeing what he did tonight was no surprise at all to us.’’
Baylor targeted Pickens in the second half, holding to him to one reception for 10 yards. But by then the damage was done.
“I want to give credit to God,’’ said Pickens, from Hoover, Ala. “My line was amazing. My quarterback was amazing. Jake pushes me everyday to be that kind of player. Credit to everybody out there.’’
If Fromm does decide to forego his senior year, he went out with a bang, completing 20 of 30 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Georgia totaled 380 yards, including 92 yards rushing from running back Zamir White.
Georgia dominated the initial half but Baylor made it interesting in the second half.
“Our defense was out there too much in the first half,’’ Baylor coach Matt Rhule said. “We certainly came back and fought. But as we were working back, they made a couple of plays on defense in the second half to pull it out.’’
Baylor’s offense, which struggled in the first half, finally broke out to start the third quarter. The Bears took the second half kickoff and marched 75 yards in eight plays to cut Georgia’s lead to 26-7. Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer threw 12 yards to Denzel Mims for the touchdown with 12:14 left in the period.
The Bears forced a three-and-out by the Dawgs on the ensuing possession and drove from their 35 to the Georgia 46. Facing fourth-and-4 at the Georgia 46, the Bears elected to go for it. But Brewer was sacked on the play by Azeez Ojulari. Brewer fumbled and Georgia’s Travon Walker recovered at the Bears’ 47.
Georgia capitalized on the turnover, driving 47 yards in seven plays for a touchdown. White capped the drive with a 13-yard run for the score to up the Dawgs lead to 26-7 with 7:16 left to play in the third quarter.
But the drive was keyed by a fake field goal attempt. Facing fourth-and-2 at the Baylor 19, the Bulldogs lined up for a field goal. Holder Jake Camarda, also the team’s punter, took the snap and ran 6 yards for the first down at the Baylor 13. White scored on the next play.
Baylor answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive keyed by Brewer, who completed two passes for 41 yards and carried 1 yard for the score with 4:10 left in the third quarter to cut Georgia’s lead to 26-14.
The Dawgs had a two-score 26-14 lead with 9:48 left in the game when Baylor took over at its 10. The Bears drove from there to the Georgia 49. But the drive went backward from there and facing fourth-and-11, Bears backup quarterback Jacob Zeno was sacked for a 4-yard loss.
But the bigger loss came early in the drive when Brewer ran 8 yards to the Baylor 27 then was injured on a late hit out of bounds, knocking him from the game.
The Bulldogs defense was stellar in the first half, holding Baylor to just 97 yards, 22 rushing. The Bears averaged only 2.0 yards per carry and struggled to keep Brewer upright under Georgia’s pass rush.
Fromm, Pickens and the Dawgs offense got off to a slow start, managing only a single first down in their first three possessions. That changed toward the end of the first quarter as Georgia strung together four straight scoring possessions.
The first was a 74-yard, six-play drive that resulted in its first points of the night. Bulldogs kicker Rodrigo Blankenship booted a 24-yard field goal after Georgia’s drive stalled at the Baylor 6.
That gave the Dawgs a 3-0 lead with 49 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Fromm hooked up with Pickens to key the drive and it came on a trick play, a flea flicker that covered 45 yards and gave Georgia a first down at the Baylor 40.
Georgia picked up its second score on its next possession, driving 85 yards for a touchdown on eight plays. Again, Fromm and Pickens keyed the drive as Fromm completed three passes Pickens for 55 yards, including a 27-yard strike for a touchdown. That gave Georgia a 10-0 lead with 12:28 left to play in the first half.
The Dawgs made it 13-0 with 8:08 to play after Blankenship booted a 31-yard field. Fromm completed three passes for 23 yards on the nine-play, 45-yard drive.
The final scoring possession of the half covered 71 yards in eight plays. Fromm passed 16 yards to Matt Landers for the score which came with 1:51 left in the half. The Georgia try for two failed on an incomplete pass but the Bulldogs controlled 19-0.
Fromm was an impressive 14 of 19 in the first half with 190 yards and the two touchdowns.