ATLANTA -- As the final two minutes ticked away at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday night, Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm began to celebrate. He hugged Jacob Eason, the sophomore who made the mistake of straining a knee ligament in the first quarter of the season opener. Fromm replaced Eason and never let him back on the field.
Fromm posed for a photo with Eason and fifth-year quarterback Brice Ramsey. He hugged graduate assistants and trainers. He hugged Javon Wims, the Dawgs' leading receiver and the first guy who ever caught a Fromm touchdown pass.
Fromm ran onto the field and took a knee, concluding the 28-7 victory over Auburn that resulted in Georgia's first SEC championship since 2005 and first College Football Playoff berth. At the end of the game, just as for the 60 football minutes that preceded it, it was hard to take your eyes off Fromm. That's especially true when you consider that a year ago, he watched this game as the quarterback of the Houston County (Georgia) High Bears.
"A year ago? Probably sitting on the couch, just coming in from hunting, watching it on TV," Fromm said. "You always kind of dream about it. ... It's kind of crazy. Life came to me really fast. Then again, coaches and teammates around me really helped slow it down for me."
Fromm spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time this season. Georgia coach Kirby Smart does not allow freshmen to speak to the media. However, the SEC dictates that all players be available to the media after the championship. Look at it as practice: The College Football Playoff has the same rule.
Fromm thanked God several times, allowed as how pitching in the 2011 Little League World Series ginned up more butterflies than did playing before 76,534 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and sounded pretty much like an 18-year-old. The black scruff on his pale face aged him. So did the way he handled the big stage Saturday. Fromm said he always has possessed a sense of calm.
"Ever since I was little, always taking things one at a time, little by little," Fromm said. "I've been put in a lot of situations. At the end of the day, [there's] the preparation we put in, and God's never going to put me in a situation that's too big for me. I know that going in. I know I'm saved. Anything that happens is not terrible at all in the big, grand scheme of things."
In the end, what set apart Fromm from most freshmen quarterbacks was as much what he didn't do as what he did. His numbers are gaudy in quality, if not quantity. He is fifth in the FBS in QBR (83.9), trailing only two Heisman finalists (Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson), a Davey O'Brien finalist (Mason Rudolph) and Khalil Tate of Arizona. Fromm threw for 2,173 yards, 21 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He completed 630 percent of his passes.
Here's what Fromm didn't do:
He never threw 30 passes in a game. Never completed more than 18. Fromm never looked overmatched. He never panicked, never showed that he was barely old enough to register for the draft. When Eason injured his knee, tight ends coach Shane Beamer walked over to Fromm to settle him down. Fromm smiled at him -- and winked.
"When he first took that step on UGA's campus, I knew what kind of swagger he had, what kind of mindset he had," wide receiver Terry Godwin said Saturday. "That kid, he stepped up big tonight. He's been that guy all year, and we've had trust and faith in him."
Fromm threw for 300 yards once. He threw for three touchdowns once, against FCS Samford. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney never gave Fromm more than he could handle. With running backs such as Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D'Andre Swift handling the offensive load, Fromm never had to be the Dawgs' primary threat. But he had to be competent enough to make defenses play honestly.
"Jake is kind of the mailman," Smart said after the Auburn game. "He's the deliverer of the package. He does a good job of that."
Especially if that package is a prolate spheroid, as former Auburn coach John Heisman described it. Oh, Fromm can do that. Did you see the touchdown pass he threw to Godwin early in the fourth quarter Saturday? From the Auburn 7, Fromm took the snap, took a three-step drop and threw toward the left pylon, placing it just so on Godwin's outside shoulder pad. Auburn corner Jamel Dean, playing inside of Godwin, was right there and never had a chance.
"He [throws] a perfect ball," Godwin said. "Places it perfect. Perfect speed, perfect everything. You can't get a better quarterback than that."
Even if Fromm doesn't have to throw 30 passes a game, he has to be able to run the offense. Swift, whose 64-yard touchdown run down the left side in the fourth quarter iced the victory over Auburn, said, "Every time I'm in the backfield, he tells me what I got, whether I know it or not."
And whether Swift listens or not.
"He was supposed to go to the right," Fromm said. "I take the ball, I get the handoff to him, and he starts taking off to the left. In my mind, I'm like, 'What are you doing?' That joker takes off. I look, there's a huge hole, and he makes a move on a guy and takes off. He didn't run it in the right spot. It doesn't matter. The guy makes a play."
And now Fromm gets to start in the Rose Bowl, the Granddaddy of Them All, in the sport's most iconic stadium, in the College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, with a chance to play for the national championship. An improbable season keeps getting better.