When the score ends up at 43-6, being a fan becomes a game of trying to find silver linings. From an outside perspective, it would be hard to locate many. However, there was plenty to like from the pair of young quarterbacks who took the field on Saturday.
Connor Bazelak was sidelined with a lower body injury, and fans were eager to see how some new faces in action. Tyler Macon started the game, but he and Cook consistently swapped drives throughout the game.
Both are freshman (Cook a redshirt), but they certainly did not play like that. You can’t define being throwing into the fire like playing significant snaps for the first time this year in a road game against the number one team in the country. They survived the flames, and even thrived at times.
Let’s start with Macon’s performance. The highly-touted recruit out of East St. Louis went 6/13 with 74 yards to go along with a team-best 42 rushing yards. While the numbers may not be gaudy, the impact he made on the field was felt.
Georgia’s defense has rarely looked on their heels this season. But, early in this game, Macon’s ability to create with his legs, mainly on designed quarterback runs, was really throwing the normally stalwart Georgia defense for a loop. He led a couple of solid drives early in this game thanks to his legs, but it wasn’t frantic of unplanned. Macon’s decision making was sharp for a true freshman, and he is a good enough athlete to run away from most defenders.
He had a couple of nice passes, but it is clear that his true development will have to come in the passing game. With his smaller size, Macon has to work even harder to be a quality starter in the SEC in this regard.
Still, this was overall a pleasantly surprising performance from a wild card on the roster. Nobody knew too much of what to expect from Macon, especially in an environment like Athens, but he proved that he is a dangerous athlete that makes reliable (and at times creative) decisions with the ball. He’s got plenty of time to continue developing under Drinkwitz, and he brings a different dynamic to this offense that opens up a whole new section of the playbook.
The more experienced Brady Cook was originally looked at as an above-average passer and not much else, but he proved a lot of people wrong with his performance off the bench. He came in cold after a strong start from Macon and showed that he can lead this offense too.
Cook went 14/19 for 78 yards and a quiet 32 yards on the ground. For starters, Cook also showed that he can be a threat with his legs, which was perhaps the oddest occurrence of the day. However, he was one of the best pro-style quarterbacks in his recruiting class for a reason. Cook was peppering the ball around to different targets and led a couple of solid drives of his own.
His knowledge of Drinkwitz’ offense and the personnel was plain to see, and he really ran the offense how it is meant to be run: quick, short passing that creates opportunities for the playmakers. When Cook was on the field and Badie struggling, Georgia was able to really key in on the redshirt freshman and make him beat them with his arm. It just so happened that he was able to.
So looking towards the future, it is nearly impossible to predict what Drinkwitz is thinking right now. Is he just going to go back to Bazelak when he is healthy? Or is this the opportunity Macon and Cook needed to really throw their hats into the ring in the quarterback room?
We likely will not know until next Saturday, but there are plenty of things we do know after this weekend in Athens. Tyler Macon is built in the style (don’t freak out on me, emphasizing STYLE) of Kyler Murray and has a lot of potential. On the flip side, Brady Cook will have been in the program for two years after this season and only be a sophomore. He showed that he has a great grasp of this offense and can make big throws against high-level competition.
Again, just because this should be talked about more, these two were labeled as starters for this game earlier this week and had rarely played this season. That would be tough enough for two freshman, but this start came against one of the best defenses of all-time on the road. They more than exceeded expectations.
One last point to note: looks like we can’t just tab Sam Horn as the automatic starter next season. The 4/5-star recruit has been labeled as the future of this program. Macon and Cook are going to have something to say about that next fall, with the benefit of experience playing at this level…
But I digress. On a day where there was not a lot to cheer about, the Mizzou faithful can feel some confidence that they are going to have a deep quarterback room for years to come. Whether they get their chance to shine more this season or next, we shall see.