ATHENS, Ga.—As Georgia's 52–20 whipping of South Carolina on Sept. 19 neared its end, Bulldogs quarterback Greyson Lambert addressed his offensive linemen. "We're almost at ice cream," senior left tackle John Theus remembered the Virginia graduate transfer saying.
Like any smart quarterback, Lambert knows the quickest way to make friends with offensive linemen is to feed them. That's why Lambert treats his line to ice cream every time the Bulldogs produce a sack-free game. What sounds like a small token of appreciation can get pretty expensive when a group of 300-pounders are unleashed in a Ben & Jerry's scoop shop. But if Lambert's linemen are ordering cones and milkshakes after Saturday's visit from 13th-ranked Alabama, it will be worth every penny.
A day after they beat the Gamecocks, Lambert, five linemen and one German Shepard named Dixon crossed Broad Street into downtown Athens and visited the Ben & Jerry's location near the Georgia Theatre. Despite the size of most of the members of the group, no one paid much attention. "That's why we keep [sophomore tailback Nick] Chubb at home," cracked Theus, who actually skipped the post-South Carolina ice cream excursion to go to a movie. "There might be a crowd." But while Theus didn't partake, the others were happy to drain Lambert's bank account and fill their stomachs.
Senior right tackle Kolton Houston ordered cookies and cream. Dixon, Houston's dog, got a few bites on the sly. Junior right guard Greg Pyke ordered a cookie-dough flavor called I Dough, I Dough. Junior center Brandon Kublanow ordered a cookies and cream milkshake. Again. "I may be a little superstitious," Kublanow said, "but I get the same thing every week because we've been winning." Sophomore left guard Isaiah Wynn ordered three flavors. One was I Dough, I Dough. One was Milk and Cookies. He doesn't remember the other, but Wynn definitely wasn't using tasting spoons. These were full scoops. "Oh, no," Wynn said. "It was in a cone."
No one remembers what Lambert ordered. "We just all order and say thank you and we sit outside and enjoy it," Wynn said.
Lambert didn't start this tradition. Former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray did. But the linemen might have prodded Lambert to bring it back. "I think we might have said something to Greyson," Kublanow said. "You know, put something in his ear."
This is fine with Lambert as long as those linemen keep him from looking out his earhole. Through four games, the No. 8 Bulldogs have allowed three sacks. Even better, they've rarely allowed defenders to get close to Lambert. Against South Carolina, Lambert was hit only twice. "I think both of them were his fault," Houston cracked. When offered the circumstances of the second instance, Houston seemed more resolute. "I was running the post," Houston said. "He should have hit me."
Lambert found nearly everyone else that game, breaking an NCAA record by completing 24 of 25 passes (96%). In what was essentially a scrimmage last week against overmatched Southern, Lambert completed 9 of 10 attempts in a 48–6 blowout. That accuracy helped assuage fears about Lambert after he missed on his first seven throws and didn't complete a pass until the third quarter of Georgia's 31–14 win at Vanderbilt on Sept. 12. "As a man, you don't want to go to work every day and have someone tell you you're terrible at your job," Houston said. "He had something to prove."
The Bulldogs' linemen have been impressed with the way Lambert has taken hold of the starting job after transferring from Virginia this summer and beating out redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey and junior Faton Bauta in fall camp. "Sometimes, when somebody steps into that type of predicament, they tiptoe into it," Wynn said. "He came in full force."
This week, Lambert will have to prove himself again. Alabama might have the best defense the Bulldogs play this season, and the Crimson Tide excel at shutting down runs between the tackles. Through four games, opponents have averaged two yards a carry against Alabama. That means Georgia may not get its usual production from Chubb and sophomore Sony Michel. Lambert and the passing game will have to make up the difference against a Tide secondary that has been susceptible to big plays. That will require Lambert to maintain his deadeye accuracy of the past two weeks and the linemen to keep the members of Alabama's front seven off Lambert to give the quarterback's guidance system time to lock on to its targets.
If that happens, the Bulldogs might emerge from Saturday as the favorite to win the SEC. And Lambert may emerge from the weekend with another fat bill from the ice cream shop. Thus far, Lambert has imposed no conditions on shake or cone orders. But if the line keeps him as clean as it has, Lambert may need to set some limitations. "We haven't discussed it," Wynn, the three-scoop cone lover, said, "but I'm pretty sure later on in the season he probably will."