Opinion: Georgia Pulled D'Wan Mathis A Bit Early

Brooks Austin

Georgia entered Saturday "excited to watch their starting quarterback perform well," or at least those were Kirby Smart's words on College Gameday Saturday morning. The only thing is, they watched just six drives of D'Wan Mathis before they jumped ship to Stetson Bennett. And before I get too far, the decision to make the move ultimately won them the game in considerable fashion in the second half. That's not the point.

The point of this article is to show you that when Kirby Smart says, "It wasn't all on D'Wan" in the post-game press conference, he's not lying. The point of this article is to show to you that yesterday's performance by D'Wan Mathis was undoubtedly a rough one, but it's not worth writing him off. We didn't get enough of sample size, not to mention he wasn't being put into winnable situations. 

It doesn't take long to review the six series that Mathis was in on to start the ball game. 

First Drive

  • 1&10: Stuffed on inside zone RPO, Zamir White gains two yards. 
  • 2&8: Designed QB Draw, Mathis bolts for 16-yards, called back for a hold. 
  • 2&18: 12-yard completion to John Fitzpatrick.
  • 3&6: Heavy play-action rollout, Mathis hits Pickens for 9 yards and a first down. 
  • 1&10: Incompletion
  • 2&10: D'Wan Mathis runs for 6 yards. 
  • 3&4: False Start*
  • 3&9: Mathis scrambles for 5 yards, is lit up on the sideline by Bumper Pool*

Remember to Bumper Pool hit, we will get back to it. 

Second Drive

  • 1&10: Stuffed on first down, no gain. 
  • 2&10: Incomplete 
  • 3&10: Mathis scrambles for 9 yards, gets out of bounds too early, Georgia Punts

Third Drive

  • 1&10: Stuffed on run, a gain of three yards. 
  • 2&7: Holding on the designed screen to James Cook for no gain. 
  • 3&12: Incomplete

Fourth Drive

  • 1&10: Stuffed on inside zone run, gain of three yards. 
  • 2&7: No gain on a check down to Zamir White. 
  • 3&7: Interception on an errant throw to Jermaine Burton.

Fifth Drive

  • 1&10: Completion to Pickens, 11 yards and a first down. 
  • 1&10: Stuffed on an inside zone with Kenny McIntosh. A gain of three.
  • 2&7: Incomplete to Pickens. 
  • 3&7: False Start*
  • 3&12: Incomplete

Sixth Drive

  • 1&10: Incomplete, intended for Kearis Jackson
  • 2&10: James Cook rushes for seven yards. 
  • 3&3: James Cook rushes for 2 yards. 
  • 4&1: D'Wan Mathis rushes for 5-yards on a QB Sneak. 
  • 1&10: James Cook for 6 yards. 
  • 2&4: Incomplete.
  • 3&4: Sack


Let's start with the errors that D'Wan Mathis made before we start making excuses for him. 

You've got to know where the sticks are as a scrambler

On the opening drive, Mathis takes off on a scramble to his right on 3&9, and with no shot of the first down, he lazily attempts to get out of bounds. What he didn't know is that Bumper Pool covers the full 53 1/2 yards wide, and lit him up on the sideline. You gotta know where the hit sticks are too, not just the first down sticks. 

Then on the second drive, he bails out of bounds too quickly on a scramble on 3rd & 10. Had he just stuck the ball out, things are different. The field awareness as a scrambler was subpar on Saturday. The best in the world at this is Russell Wilson. He never seems to take a big hit, and he always knows where the first down marker is. 

Can't have bad misses in the redzone

Not only did D'Wan Mathis miss Jermaine Burton by a good four to five feet on the interception throw, but John Fitzpatrick was also running wide open down the middle of the field for what would have been an easy touchdown.  

Very well could have been a miscommunication between the two freshman, either way a critical error. 

Can not take sacks/Fumble the snap on 3rd & 4

The final play for Mathis was just something that cannot happen if you're going to be a starter on an elite college football team. He not only fumbles the shotgun snap, but he then picks it up and tries to run with it before being sacked. 

I know Mathis is a great athlete, but if he just falls on the ball at the 35 where he picks it up and tries to run with it, it's a 52-yard field goal attempt possibly. Instead, he's sacked at the 41-yard line and Georgia is forced to punt. 

Not all his fault

Of the (8) third-down situations Mathis was placed in, he faced 3&8 or less just three times. And he converted one of them. Want to know why the 19-year old was holding the ball too long? Well, because he was forced into positions where he's got to Convert a 3rd & 12, three of which were caused by a penalty (two false starts, and a hold) on 3rd & 7. 

Now, let's address that early-down run game. Georgia ran the ball with their running backs 7 times in those six possessions. They resulted in a whopping 20 yards, an average of 2.85 yards per attempt. In fact, it was Mathis who was the leading rusher (25 yards on 4 carries) by the time he left the ball game following the first possession of the second half. 

When you've got a young quarterback facing an average of 3rd & 8, with virtually no running game apart from himself in his first start in the SEC. You shouldn't expect him to succeed. 

As we've laid out, there were several things that Mathis can clean up. He's got to have better situational awareness, and he's got to get the ball out on time. But that wasn't enough of a sample size for me, and I think Georgia might have snatched him a little bit too quickly. 

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Comments (16)
No. 1-10

No, Mathis was not pulled too early, regardless of what UGA defense was doing.

South Carolina won in Sanford last year because of three interceptions. On Saturday, UGA was a Mathis-thrown pick-six (or two) from being seriously threatened with an upset by ARKANSAS.

Mathis was not ready. He even played very poorly after the game was decided and he was re-inserted. He still looked really, really scared. It still looked like the pressure, which at that point was nil, was too much for him.

He needs to just relax and play. Watching our offense with him was like watching a kid play Madden with Lamar Jackson, trying to score a touchdown on every play.

It wasn’t working. Pulling him was clearly the right move.


I understand the points made, and to an extent, agree with them. Holding calls, false starts, etc. are not on the quarterback....sort of. But the fact is that this young freshman was shelled. He was almost in panic mode and his team could see it. THEY were making mistakes because they were scared too. Bennett's calm presence and leadership was what was needed. They didn''t need a Trevor Lawrence out there to beat Arkansas, they just needed a good field general and leader, exactly what Bennett brought them. The problem wasn't Mathis, the problem was the game plan. Bennett, the experienced backup, should've started. Got the all the first game jitters settled down and then when they were firing on all cylinders, put Mathis in (I know, hindsight is 20/20). Let him play when his offense was stable. I absolutely support letting him have another shot, but not in that situation.


100% the right choice given the situation. He will come around, but this is a brutal schedule to cut your teeth on.


Looking at like a baseball game, sometimes the starting pitcher is off a little bit so the coach must make a decision let him stay in and the game gets out of control, or bring in a relief pitcher and give your team a chance to come back. I think the coach made the right decision this time. D'wan will get another opportunity down the road and hopefully he learned from this time.


Maybe during a normal season you would have time to bring him slowly along but this season starts out intense and stays intense. This is not the season to bring along a young QB. Let's play to win starting Bennett and J.T. Daniels if he will get cleared. Put him in when the score is out of range and let him learn by watching and during practice.


Making the switch at QB completely shifted the game in UGA’s favor. I’m all for giving Dwan another chance as the season progresses but we had to win the game yesterday. Questioning that decision in the face of the results is really just stupid.


The play calling for D’Wan changed after he took that hit on the sideline.

Kyle Funderburk
Kyle Funderburk

Bennett just had way more confidence. Maybe that's his age, maybe it's his JUCO experience, but Bennett found himself in similar situations to Mathis and he succeeded. Minimized the loss on the bad snap and responded with a TD pass. Bennett also converted three 3rd downs with his arm. Now the ball is in Bennett's court. He has to prove he isn't another Frank Reich.

Brent Wilson
Brent Wilson

Definitely a valid opinion. I want to see D’Wan Mathis get another shot. You can see all of his raw abilities. Give him a chance with a more organized offensive line and control penalties, and I think he will be able to move the ball.

Jonathan Williams
Jonathan Williams

Penalties definitely killed Georgia in the first half and one thing you don’t want a quarterback who is making his first career start to have to do is covert 3 and longs every drive. D’Wan of course made some mistakes himself but I think there is a bigger picture to his struggles than just him as you mentioned.