Greyson Lambert faces troubling trend against Gators

Greyson Lambert is attempting to become Georgia's first starting quarterback to defeat Florida in his first attempt since Greg Talley in 1989.
photo Greyson Lambert is attempting to become Georgia's first starting quarterback to defeat Florida in his first attempt since Greg Talley in 1989.

ATHENS, Ga. - Now it's Greyson Lambert's opportunity to end the streak.

No Georgia quarterback since Greg Talley in 1989 has managed to defeat rival Florida in his first start. David Greene, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray each topped the Gators within the last dozen years - Murray three times, in fact - but none succeeded on his inaugural attempt.

Hutson Mason's only chance last season resulted in a 38-20 setback, so what advice does Bulldogs coach Mark Richt have for Lambert in his first try?

"The main thing is that you don't let the fact that only half of the stands are full of Gators fool you," Richt said Tuesday. "I mean, it's going to be as loud as any SEC game that you'll be at. If you hear that only half the stands are your opponent, maybe you might think it will be half the noise, but it's not true.

"It's going to be loud enough where we've got to do all of our nonverbal cadence."

Lambert and Stafford will be Georgia's only quarterbacks under Richt to start against Florida without having previously experienced the game from the sideline. Stafford started as a true freshman in 2006, and Lambert played for Virginia until transferring from the ACC to the SEC this past summer.

When Saturday afternoon's game between the No. 11 Gators (6-1, 4-1) and the Bulldogs (5-2, 3-2) kicks off shortly after 3:30 on CBS, Lambert will not be lacking for support.

GETTING CHOMPED

A Georgia quarterback has not defeated Florida in his first crack as the starter since Greg Talley led the Bulldogs to a 17-10 win in 1989. The failed attempts since:1991 Eric Zeier lost 45-131995 Hines Ward lost 52-171996 Mike Bobo lost 47-71998 Quincy Carter lost 38-72001 David Greene lost 24-102005 Joe Tereshinski lost 14-102006 Matthew Stafford lost 21-142009 Joe Cox lost 41-172010 Aaron Murray lost 34-312014 Huston Mason lost 38-20

"He's been playing this game since who knows when?" Bulldogs tight end Jay Rome said. "He's a Georgia boy who grew up in south Georgia, where football is a really competitive game, and it's something we've always done. It's no different in this situation, except for a whole bunch of people in the stands."

Said receiver Malcolm Mitchell: "He just needs to stay relaxed. It's the game of football."

The Georgia-Florida game has showcased intriguing quarterback matchups through the years - Eric Zeier and Danny Wuerrfel in the early 1990s, Greene and Rex Grossman in the early 2000s and Stafford and Tim Tebow in the late 2000s.

This year's game has the unlikely pairing of the transfer Lambert and Florida counterpart Treon Harris, a sophomore who has spent most of this season backing up Will Grier. Harris started the opener against New Mexico State and the Oct. 17 game at LSU, which followed the announcement of Grier's yearlong NCAA suspension for taking a banned substance.

Harris quarterbacked the Gators during last year's win in Jacksonville, completing just 3 of 6 passes for 27 yards on an offense that pounded the Bulldogs for 418 rushing yards.

"The stage is not too big for him at all," Florida coach Jim McElwain said in Monday's news conference. "That's the least of our worries. I'm just glad that he's our quarterback, and I'm anxious to see how he progresses this week."

Harris accounted for nearly 90 percent of Florida's offense in the 35-28 loss in Baton Rouge. He completed 17 of 32 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns, and he also had a 17-yard run.

Richt does not see a huge difference between Grier and Harris.

"Grier was actually a very mobile quarterback as well," Richt said. "They do a good job of moving the point on where the quarterback sets. They just don't always have them in the pocket in the same spot.

"We're seeing a lot of the same types of thoughts, but Treon is obviously a very athletic guy and has made a lot of plays on the move throwing and running."

Neither Harris nor Lambert has been made available to the media this week.

Lambert, who beat out Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta in preseason camp to claim Georgia's starting role, set an NCAA accuracy record Sept. 19 by completing 24 of 25 passes (96.0 percent) for 330 yards and three touchdowns in the 52-20 rout of South Carolina. He followed that with a 9-of-10, 146-yard, two-touchdown showing in the 48-6 blowout of Southern University, but the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder has completed just 54.5 percent of his attempts in the three games since with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Two of Lambert's last three starts have been losses, so he enters the trip to Jacksonville without a slew of momentum in terms of trying to stop the skid of Georgia first-year starting quarterbacks against the Gators.

"It's a game that if you let it it can become bigger than it is, whether it's something good or something bad," Richt said. "You've got to be able to keep your poise, keep your balance and just stay focused on your job."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.