The #12 ranked Missouri Tigers took the defending national champions deep into the fourth quarter, putting up as hard a fight as hard as any the Red and Black have experienced all year.
In the end it was enough to give Bulldog fans some serious jitters, but wasn’t quite enough to break the Dawgs’ nation-leading win streak. Instead the Bulldogs made enough plays on offense and got a couple of big turnovers late to secure a 30-21 victory.
This game was about as close to a statistical dead heat as you’ll see. The Tigers had 22 first downs, the Dawgs 21. Georgia managed a super slim lead in total yards, 385 to 363. Both teams converted their only fourth down conversion attempt, Mizzou was 5 of 13 on third down while Georgia was 6 of 13.
The teams were even nearly deadlocked in penalty yardage (49 for the Tigers, 55 for the ‘Dawgs). The only glaring divergence? Turnovers. Kirby Smart told the CBS crew at halftime that the team who played the more disciplined second half would emerge victorious, and he was borne out in his assessment.
Peyton Woodring (spoiler, we’ll be talking about him more later this evening) hit a 30 yard field goal with 8:59 to go, putting the Athenians on top 27-21. Brady Cook got the ball back with the chance to lead a go-ahead drive and instead threw an interception to Nazir Stackhouse. That play probably should have been the nail in the Tigers’ coffin, but Smael Mondon was called for a questionable block in the back which moved the ball from the Mizzou 5 to the Georgia 30.
After Woodring hit yet another field goal, Cook had the chance to lead a drive to bring the Black and Gold within a score. Instead Javon Bullard picked him off for Bullard’s first interception of the season, and Cook’s second in six minutes of game time.
The Columbians exposed some things that are worrisome. Daylen Everette is improving in coverage but is not yet a match for future NFL players Luther Burden and Theo Wease. Everette will come in for a lot of criticism on social media and sports talk radio this week. But the truth is nobody is going to cover guys like that in man coverage for 30 snaps and not get got at least a handful of times. Everette isn’t perfect, but he is improving. He’s still however going to be the guy opposing offensive coordinators target for the foreseeable future.
We also saw Carson Beck struggle a bit when under pressure in a way we haven’t seen for awhile. That was partially because Missouri was both more successful in coverage and better at getting to the passer with five or fewer rushers than the teams Georgia had previously played. In the end he finished 21 of 32 for 254 yards passing and 2 touchdowns. Most importantly, he avoided turnovers. Georgia can win games when Carson Beck doesn’t complete every pass. But the Red and Black will be in real trouble if he gives away free possessions. So all things being equal, today’s was a performance I can live with.
The Dawgs will be at home once again next Saturday to face another top 15 SEC opponent, Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss Rebels. They’ll once again get the visitors’ best shot, and will again need to score to keep pace with a frenetic visiting offense. But this felt like a growing game, one where the Champs played up to their potential and found a few things that bear coaching up.
But as the season progresses and things come into focus it looks more and more like this Bulldog team is a match for just about everyone, even if they’re not clearly the best team in America as in the past. They will eventually lose again. But it wasn’t going to be today. Until later…