When the line for this game was announced last Sunday, I asked if “17” was the over/under rather than the point spread. It was only half in jest – Missouri’s strength on defense and weakness on offense have been pretty well established at this point in the season. We saw both of those tendencies hold on Saturday. Missouri’s offense sputtered even more than Georgia’s, and the Tiger defense was as stout as advertised.
But as good as the Missouri defense was, Georgia’s was better. You would hope that the defense would show up against one of the SEC’s weaker offenses, but we were just a week removed from allowing an anemic Tennessee passing game to look like Baylor. We have to take improvement when we can get it, and ensuring that a struggling offense continues to struggle represents improvement. It was one of the best performances of the season from the front seven, and enough plays were made in the secondary to prevent the few Missouri successes across the middle from building on each other.
As for the Bulldog offense – Georgia dominated time of possession, ran 82 plays to just 52 for Missouri, and had twice as many scoring opportunities. Following two weeks of dreadful third down performance, the offense converted at a much more respectable 47%. So why only nine points?
The most obvious answer is that the Dawgs failed to finish drives. The offense was far from shut down. We didn’t see nearly as many three-and-outs as in the past couple of weeks, so at the very least the offense was able to help the team with field position. Missouri’s average starting field position was on their own 28.8, nearly 8 yards worse than Georgia’s – and that includes Missouri’s short fields as a result of the interception and onside kick. Georgia’s four field goal attempts were from inside of 40 yards.
The other thing working against the offense was a lack of explosive plays. There was a mid-range pass that Godwin turned into a long gain, but that was about it. (And Georgia came away with nothing on that drive.) Michel was tripped up on the few runs that looked close to breaking open, and for the first time this season there was no Georgia tailback galloping for a huge gain. Georgia’s longest run of the game was 12 yards by Marshall. Not many deep passes were attempted, and Davis’s apparent injury on the opening kickoff might have something to do with that. Missouri’s pressure caused Georgia to use shorter passes like receiver screens, and Missouri’s physical cornerbacks prevented those from turning into small gains (and several losses.) With Georgia forced to move down the field in small chunks, it only took one penalty or failed conversion to end those drives and scoring opportunities.
No one is going to (or should) crow about the aesthetics of the game or feel very positive about the offense in a post-Chubb world. Still, after two miserable weeks, the win is a good note on which to enter the bye week. Georgia should have some players returning from injury, and they’ll have two weeks to think about an opponent that showed them up on both sides of the ball a year ago (not to mention special teams.) A defense that is as committed to tackling and pressure as Georgia showed on Saturday can give you a chance to win. The offense though hasn’t contributed more than 17 points since the Southern game, and the next defense they’ll see isn’t far from the one they just faced.
- Oh, that Leonard Floyd.
- The body paint in the student section spelled out the hashtag “#MISERY.” I don’t think they intended to serve as game commentary.
- As impressive as the Georgia defense was, two of the biggest tackles came from Georgia receivers. Kenneth Towns hustled to save a touchdown on Missouri’s interception of Lambert’s first pass. The four points saved as a result of his effort and the subsequent defensive stand turned out to provide the winning margin. Malcolm Mitchell, subbing in on the punt team after Sanders was ejected, delivered a perfectly-timed hit on the return man to force a fumble that flipped field position and led to Georgia’s tying score.
- The ejection of Sanders (I couldn’t disagree after seeing the endzone angle) not only cost the defense their best defensive back, it also put a lot more pressure on the freshmen. Abram held his own, and Briscoe made several important plays. McGraw’s first half coverage of a slant pass was textbook.
- We have three more years to stop calling him “Abrams.”
- It’s frustrating when the “correct” play call is wrong. If the defense is going to send seven or eight guys, then, yes, those quick receiver screens should work (as should other countermeasures.) But they must be blocked, and Georgia couldn’t handle two of the SEC’s more physical cornerbacks. These are the kinds of plays that Georgia needs to be able to execute with consistency in order to make the defense pay for selling out against the run. But since Georgia couldn’t block with any kind of success on the perimeter, Missouri was able to defend those screens effectively while still crowding the line of scrimmage.
- Missouri ran the speed option a couple of times to test Georgia outside. The Dawgs were ready each time, though it helps that the quarterback wasn’t a big threat to keep the ball.
- It wasn’t a perfect game for the special teams, but the mistakes weren’t backbreakers. Coverage teams had their best games of the season. Godwin was a pleasant surprise returning punts and gave Georgia decent field position on several second half drives. Even the onside kick was a good idea with the execution coming up just a little short. The space was wide open. Fortunately the defense made that error forgettable.
- I can’t be the only one who had a bad feeling about a squib kick after Morgan’s go-ahead FG. But Georgia kicked it deep, covered it well, and the defense got after the Missouri quarterback. It was a good feeling – there was plenty of time left, but neither the Georgia defense or the Missouri offense gave you much reason to worry that the Tigers could throw the ball into position to tie the game. They did come uncomfortably close to converting that fourth down pass though along the sideline.
- Tyler is on to something here. When did Missouri have their best (only?) scoring drive of the game?