Georgia 41, Missouri 20: Initial Links And Reflections

"Well, we've proven we belong. It'd be a shame not to go ahead and win the game."

That's what I said to The Beef at halftime of Missouri's 41-20 loss to Georgia last night. The offensive line had lost Elvis Fisher, but after a long feeling-out process, Mizzou's offense had begun to make some plays. James Franklin found Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington for long touchdown passes and held a 17-9 lead early in the third quarter. The Tigers put themselves in position to pull the game out in winning time, but Georgia made the plays instead.

Here are a couple of tidbits that pretty much tell you everything you need to know:

  • Trips Inside 40: Missouri 8, Georgia 7
    Points Per Trip: Georgia 5.9, Missouri 2.5
  • Average Starting Field Position (1st Half): Georgia 35.0, Missouri 34.6
    Average Starting Field Position (2nd Half): Georgia 48.0, Missouri 26.4

For the game, Mizzou's defense showed up in a major, major way. Georgia averaged just 5.1 yards per play, which is, I'm pretty sure, going to be one of Georgia's worst per-play averages of the season. The Mizzou front seven was as good as I hoped it would be, at least until Zaviar Gooden went out with a hamstring injury and both Sheldon Richardson and Michael Sam came up gimpy, and aside from a single, 44-yard run by Todd Gurley (an absolutely gorgeously-executed trap), UGa running backs combined to gain just 86 yards in 29 carries (3.0 per carry). For the most part, E.J. Gaines won his one-on-one battle with Georgia receiver Tavarres King. King was targeted just four times and caught just two balls, one on a perfectly-executed screen (with Mizzou going on an all-out blitz) that didn't have much to do with Gaines. The defense looked strong and exciting. But when it was time to win the game, the offense fell short. All things considered, that makes sense: 1) Mizzou's offensive line is a damn M*A*S*H unit at the moment, and 2) Georgia has Jarvis Jones, and Mizzou doesn't.

"I think Missouri's going to land some serious blows tonight. Georgia might win if they're a really good team, but if they're only good, Mizzou takes it."

That's what I said to a friend at the tailgate before the game. And despite the iffy early offense, Mizzou did end up delivering what I felt was a solid performance, all things considered. But as it turns out, Georgia is indeed a "really good team." The Dawgs simply had a couple more playmakers than the Tigers, even with their suspended defensive starters. Jarvis Jones and end Cornelius Washington combined for 10.5 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack (and almost three more), a forced fumble, an interception (almost returned for a touchdown), and a pass broken up. Most of that came from Jones, but Washington's 2.5 TFLs were also huge. As the game reached its final stages, Georgia suddenly began to pierce Mizzou's offensive line a bit more and force some mistakes from James Franklin.

Bottom line: Georgia overcame its lost personnel better than Mizzou did and won because of it. In all, though, I think this game says a lot more about Georgia than "SEC football." It would be pretty silly to draw conclusions about the entire season based on what Georgia was able to do to Mizzou late in the game. Among other things, only Georgia has Jarvis Jones. But Mizzou showed last year that it can typically execute well late in games. If the new Mizzou line (with or without Elvis Fisher) can gel, if a given center can begin to deliver more consistent snaps (pleeeeeease let this happen), and if the injury bug would actually stop biting for a little while (the last 13 months have been absolutely ridiculous in this regard), then this should be a pretty good team.

Of the remaining opponents on Mizzou's schedule, only one definitely has a defense as good or better than the Bulldogs' (Alabama), and only two more can come close (South Carolina and Florida). Mizzou's defense is good enough to slow down most offenses, and better offensive performance could still result in a solid season. Make no mistake, though: there are going to be a lot of close games, a lot of meaningful fourth quarters still to play. The Arizona State, South Carolina, UCF, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Florida games could all be tight heading into "winning time," and Syracuse might be the same (right now, I'm assuming Alabama and Kentucky won't, for differing reasons); the Tigers will have to learn how to close again, but the good news is that few of these future opponents will have the depth or top-end playmaking talent (i.e. Jones) that Georgia has. They are SEC East favorites for a very obvious reason.

FULL SCREEN VERSION

Animated Drive Chart brought to you by Gameday Depot.


As you would probably guess, we'll have plenty more postgame content soon enough.

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