First things first: the defense was awesome.
Yes, Georgia converted 12 of 21 first downs. So technically the defense could have done better. But Georgia averaged 4.4 yards per play for the game. Including sacks, Hutson Mason averaged 4.6 yards per pass attempt. Nick Chubb averaged 3.8 yards per carry. Mizzou made 10 tackles for loss, including two from sophomore Harold Brantley and two from redshirt freshman Charles Harris. The Tiger forced two fumbles, too.
Yes, Georgia would have done better with Todd Gurley. Of course. But nothing I saw on Saturday suggested that the defense would get torched, even with Gurley out there. With a mediocre offense and any sort of luck-of-the-bounce, Mizzou's D would have given the Tigers a chance to win.
The defense was asked to perform a miracle and only performed well instead. Georgia's average starting field position was its 41, which is ridiculous. Seven of 12 Dawg possessions began at the 40 or greater. Three started at the 50 or further, and Georgia scored three points on those three possessions.
So yeah, the defense did its part. Georgia wanted to play extreme ball control and was indeed able to convert lots of third downs; only one offensive coordinator knew he had plays in the book that could gain four or five yards when they needed to. Still, dealt a fair hand, the defense would have done enough.
Meanwhile, the offense has been outright pathetic for 7.5 of the last eight quarters and probably nine of the last 12.
Find a positive, I dare you
Morse, on Mauk's confidence in the line: "He should have all the confidence in the world with us. But if he’s lacking it, I don’t blame him"— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) October 11, 2014
Of Missouri's 43 plays today, 21 went for 0 or negative yardage.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) October 12, 2014
Bud Sasser: "that's a pathetic job by the offense. Period. We should never play that bad. Ever."— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) October 11, 2014
Missouri ran four plays in Georgia territory today. Three were turnovers. Never got closer than UGA 34.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) October 11, 2014
Mizzou's first nine carries gained a combined 14 yards. Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy eventually carved out some yards here and there because they're awesome (final tally: 15 carries, 64 yards), but the line made a pretty good Georgia front look like the best Georgia front ever.
For the second time in three games, offensive line play was an atrocity. (And in the third of those three games, it was only decent, not great.) And when the line did do its job, Maty Mauk made a killer mistake. And when he didn't make a mistake, a receiver either dropped a pass or simply couldn't get open against what has been a wholly mediocre Georgia secondary.
When three of your four offensive units are playing terribly, disaster looms even when you do something well a couple of times.
With 2:55 left in the first half, down 20-0, Mizzou actually had three straight decent plays. Mauk (who was to that point 2-for-9 for 22 yards with two picks and a sack) found Bud Sasser for 11 yards to a loud Bronx cheer. Lawrence Lee caught a short pass for five yards, and Hansbrough ripped off an 11-yard run to the UGA 45. And then the line gave Mauk about 0.8 seconds of protection on first down, and he was stripped by Leonard Floyd before he could throw to his first read.
On the first drive of the second half, Hansbrough rushed for eight yards, then Mauk hit Hunt for 24. Then Mauk hit Hunt again, and the ball went straight through his hands and stuck in Quincy Mauger's instead.
That's to say nothing of the play where Mauk rolled to his left and somehow threw a picture-perfect, 60-yard bomb over two defenders to Wesley Leftwich, who dropped it. (Yes, it would have gotten called back because of a holding penalty anyway. The most perfect pass Maty Mauk will ever throw, and two different players sabotaged it.)
So yeah, about 10 of 11 players on the offense (sans the RB) were capable of bringing down a given play. That's ... an impressive ratio? And it makes it hard to figure out how to even start writing a "How to fix the offense" post. Step 1: have everybody stop playing poorly. Step 2: figure out the next step when everybody stops playing poorly. Georgia's defense is solid and has all the athleticism you could want; but Mizzou made the Dawgs' job really, really easy.
Okay, and step 3: call more rollouts. Mauk throws better on the run than in the pocket, so you might as well, at least move the pocket for him.
But hey, on the (only) bright side, J'Mon Moore looked pretty good. He might be seeing more targets soon.
What's worse than being bad?
Being both bad and unlucky. When I run the advanced box score on Tuesday, it's going to say that, based on fumbles and passes defensed (interceptions and break-ups), Mizzou should have had a turnover margin in the neighborhood of about 0.1 or 0.2.
Georgia: two fumbles plus one pass defensed equals ~1.25 turnovers.
Missouri: one fumble plus four passes defensed equals ~1.37 turnovers.
Turnover margin: Georgia plus-5. On average, a turnover is worth about five equivalent points in terms of field position. So turnovers luck gave Georgia about 24 points. When Tyler Hunt stripped Isaiah McKenzie on the first punt of the game, the ball bounced to Devin Bowman. When Aarion Penton stripped Chris Conley, the ball somehow spun away from two Mizzou defenders and back to Conley. When Floyd stripped Mauk, Sterling Bailey got it. And all four times that a Georgia defender touched a pass, it stuck in the defender's hands.
There's only so much encouragement you can find from "Mizzou should have lost 17-7 or so instead of 34-0," but ... if nothing else, a 17-7 score would have reinforced how well the defense really played. Small victories.
Get to a bowl. That's it. That's the one goal. Missouri has four wins, and the next home opponent (Vanderbilt) is really, really bad. As poorly as the Tigers played yesterday, that's still a likely win. Take that one, and find one other win somewhere (with that defense, there will be opportunities), and get to the postseason.
Technically Mizzou could rally and play a role in the East race. Beat Florida, have Georgia get upset, and we'll talk. But the offensive line has been decent to bad for each of the last three games. Maty Mauk has, in corresponding fashion, done the same. The receivers have been inconsistent in the hands department and, aside from Bud Sasser, nonexistent in the play-making and getting-open departments. Mauk needs help badly -- he looks more like a sophomore by the day -- and he's getting less and less. And when the offense is this bad more than once, then for now it's safe to say your team isn't good enough to even pretend to be a division contender. I'd love for the offense to prove me wrong, and I would love to joyfully say how wrong I was in a few weeks, but I don't think it will, and I don't think I will.