The Missouri Tigers came into this highly anticipated matchup against Georgia having won 5 of their last 6 games, and had just made their first appearance in the College Football playoff ranking at 25th. Despite the lack of fans in attendance, there was an energy in the air this morning.
After Connor Bazelak threw just his third interception of the year on the second play from scrimmage, Georgia didn’t even need to throw the ball to get into the end zone. Bulldog running back Kenny McIntosh easily scored from the 2 yard line to give Georgia an early touchdown lead.
Georgia’s game plan seemed focused, as they converted another touchdown after facing a 3rd and 8 on the Tiger’s 37 yard line. Quarterback, JT Daniels connected with James Cook for a touchdown to put the Bulldogs up two scores, which sucked the air out of the stadium.
Missouri needed to respond on their next drive and they got things rolling early with a pass to Larry Rountree III that went for 21 yards. The first quarter came to an end but the Tigers were putting together a promising drive.
To get the second quarter started, Eli Drinkwitz decided to open up the playbook and try some trickery. Keke Chism motioned out for a catch, but rather than running upfield, he stayed behind the line of scrimmage and threw a 29 yard pass to Messiah Swinson who carried it to the 2 yard line. On the very next play, Bazelak strolled into the end zone on an option-read, and suddenly the Tigers were back in the ball game.
After showing little resistance early, the Missouri defense held. With the ball back, Bazelak and the Tigers took over on their own 20 and feeling some momentum. But the momentum was halted as Bazelak carried the ball attempting to pick up a 1st down, he slid late and took a knee to the helmet which sent him to the sideline. Freshman Brady Cook stepped in during his absence, but was unable to move the Tigers any further.
Bazelak said his right hand was stepped on during that play. “I got banged up last game and took some hits this game, but it’s a tough game and you just gotta move on,” Bazelak explained.
The true freshman quarterback struggled to muster anything offensively and punter Grant McKinniss made his second appearance of the afternoon. Any momentum the Tigers had was drained quickly.
After both teams exchanged punts, Mizzou’s defense continued to make life hard on Georgia’s Daniels. After a 3-and-out, and with under 4 minutes to play in the half, Missouri’s special teams came up with the play of the half, blocking Georgia’s punt. Freshman LB Will Norris recovered the ball on the 1 yard line, and Missouri was in scoring position again.
After two plays, Larry Rountree III scampered into the end zone and picked up his 12th touchdown of the season. The score tied the game at 14, and the stadium was noticeably louder than it had been at any point all season following Missouri’s second touchdown.
The energy didn’t last as the Bulldogs quickly moved the ball down the field. JT Daniels had his best drive of the day and the Bulldogs drove the length of the field through the air and topped off a precise drive with a 36 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver George Pickens to retake the lead with 37 seconds remaining.
After taking the lead, Georgia received the ball to start the second half and immediately resorted back to the ground game. Running back Zamir White rushed for 36 yards on the second play of the half to put the Bulldogs in field goal range. Then on 3rd and 10 from the Tigers 31, Missouri’s defense whiffed badly and allowed JT Daniels to throw a 31 yard touchdown, again to Pickens.
The Bulldogs extended their lead later. A healthy dosage of run and pass put the Bulldogs up past midfield, and that was all Zamir White needed to break off a 43 yard touchdown. Georgia didn’t stop there, either. Halfway through the third, the Tigers’ chances were looking slim down three touchdowns, and it only expanded from there, as the Tigers offense struggled to move the football.
Larry Rountree III was held in check and Tyler Badie never got a chance to make anything happen. Missouri couldn’t handle Georgia’s line up front all game and the Bulldogs finished with 316 yards rushing. After the game, when Coach Eli Drinkwitz was asked where he thought his team didn’t match up well with Georgia, he said, “In the trenches.”
Coach explained that the game plan was to prevent the run, which is why Georgia was able to take advantage of 1 on 1 coverage through the air. “We were trying to load the box, but when you do that it opens up the passing game and it’s a pick your poison situation,” Drinkwitz said.
A dominating three offensive touchdowns from the Bulldogs in the third quarter is what put this game on ice. The Tigers’ offensive woes continued to haunt them into the fourth quarter. Halfway through the final quarter, Larry Rountree had a mere 17 yards rushing despite 13 carries. His final stat line was even worse, 14 carries for 16 yards.
Bazelak explained the difficulties to run an effective offense without a run game. “It makes my job more difficult, but you’ve got to find a way to get down fields and find points.”
The final score wasn’t pretty this afternoon. The Tigers dropped to 5-4 on the season following a brutal 49-14 loss.
After the game, Coach Eli Drinkwitz met with the press. He kept his message short and sweet.
“We’re just not there right now with our program. You need your best stuff in order to beat a team like that and we didn’t have it,” Drinkwitz explained. “I thought our special teams gave us a chance but not our offense and defense”.
While Coach Drinkwitz was visibly upset with the loss, he expressed his confidence in his team going forward. “... I wish we would have played better but we didn’t. I don’t question our team’s fight...our team will respond”.