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Five takeaways from Mizzou’s 26-22 loss vs. Georgia

So close, yet still so far away.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

I’m conflicted. Do I tell you about how Missouri was up by 10 points in the fourth quarter against the best team in the country, or do I tell you about how the last 10 minutes went so poorly that the Tigers found a way to lose?

The reality is this game presented more reasons for optimism than pessimism. Missouri played an inspired football game. The Tigers had every opportunity to beat the top-rated team in the country for the first time in more than a decade. That is meaningful, and it shows clear and obvious progress within the program.

But... They still found a way to lose. That matters, too. With all of that in mind, let’s get to the takeaways.

1) Missouri’s defense came to play

Georgia v Missouri Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

This is the drive chart for Georgia’s first eight drives of the night:

  • Punt
  • Fumble
  • Punt
  • Fumble
  • Field Goal
  • Field Goal
  • Field Goal

Through three quarters, Missouri held Georgia to 12 points. The Bulldogs were 3-for-11 on third down, turned the ball over twice, settled for four field goals and were generally out of sync offensively. This was the first time Georgia was held without a touchdown through three quarters since the 2019 season. The Tigers did everything they could defensively to give the offense a chance.

Missouri finished the game with nine tackles-for-loss, two sacks, six pass deflections, seven QB hurries and God only knows how many QB hits. Ty’Ron Hopper looked like the best player on the field for the vast majority of the game (again). Martez Manuel came up with some massive plays. Kristian Williams’ box score stats won’t jump off the page, but his impact on the field jumped off the screen. Trajan Jeffcoat and Isaiah McGuire were an absolute nightmare for Georgia’s offensive line. This defense deserves so much credit for the way they played.

Blake Baker also deserves a whole lot of credit for the way he coached. He was completely unafraid. He blitzed like crazy, took chances, and trusted his guys. It came back to bite him a few times, but that’s something you live with. We lived through some years of Missouri’s defense sitting back and playing a scheme where the offense dictated the tempo of the game. That is not this defense. And I, for one, am happy for that. It’s good to have havoc back in our life defensively.

In the end, Georgia scored 26 points. The only other teams to hold Georgia to 26 or fewer points in the last 3 years: Alabama (2020 & 2021), Kentucky (2020) and Clemson (2021). Decent company.

2) Harrison Mevis is BACK!

Georgia v Missouri Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

I will never understand what happened to Mevis last week at Auburn. It will never make any sense to me. He’s one of the best kickers (if not the best kicker) in the country. He proved his worth once again against Georgia. He finished the game 5-for-5 with makes from 49, 52 and 56 yards. Mevis is the first Missouri kicker in at least the last 20 years with multiple 5-for-5 performances. He’s the first Mizzou kicker to make four kicks of at least 40 yards in an individual game. This was also the first time in his Mizzou career in which he’s made multiple 50-yard field goals.

We’ve all seen how #collegekickers can impact a game. Heck, we saw it last week. But Mevis has been automatic for the vast majority of his career. Having a kicker like that on the roster is a game-changer.

3) Missouri came out with a tremendous gameplan offensively

Georgia v Missouri Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

Missouri finished the first half up 16-6 with 194 yards of total offense, including 65 yards on the ground and 129 through the air. The Tigers were 3-for-8 on third down and averaged more than six yards per play. Dominic Lovett had six receptions for 85 yards. Luther Burden was involved early with manufactured touches. Brady Cook completed 14-of-18 passes in the first half. The designs were creative. The play calls were (mostly) on point. The offense, in general, looked like the best version of itself.

4) I will never understand why Drinkwitz makes some of the decisions he makes

NCAA Football: Georgia at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri’s final drive in the first half was, for my money, the drive that changed the game. Cody Schrader had a 63-yard rush to the Georgia 1-yard line. If the Tigers score a touchdown, they go up 20-3 late in the first half. If they kick a field goal, they’re up 16-3 and Georgia has one more drive before the half.

The Tigers committed a false start on the next play. Drinkwitz ran up the middle on first and goal for a 1-yard gain. He ran a pitch to the short side of the field on second down for another 1-yard gain. On third and goal from the four, the Tigers ran a bland slant across the middle that never really had a chance. Three plays after Schrader’s big gain, the Tigers were kicking a field goal. That was probably the moment I knew, in my heart of hearts, Missouri was going to lose the game.

If that didn’t do it, the fourth quarter did, especially the Tigers’ final drive offensively. Mizzou got the ball down 26-22 with 4:03 to play. They threw three straight incompletions and punted the ball back to Georgia with 3:39 to play. At that point, I think everyone knew it was over. The defense was gassed. They had given up touchdowns on each of Georgia’s previous two drives. Those drives lasted a total of 17 plays, traveled more than 140 yards and took nearly eight minutes off the clock. Punting in that spot was the equivalent to waving the white flag.

It’s frustrating the same individual who came out guns-a-blazing could become so conservative when the game is truly on the line. It’s no longer a small sample. This is how Drinkwitz coaches in big spots.

5) I’m conflicted on how to feel about this game, this team, and this coach

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 01 Georgia at Missouri

Let’s start with this game. Missouri played an inspired game. The Tigers deserve credit for that. A lot of it, actually. I didn’t expect Missouri to put up much of a fight in this game. Not against GEORGIA. This was a task too daunting for even the most optimistic of Mizzou fans to expect them to accomplish. But the defense kicked ass, turnover luck went their way, the offense did just enough and Mevis was back to being himself. That was enough to give them every opportunity to beat the best team in the country for the first time in program history.

But... they didn’t finish the job. They had every opportunity to do so, and they couldn’t get it done.

This brings us to the coach. I’m frustrated with Drinkwitz because he clearly has it in him. Look no further than some of the play designs and play calls in the first half of that game. He had this team ready to play. He had them believing in themselves. He put together such a great game plan. And then he shrunk in the biggest moment. Again. So does he deserve more credit for getting them ready to play, or criticism for coaching a conservative game as a massive underdog with nothing to lose? I lean toward credit, but I also understand if you’re someone who believes we should be critical.

Finally, how am I supposed to feel about this team? Missouri is 2-3. They were an unfortunate fumble and a couple plays against the best team in the country away from being 4-1. They also got their butts whipped on the road against Kansas State. So, how am I supposed to feel about this team?

The reality is the next seven weeks will determine the answer to that question. Florida is a good, but not great team. That should be a winnable game if the Tigers are able to fight next week the way they did against Georgia. The team we watched on Saturday night should beat Vanderbilt, South Carolina and New Mexico State. Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas are going to be tough, but none of those three teams are as good as the team the Tigers faced on Saturday.

I had a belief coming into the season that Missouri could (and should) win at least seven games. It’s hard to believe the Tigers can still get to that mark, but the goal should now be six wins and a bowl game. They can still salvage this season.

Missouri was a few self-inflicted wounds away from beating the top-ranked team in the country and finding themselves at 3-2 through the first five weeks. It wasn’t meant to be. It was a fun game, but a frustrating loss. Ahh, to be a Missouri fan again.