A decade after stunning Georgia in Athens, Missouri went into Sanford Stadium in hopes of once again stunning No. 1 Georgia and ending its 25-game winning streak. The attempt failed as the Tigers fell 30-21 in self-inflicting fashion.
Brady Cook’s interception to Nazir Stackhouse with under eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, down six wrapped up the kind of afternoon it was for Missouri. Peyton Woodring essentially put the game on ice with a 48-yard field goal on the following possession with under four to play.
“There’s a lot of hurt guys in that room,” said Drinkwitz on the emotional state of the team. “They put a lot into this one. We knew it would be a four quarter fight and it’s disappointing to be so close but so far away at the same time.”
While the Tigers lost by nine, both Missouri and Georgia knotted a 10-10 tie heading into the locker room. Did both team’s play their best brand of football? No. Did both Eli Drinkwitz and Kirby Smart’s collection have opportunities to establish control in the first half? Probably so. But, heading into the final 30 minutes of action both teams had something to prove.
Missouri was looking to ascend in the College Football Playoff ranking, with its motto of “STP,” while Georgia was looking to show who still runs the East, as many may point out that the Bulldogs weren’t as dominant as its previous two seasons.
On the first play of the second half, Cook, off play action hit Theo Wease for a long gain of 31 yards before Cody Schrader delivered a pair of punishing runs of seven and six yards. Mookie Cooper proceeded those sequences of events by taking the Tigers into the red zone.
The drive stalled from there, but Harrison Mevis became Missouri’s all-time leading scorer with a 42-yard field goal to put the Tigers back in front for the first time since the first quarter. It seemed as if momentum shifted in the Tigers favor. But, as Kirby Smart said on the television broadcast, the most disciplined team was going to come out on top.
That statement proved true as the next three minutes following Mevis’ kick changed the game and turned the Tigers’ chances of a possible upset upside down.
A holding call by Drey Norwood on third down extended the ensuing Bulldogs drive and Ladd McConkey capitalized on missed tackles for a 16-yard gain, and that led to Kendall Milton knifing through the Tigers defense for a 15-yard score.
“The game kind of flipped on that defensive pass interference call on third down,” Drinkwitz said. “They were able to capture some momentum in that third quarter.”
To make matters worse, Marquis Johnson forgot where he was on the ensuing kickoff and rather than taking a touchback was stopped cold inside the five-yard line, and to add salt to the wound, Johnny Walker was penalized on the same play putting the offense in a hole, in which it could not climb out of on that drive.
It wasn’t that Missouri wasn’t less talented and mismatched against the nation’s second ranked team that it may have been in previous matchups before. The Tigers were penalized a total of eight times against the Bulldogs. To add on to this the defense missed key tackles and allowed far too many big plays and breakdowns in the secondary. Far too many than this defense is used to giving up. When you're on the road in a hostile environment, all that adds up, and was a major reason why the Tigers left with a loss.
Georgia proceeded to go up double-digits as Carson Beck led the Bulldogs downfield highlighted by a 33-yard strike to Ladd McConkey. Two plays later, Beck found Oscar Delp in the end zone from five yards out making it a 24-13 game leaving a larger hill for Missouri to climb.
Cody Schrader, one of the bright spots on the afternoon, with 99 yards against an always tough Bulldogs defense responded with a 12-yard score to pull within three, but once again another breakdown in the secondary allowing Delp to pick up 23 yards and another penalty moved the Bulldogs into the red zone.
A field goal made it a seven-point game with under nine to play. The nail in the coffin came with Cook’s ill-advised interception.
“We were running a little tight end hide play and I had my eyes on the tight end. He was open and all of a sudden I just saw the defender with the ball,” Drinkwitz said.
The Tigers fall to 7-2 on the season and 3-2 in conference play. Georgia remains undefeated and sits all by themselves a top of the SEC East.
“They’re champs,” Drinkwitz said. “You got to knock them out and we couldn’t knock them out. They’ve got a championship mindset. They’ve been in these battles before.”
Following Georgia driving downfield for a field goal on its first possession, Missouri responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive. The Tigers slowly matriculated downfield before, as happened many times before, Cook heaved a long deep ball to none other than Luther Burden III for a 39-yard score silencing the 90,000-plus at Sanford Stadium.
Going back and forth in the first half, Georgia responded with a scoring strike of their as Carson Beck diced up the Missouri secondary completing passes to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, Delp and Dominic Lovett moving into Mizzou territory, before Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton moved the Dawgs into the red zone.
Once down to the Tiger six, Beck fired a dart to the former Tiger, Lovett, putting Georgia back up. 10-7. The Tigers eventually caught back up midway through the second quarter with another long-sustained drive that was engineered on the ground.
Both Cook and Cody Schrader grinded out a combined 56 yards into Bulldog territory. Following that drive stalling, Harrison Mevis tied the game with a 37-yard boot.
It doesn’t really get easier as the Tigers return home next week to face No. 17 Tennessee. Before Missouri and Georgia kicked off, the Volunteers dismantled Connecticut 59-3. The Vols tallied 650 total yards. In their past two meetings with Mizzou, they’ve outscored the Tigers 128-48.