Mizzou did not get the result it was looking for on Saturday, but the Tigers fought hard in a high-level football game and pushed Georgia to the wire for the second season in a row.
Entering this one, I looked at three key areas where these teams appeared to be on fairly similar levels. Thus, if one of these squads won at least two-of-three of those overall matchups, they would likely prevail on the final scoreboard.
In looking at the warfare in the trenches, the star-studded matchups on the perimeter and the duel of highly-efficient quarterbacks, here’s how I though each team fared:
Mizzou Rushing Yards: 151 (4.4 YPC)
Mizzou Sacks Allowed: 3
Georgia Rushing Yards: 131 (4.0 YPC)
Georgia Sacks Allowed: 3
Georgia’s offensive line was widely heralded as one of the best in the country coming into this game. Missouri’s defensive line had been wreaking havoc on opposing offenses in recent weeks.
On the flip side, the Bulldogs’ D-line was among the most talented and physical in the country, while Mizzou’s offensive line was vastly improved from last season.
Thus, the battle in the trenches in this one would go a long way in determining who came out on top, especially when both of these offenses rely so heavily on timing and being in an overall rhythm.
All in all, the Tigers challenged Georgia in this category better than any other team has this season. The Bulldogs had only given up six sacks coming into this game, yet Mizzou got half of that in one outing and made Carson Beck visibly uncomfortable in the pocket at times. As his internal clock dwindled, so did Georgia’s offensive success.
Missouri’s Darius Robinson flashing his power and violent hands on this sack.— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) November 4, 2023
Robinson is one of the most underrated SEC prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/vCclxecRTJ
Missouri’s D-line also managed to limit the UGA ground attack for three quarters and the unit as a whole racked up five tackles for loss. But, the Bulldogs did manage to run for 52 yards in the fourth quarter when they needed to salt the game away. Most of that can likely be linked to fatigue from the Tiger front seven and the ability of Kirby Smart’s offensive line to impose its will on a defense as the game goes on.
Against one of the more athletic defenses that has graced a football field this fall, Mizzou’s much-improved offensive line held strong. Cody Schrader found plenty of holes to run through, and the stretch zone (AKA the bread-and-butter of this offense) was successful despite everybody knowing that Mizzou would look to run that at least 10-15 times in the game. Still, the offensive line did struggle to protect Cook at times, as he took plenty of shots in the pocket, and issues with snap timing from Connor Tollison late in the game were costly.
Missouri held its own in the trenches, but the Bulldogs’ dominant performance up front in the fourth quarter gave them the win in this category.
On The Perimeter
Mizzou Passing Yards: 212 (15.1 yards per catch)
Mizzou Pass Break Ups/INTs: 5/0
Georgia Passing Yards: 254 (12.1 yards per catch)
Georgia Pass Break Ups/INTs: 4/2
Ladd McConkey and Dominic Lovett vs. Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Raketraw.
Luther Burden III and Theo Wease Jr. vs. Kamari Lassiter and Daylen Everette (and you could add Malaki Starks, Tykee Smith and Javon Bullard as well).
The matchups on the perimeter in this game featured a plethora of future NFLers that were eager to put some great film together against some of the best competition they will face all season.
Luther Burden got the first major win of the game when he beat UGA’s secondary for a 39-yard touchdown, but due to an ankle injury and Smart’s adjustments, he was limited to just 14 yards the rest of the day.
Wease led the Tigers with 90 yards on five catches, and he excelled in winning in back-shoulder scenarios. However, Lassiter did come up with two pass breakups himself and the Bulldog secondary combined for 19 total tackles in this one. Bullard tacked on an interception, and the highly-regarded unit appeared to adjust well after some early struggles.
Following a combined 218-yard, 1 TD performance against Florida last week, McConkey and Lovett combined for 128 yards and a score against the Tigers. The major key for this duo was yards after the catch, as Lovett racked up 21 and McConkey added on 34. Open-field tackling was a struggle at times for this Mizzou secondary, and even KAD was being beat in some one-on-one scenarios early in the game. He bounced back, and the likes of Joseph Charleston and Jaylon Carlies also had solid outings, but there were times when Beck was in a rhythm through the air and the Tiger secondary just did not appear to have any answers.
Carson Beck Stats: 21/32, 66% completion, 254 yards, 2 TDs, 9 rushing yards
Brady Cook Stats: 14-for-30, 47% completion, 212 yards, 2 TDs, 39 rushing yards
In the end, quarterback is widely-accepted as the most important position in this sport for good reason. Very rarely does a team that experiences poor QB play win a game, and very rarely does a team have an exceptional performance from its signal-caller yet still lose.
Cook and Beck entered this game as near-mirror images of each other. Each are juniors, each were among the most efficient QBs in the nation and each were looking to prove that they are one of the faces of the Southeastern Conference in 2023.
Missouri’s man behind center had an up-and-down game, but I see far more positives in his performance than negatives. First and foremost, Cook was not intimated by this UGA defense, refusing to slide or run out of bounds when scrambling and testing the vaunted Bulldog secondary with plenty of deep shots. The St. Louis kid yet again put everything on the line for this team, and he played admirably throughout this one. The two interceptions were damning, and an argument could be made that Cook tried to do too much on each of those throws, but he was also constantly facing a healthy amount of pressure from both the UGA defense and the home crowd. Cook made some great plays, especially in handling some errand snaps during that final drive to find Wease for some clutch back-shoulder completions.
He brought his toughness, accuracy and never-quit attitude with him to Athens. Unfortunately, the backbreaking mistakes late in the game and the 47% completion may overshadow some of the positives from Cook’s play on Saturday.
Beck remained red-hot in this one, throwing for two TDs and no INTs for the second game in a row. Outside of some moments in the second and third quarters where Mizzou’s D-line appeared to rattle him, Beck looked in command of the Bulldog offense and found a nice rhythm. It wasn’t his flashiest game by any means, but Beck fared well against possibly the best secondary he has faced yet this year. And, perhaps most importantly, he made pivotal throws that allowed UGA to win without making any costly errors.
Carson Beck ➡️ Oscar Delp— 247Sports (@247Sports) November 4, 2023
Back-to-back touchdowns put Georgia back up by two scores pic.twitter.com/7URN8nf5gm
Both of these quarterbacks showcased their skillsets in this one, but the two INTs from Cook and Beck’s efficiency in key moments gives him the edge.