It was a tale of equivalency on offense for Georgia as they dominated in the second half to propel the team to a 49-14 win over Missouri on Saturday afternoon at Faurot Field in Columbia.
Georgia finished with 615 yards of total offense, which is a season high. The Bulldogs had 299 yards through the air while gained 316 on the ground. The Georgia offense managed to average 8.4 yards per play, 18.7 per pass and seven yards per rush.
Missouri was never really able to get things going on offense as Georgia held them to just 200 yards. The Tigers picked 178 yards off pass plays and the run game only totaled 22 yards. Of the Tigers’ two touchdowns, one was a long drive and the other was a 1-yard score, in which they took over at that mark after a blocked punt. So, take away that botched mishap on special teams for Georgia, and that’s really only seven points against a Missouri offense that has scored 91 points total in the previous two weeks.
“I’m really proud of our team, our seniors, and our leadership,” Smart said in his opening statement at the post-game press conference. “I’m proud of our staff. Some really tough conditions to play in today, and it just goes to show you that not everyone around the country loves football like the kids do in our conference. But they love it. They love it at Georgia and the leaders on this said they wanted to play well and they practiced really hard this week.”
Georgia’s defense shined early as cornerback Eric Stokes got his fourth interception of the year on the game’s opening drive. Georgia outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari brought the pressure and Missouri quarterback Connor Bazelak lofted the ball into mid air tipped by his own teammate.
It didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to score as they ran the ball well on the first drive. Redshirt sophomore Zamir White had four rushes for 19 yards and the possession was capped off with a pair of carries by sophomore Kenny McIntosh, who scored. Georgia’s offensive line played well as they bullied around a weak Missouri defensive front.
Georgia quarterback J.T. Daniels didn’t have a pass attempt until the second drive when he found sophomore receiver George Pickens for a 7-yard gain. The stable of Bulldog tail backs continued to run the ball well until Daniels found James Cook across the middle for a 37-yard touchdown. At that point, Daniels had completed 12 of 13 passes for five touchdowns on third down in less than nine quarters.
The Tigers responded on the next drive as they fooled Georgia’s defense on a trick play. Missouri’s Keke Chism connected with Messiah Swinson on a 29-yard gain to the Georgia two-yard line. Bazelak was able to score on the next on an RPO, which was just the sixth rushing touchdown Georgia’s defense has given up all season.
The momentum of the game shifted in the second quarter as the Tigers’ loaded the box and stopped Georgia’s rushing attack. Then, Missouri blocked Georgia punter Jake Camarda’s punt to set themselves up on the 1-yard line. Three plays later, running back Larry Rountree burst into the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown to tie the game.
The Bulldogs got the ball back with 1:24 left in the first half and responded as Daniels linked up with receivers Jermaine Burton and Kearis Jackson before hitting Pickens on a heave into the endzone. That gave Georgia a 21-14 lead heading into halftime, which was a momentum shift back their way. The Bulldogs amassed 238 yards of total offense in the first half (176 pass, 71 rush). Georgia averaged an impressive 5.2 yards on the ground throughout the first two quarters.
Smart said that final score of the second half really sparked the team going into the locker room.
“I called that timeout when they were on the one-yard line to make sure Eli (Drinkwitz) wasn’t going to milk the clock, for forty seconds” Smart said. “We were able to get the ball back and we were able to have enough time on the block to go down and score. It was a two-for-one. We got the possession to end the half and the possession to start the half. That was the biggest difference in the game was the 14-point swing.”
That electricity continued as Georgia on the first drive in the second half. White took a counter for 36-yards, then on third down, Daniels found Pickens on a quick slant for a 31-yard touchdown. Missouri had the box loaded and brought the blitz, although Daniels read the coverage to find the receiver across the middle. That was the second connection for a score the duo of Daniels and Pickens had.
Missouri went flat and Georgia was able to pile on more as White scored on a 43-yard scamper. The Bulldogs’ defense was able to force a three-and-out, then on the ensuing drive, Daniels found freshman tight end Darnell Washington downfield for a 36-yard gain. That set up the eventual score by Cook on a nine-yard run to put Georgia up 42-14. Georgia would score one more time in the fourth quarter as the freshman Daijun Edwards ran for a six-yard score.
“It was coupled together and it’s what we’ve been looking the last couple weeks,” Daniels said about Georgia’s balanced attack on offense. “I think that was our first real complete game. Mississippi State, great throwing and we didn’t run it like we want to. South Carolina, more of a statement game. We came out and ran it. Today, we threw when the looks were good and we ran it when the looks were good.”
Daniels finished the game by completing 16 of 27 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. White led all Georgia rushers with 126 yards and one touchdown on just 13 carries. Edwards finished with 103 yards, followed by McIntosh with 58 and Cook with 48. All of Georgia’s four rushers that had over 40 yards had touchdowns coupled with long runs of over 15-yards. Pickens led all pass catchers with five catches for 126 yards and two scores; freshman tight end Darnell Washington had a season-high two receptions for 61 yards.
Daniels said that having a guy like Pickens makes his job a whole lot easier.
“He’s really the first look I’ve got,” Daniels said. “There’s no one really playing help on George on one-on-one, and that what it looks like when it’s George one-on-one. I’ll never overthrow George. You always throw it up to him and you know what happens. I mean a 50/50 ball is an 80/20 ball to George.”
Of course after that statement, Daniels credited all his receivers for making great grabs throughout the past 12 quarters.
“Having guys like Kearis (Jackson), D-Rob and Jermaine (Burton) really help,” Daniels said. “They make look good when I can’t get the ball all the way to them sometimes.”
Even though it was a dominant performance, Georgia’s defense had a quiet day as safety Lewis Cine led the team with four tackles. It really helped having nose tackle Jordan Davis back from injury, although he only recorded one tackle. The Bulldogs were second in the SEC in sacks entering the game, but only recorded one, which was credited to sophomore Nolan Smith. Georgia did total seven tackles for loss and two quarterback pressures, though.
“I don’t if it was a statement game,” Smart said, “but I do know our kids responded to that. They get tired of the criticism because of the biggest games we’ve played and we didn’t play our best. It probably had something to do with who we were playing, you know? I think Missouri is a good football team, I really do. I think they’ve got a good football team that is growing and is young. They’re getting better and we were able to overpower them there in the second half. Early in the first half they did the same and created some adversity for us.”
Here is the video from Smart’s postgame press conference: