Through nine games this season, the Georgia Bulldogs’ defense recorded their third shutout, and the last time this happened was during the 1981 season. On Saturday night, the Bulldogs dominated the Missouri Tigers en route to a 27-0 victory. During the post-game interview, head coach Kirby Smart gave credit to Dan Lanning and his staff for coming up with an exemplary game plan.
“Yeah, you can’t say enough about the defensive staff and the game plan they put together, the buy in from the kids,” Smart said. “We preached all week how well these guys ran the ball on us last year and I thought they ran the ball on us as good as anybody last year. The defensive players kind of hung their hats on that and they were all chomping at the bit at the end to make it tough to score. I thought they showed some competitive character there at the end with that stand.”
Smart was talking about the defense’s stand in the fourth quarter that resulted in Missouri not scoring. The Tigers had the ball first and goal on Georgia’s four-yard line. Tiger’s running back Dawson Downing had a three-yard rush advancing the ball to the Bulldogs’ one-yard line. On second down, Dawson was tackled for a three-yard loss. The next two plays resulted in incomplete passes.
That was essentially Missouri’s last drive, and on that series of plays Bulldogs’ Richard LeCounte, Monty Rice, and Tae Crowder all made big stops. On those last two pass attempts, Georgia’s effort to keep Missouri scoreless was felt by the crowd, and they cheered loudly after that fourth-down incompletion.
“I’m just happy they didn’t score,” Monty Rice said after the game. “It wouldn’t have mattered to me if (Jordan Davis) made the play, J.R. (Reed), it doesn’t matter. As long as they don’t score, that’s all that matters.”
Last year against Missouri, the Bulldogs gave up four rushing touchdowns in their 43-29 win in Columbia. Saturday night, the Bulldogs kept their streak alive of not giving up a rushing touchdown in the shutout, which now stands at 9 games and counting. After the game, Smart didn’t really acknowledge that stat but did credit some of the defense’s accomplishments to his younger players.
“We play hard. We play consistent,” Smart said. “We don’t control who they put in front of us and our kids go out and play really tough and physical. That’s all we can ask them to do and they’ve done a great job at that. The buy in on that side of the ball, we’ve been playing a lot of players, the camaraderie, the defensive staff, Dan and his staff have done a great job of putting plans together, and the kids have executed them. It’s hard for me to judge who we’ve gone against.”
Georgia held Missouri to just 198 yards of total offense and dominated their run game by only giving up 50 yards on the Tigers’ 24 rush attempts. Missouri backup quarterback Taylor Powell was just 10 of 22 for 84 yards and an interception. That interception came in the second quarter, nabbed by junior safety Richard LeCounte, who returned pick 71 yards deep into Tiger territory.
That was just Georgia’s second interception in league play, and last Monday Smart commented that that’s one thing his defense could do a better job of it.
“We’ve got to do a better job getting turnovers, there’s no doubt about that,” Smart said last Monday. “That comes with forcing them, havoc, tipped balls, batted balls, strip outs, knocking the crap out of people, ripping the ball out. Those things all effect turnovers, but we’ve been short on interceptions, for sure.”
Regardless, the Bulldogs’ 27-0 win Saturday night comes off another dominating performance by their defense. Georgia will have another tough test next week as they head to the plains to take on the Auburn Tigers in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry next Saturday.
Here is the video from Kirby Smart’s post-game presser: