There are all kind of statistics to talk about in the Georgia Bulldogs’ heart-stopping 28-27 win over the Missouri Tigers, this past Saturday evening in Columbia, Mo.
But as all Bulldawg Nation is now fondly aware, the only STATS THAT MATTER in head coach Kirby Smart’s first Southeastern Conference victory were these two: a 20-yard, fourth-and-10 touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Jacob Eason to junior receiver Isaiah McKenzie with1:29 left to play and then freshman William Ham’s extra-point kick that followed McKenzie’s score.
Those two happenings delivered the Bulldogs’ last-gasp, come-from-behind win and kept Georgia unbeaten (3-0) in the new season heading for Oxford, Miss. this coming weekend.
On a night when the Bulldogs’ ground attack was again stymied and Nick Chubb (63 yards on 19 carries) held under the 100-yard rushing mark for a second consecutive game, Eason formally introduced himself to big-time college football by throwing for 308 yards and three touchdowns including the game-tying strike to McKenzie. Eason was 29-of-55 under a heavy Tiger pass rush while throwing one costly interception early in the third quarter that led to Missouri going ahead by 27-21 … before Eason bounced back to guide the dramatic 80-yard eventual game-winning drive in the final three minutes.
All told, it was clearly a satisfying win that the Bulldogs snatched out of the jaws of defeat. As always, there was good and bad in such a game as this. So let’s look at what Georgia did right and what it did badly …. stuff the Bulldogs can’t repeat and leave the Ole Miss campus still undefeated come Saturday afternoon.
Plays of 20 plus yards (offense/defense)
In the first half, the Bulldogs got a 31-yard pass from Eason to McKenzie, a 31-yard pass from Eason to Terry Godwin and a 20-yard Eason-to-McKenzie touchdown pass. Then at game’s end, Eason and McKenzie of course duplicated the 20-yard scoring pass that was truly the dagger in the Missouri Tigers’ collective heart. For the Tigers, Drew Lock had completions of 48, 20, 79 and 25 yards, all in the opening half.
Untimely mistakes (turnovers, penalties, clock management miscues, etc)
Eason’s pass in the early going of the third quarter was returned to the Bulldogs’ 6-yard line and enabled the Tigers to soon take their 27-21 lead. The Bulldogs sustained what could have been a game-costing penalty in the fourth quarter when Kirby Choates plowed into the Missouri punt returner and was called for both interference and targeting with his helmet. The Tigers accepted the targeting call and Choates was ejected from the game.
Special teams wins vs. miscues
The Bulldogs, for the most part, had excellent coverage on kicks but did allow the Tigers to return one kickoff 37 yards, out to the Missouri 44. William Ham missed field goal attempts of 23 and 38 yards before making the game-winning PAT kick. Marshall Long averaged just 37.4 yards on eight punts but did kick two inside the Tigers’ 20. Reggie Davis returned a kickoff 31 yards and McKenzie, in addition to his career-high 10 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns, also returned two punts for 25 yards. Of course, there was the awful special teams mistake committed by Choates on Georgia’s punt coverage team.
The Bulldogs’ secondary, in allowing Lock to throw for 376 yards and three touchdowns, too many times missed sure tackles on the Missouri receivers and also, late in the ball game, Georgia’s front seven on defense allowed the Tiger backs to escape the first hits, gain first downs and thereby keep the Bulldogs’ offense on the sidelines for long stretches.
Yards after contact
McKenzie, with his zig-zagging, elusive runs, escaped would-be Missouri tacklers but leading rusher Chubb was again met too often at the line of scrimmage by Tiger defenders, in particular Charles Harris. But Chubb did manage a key 16-yard, tackle-breaking run late in the contest.
The Bulldogs made the most of five Missouri turnovers. Cornerback Juwuan Briscoe recovered two Tiger fumbles, the latter preserving the game in the final seconds. Briscoe also had a key interception while senior safety Quincy Mauger managed two interceptions, his second one a leaping pick in the end zone that likely kept Missouri from putting the contest out of reach. The Bulldogs didn’t lose any fumbles but Eason had his third-quarter interception that led to a Mizzou TD.
Red Zone (offense/defense)
The Bulldogs scored on four of their six trips inside the Missouri 20 while the Tigers cashed points on three of their four trips inside the red zone.
Third down conversions
Georgia converted first downs on nine of their 20 third-down attempts while the Bulldogs’ defense allowed the Tigers to convert on only 6-of-16 tries.
Run/pass attempts (total plays)
The Bulldogs ran 93 total plays Saturday night, rushing for just 101 yards on 38 attempts while having Jacob Eason complete 29-of-55 passing attempts for his 308 yards.