ATHENS, GA– For 6th-ranked Georgia, this well could have been a dangerous sandwich game, stacked right between old rivals Florida and Auburn.
But because of an unyielding defense that pitched its third shutout of the season and an offense that did enough to win, plus Rodrigo Blankenship’s usual steady performance, the Bulldogs will be taking an 8-1 season mark (5-1 SEC) to the Plains of Auburn on Saturday following a 27-0 spanking of the Missouri Tigers.
With Blankenship drilling three second-quarter field goals after Jake Fromm hit freshman George Pickens with a 25-yard touchdown pass on the Bulldogs’ first possession of the game, Georgia built a 16-0 halftime lead and cruised to the relatively easy victory at chilly Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs didn’t cash but one additional touchdown — another Fromm-to-Pickens 18-yard connection — in the opening minute of the fourth quarter but Blankenship’s fourth field goal of the night plus a two-point PAT pass from Fromm to James Cook accounted for the final 27-point total.
But while the offense was again having to settle for too many field goals, instead of touchdowns, against an admittedly tough Tiger defense, the Georgia defense was spot-on throughout the game, preserving its blanking of the Tigers with a splendid goal-line stand in the contest’s final minutes … thanks to a big lost-yardage hit by linebacker Monty Rice.
PLAYS OF 20 PLUS YARDS , OFFENSE AND DEFENSE
The Bulldogs reeled off five of these: a 32-yard pass from Fromm to Lawrence Cager, the 25-yard Fromm-to-Pickens touchdown, a stirring 71-yard run with a pass interception by Richard LeCounte, another 30-yard strike from Fromm to Cager and, D’Andre Swift’s 47-yard run on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. With Mizzou’s starting quarterback Kelly Bryant not able to play, the Tigers could manage just one play for 20 yards against the sticky UGA defense … a 20-yard pass from Taylor Powell to Jonathan Nance in the second half.
The Bulldogs cleaned up their act in this area, having only three penalties on the night for 15 yards. But they were nagging ones. After Fromm was sacked for a 12-yard loss in the second quarter with the offense deep in Missouri territory, a delay of game penalty put the Bulldogs in a 3rd-and-27 position, again calling for a 48-yard field goal by Blankenship. Then, with the defense having the Tigers backed up at their own 18 shortly before halftime, Quay Walker was tagged for an off-sides penalty on third down, thus giving Missouri a first down … though the Bulldogs would get the ball back and end the half with a Blankenship 47-yard field goal. But the penalty that hurt the most came in the final period when Fromm seemingly hit a streaking Pickens with a 68-yard touchdown strike … only to see the big play nullified when the Bulldogs were slapped with a too-many-men-in-the-backfield infraction.
SPECIAL TEAMS WINS VS. MISCUES
Blankenship came through with field goals of 20, 48, 47 and 29 yards although he did miss one from 44 following Swift’s 47-yard run in the opening moments of the third quarter. Jake Camarda kept the Tiger offense backed up with his punting, averaging 45.4 yards on five kicks with two of them being inside the Missouri 20. And again, the Bulldogs had excellent coverage on their kick-coverage units.
Just as they did in the win over the Gators a week earlier, the Georgia defenders locked up on the Tiger running backs and receivers the game long, limiting the Missouri offense to just 50 yards rushing and 148 passing while chalking up the shutout.
And the Georgia defense came up with the only turnover of the game, with junior safety LeCounte picking off a Powell pass and dashing 71 yards with it.
RED ZONE (OFFENSE, DEFENSE)
The Bulldogs were again most effective inside the red zone, getting points all four times they marched inside the Missouri 20-yard line. But only one of those scores was for a touchdown.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
Unlike the outstanding showing against Florida, the Bulldogs could convert on only 8-of-18 third-down opportunities in this game. Missouri was even worse, with a 4-of-14 showing.
RUN, PASS ATTEMPTS (TOTAL PLAYS)
The Missouri defensive, coming into the game ranked fifth in the SEC and near the top of the nation’s pass defense listing, did limit the Bulldogs to one of their lowest offensive outputs of the season … 166 yards rushing on 38 attempts and 173 passing with Fromm going just 13-of-29 through the air. That’s 67 total plays for 339 yards. As mentioned, the attacking UGA defense limited the Tigers to 198 total yards on 58 snaps.