For once, it was the other side that cracked in the fourth quarter.
And that, even more than Jarvis Jones’ monster game and Marlin Brown’s stunning clutch performance, was the biggest story from last night. Credit strength and conditioning, a newfound sense of resilience, maturity or whatever you want, but Georgia was the team that ran the last 24 points of the evening. You wanna claim it wasn’t a big game, or an opponent that wasn’t top tier? Fine, although a lot of people will disagree, but even there, recall what this team did just a few short seasons ago on the road at Mississippi State and Colorado.
Best of all, that came from a team missing four suspended players. There are grounds for optimism.
On to the specifics:
- Those of you who pooh-poohed Bill Connelly’s statistical analysis the other day owe the man an apology. Both teams struggled to run the ball. The rushing line that really jumped out at me: James Franklin, 25 yards on 20 carries, with no TDs.
- I really like Mizzou cornerback E.J. Gaines’ game. I’m not sure I’ve seen a DB cover Georgia’s bread-and-butter back shoulder throw better.
- Aside from everything else Jarvis Jones did brilliantly, his option defense was superlative. Sure will be fun to watch Georgia Tech deal with him.
- The play of the defensive front seven was fabulous. Washington, Jenkins and Jones did well, but it was the linebackers who really stepped up, especially Herrera, who had a sensational first half. One of the game’s bigger surprises was that Ogletree wasn’t missed that much.
- Another big surprise? Check out red zone performance: Georgia 5-5 (5TDs); Missouri 2-3 (2 FGs).
- Another missed 344-Fullback opportunity, damn it.
- I don’t know about you, but every time I watch the defense chase down fumbles, my mind goes back to that 2010 Florida game. Last night went much better, fortunately.
- Bobo did okay. The offense was a hot mess to start out with, but started clicking on that last drive of the first half when Bobo pushed the passing game. Great call (and great read by Murray) on the middle screen that King broke for a big gain.
- I had to look it up, but if you want a statistical explanation for Murray’s night (and season so far), take a look at his passer rating on 1st down (192.03), in the third quarter (200.95) and in the red zone (300.02). Just like the opener, it took him a little while to get in a groove, but once he did, he was effective. That first TD pass to Brown was perfectly executed, but the last one, also to Brown, was simply amazing. Now if Bobo can only figure out how to get him untracked from the beginning of the game, maybe they won’t have to sweat things so much.
- I don’t know where that game from Marlon Brown came from, but if he’s managed to take a step up, to say that would be a huge deal for the offense would be an understatement.
- Cornerbacks played aggressively. Mitchell looked good for a first college start.
- Special teams continue their march towards competence. Outside of Morgan’s early adventures with PATs and Mitchell’s ill-advised decision to field that punt, everything went no worse than uneventful. In at least a couple of cases, it went considerably better than that: Morgan’s FGs were both solidly hit and Samuel’s play to blow up the fake punt was spectacular. (Admittedly, you could say that any Georgia stop of a fake punt is spectacular.) Gurley continues to turn in good work on kickoff returns.
- Biggest bullet of the night dodged? That Missouri Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half was poorly defended, to say the least.
- Twelve penalties, including a ridiculous number of false start calls. That, the turnovers and the dropped passes suggest there were issues with focus, especially early on.
- If you get the chance, take a look at how well the offensive line blocked on the play that sprung Gurley for his biggest run of the night.
- Grantham sure looked like a happy man on the sideline as the game wrapped up. Gee, I wonder why?
I don’t want to take too much away from last night. Missouri strikes me as a middle of the pack SEC team right now, a team that had some noticeable issues on the offensive line once the left tackle left the game. (It didn’t help their chances that Jarvis figured out the snap count.) Still, it’s the kind of game we’ve seen Georgia fade in more times than we’ve liked over the past few seasons. So it’s an encouraging sign. It’s also encouraging that the Dawgs didn’t fall behind in the East race early on.
It’s even more encouraging that the defense should be getting a boost with the return of players this week. Bottom line: it’s okay to be a little optimistic today, Dawg.