I doubt I’m the first to notice it, but we’ve seen two trends emerge over the last four games: quiet beginnings and last gasp attempts by Georgia’s opponents to put up a meaningless score in garbage time. Ultimately, none of it’s meant much — the aggregate score over those games is 141-36 — but it’s an indication that a lot of thought and effort has been going into closing down Georgia’s offense early. (It’s also probably an indication that head coaches are more into moral victories than they like to admit.)
Anyway, Mizzou came out with a good plan. It also helped the Tigers that this was the first nooner when it felt like Georgia wasn’t quite all there mentally and emotionally at the start. By the end of the first quarter, though, Mike Tyson’s adage about plans and getting hit in the mouth came into play. The Dawgs went on to score forty unanswered points en route to an easy victory.
How ’bout some bullet points?
- The only real downer of the day came from the offensive line. Yes, they were missing Salyer. Yes, Mizzou threw the kitchen sink at Georgia’s offense selling out to stop the run. But this was the worst rushing defense in the country coming into the game and the Dawgs managed to put up the weakest ground game showing of any team the Tigers have faced. Georgia simply couldn’t rush the ball up the middle consistently. (And some of that came on plays when Missouri wasn’t selling out.) Monken got creative with some outside run plays and used the jumbo package and a direct snap play to Cook down near the goal line to produce a couple of touchdowns, but it wasn’t an encouraging day in all.
- In their defense, pass pro was much better, which has been the case all season. There weren’t any sacks and I can only remember one egregious bust, on a Daniels roll out where the safety came through unblocked and mucked up the throw.
- If the o-line was the downer, the biggest plus on the day was the receiving corps. Georgia is getting bodies back and it showed. Arian Smith was perhaps the most notable example, proving once again that he is almost un-coverable deep, but healthy versions of Burton, Jackson and Rosemy-Jacksaint all made big differences. And not just in catching passes — although it’s worth noting that they bailed out Stetson on several passes that could have been picks (and might have been against a better secondary) — but also in downfield blocking. Burton’s touchdown catch, in particular, was sprung by a great block from Jackson and another from Mitchell.
- I think at this point I’m gonna have to concede that, yes, Georgia does indeed throw to its tight ends. For all the talk about how Bowers is one of those new age type TEs, that soul crushing stiff arm he threw on his first reception was classic.
- It was pretty much a forgettable (which is not the same thing as downright bad) day from the backs, with the notable exception of Daijun Edwards, who made his first reception of the season count and showed better speed on it than I expected.
- I said it yesterday, but selling out to stop the run in the hope that you can make Stetson Bennett pay ain’t working. He’s making a career out of that deep throw to the left side of the end zone. He’s more than happy to find man coverage (even better, single coverage). When you’re averaging over 10 yards an attempt, you’re dealing. His mobility came into play a few times, both running and keeping things alive on pass plays. That being said, he had a bit of luck on his side in that he was bailed out on some questionable throws by his receivers. I still don’t know how Rosemy-Jacksaint pulled off that side line catch. He’s still not as efficient on third down as he needs to be. Still, that shouldn’t take away from what was overall a good day — he made some excellent throws and did a much better job with his reads than he did against Florida. It may be better to be lucky than good, but being lucky and good tops that.
- We saw the return of JT Daniels, who, with one exception, I thought looked pretty crisp for a guy who hadn’t seen any action in a while. He wasn’t asked to throw the ball deep and he played with a mix of first and second teamers (some thirds, too). But his intermediate passes came out quickly and he read the coverages the way you’d expect. It’s a shame he threw his pick slightly behind Burton, because if he’d have hit him in stride, it would have been another touchdown.
- The defense definitely started out the game looking like they’d just gotten out of bed. It’s a tribute to how talented and well coached they are that it really didn’t cost them much, other than an early field goal lead that was wiped out on the next series. After the field goal, Mizzou went safety, turnover on downs, punt and end of half. Second half was much the same, with the exception of a made field goal. The game ending goal line stand was satisfying, to say the least. That was probably the loudest I’ve ever heard a fourth quarter Sanford Stadium crowd sound with a 37-point lead.
- From an individual standpoint, it was a pretty quiet game, too. If I had to pick standouts, I’d go with three: Cine, who really had a solid game and never seems to be out of position; Trevon Walker, who is a tackling machine and had a sack; and Quay Walker. Nolan Smith chipped in with a TFL and Dumas-Johnson really flashed on Georgia’s other sack of the day.
- Special teams were calming, for the most part, although far from perfect. Podlesny didn’t miss on any of his attempts, which was a welcome development. The Tigers didn’t return a single kickoff. Jackson was solid in the return game. Nolan Smith delivered a punt block. (And what was the deal with how Mizzou lined up on that punt? It was basically an open invitation to go after the punter and Smith definitely took advantage.) But punt coverage on Camarda’s one kick busted, allowing for a big gain. Then there was the onside kick Missouri pulled to start the second half that clearly surprised Georgia and would have worked if not for an early block penalty.
- I love Monken’s patience. Everyone in the stadium knows Georgia wants to establish the run and he certainly started out trying that, but he wasn’t stubborn about it and once again took what he was being offered with that gutsy fourth-and-five call that resulted in Georgia’s first TD of the day. Any time the dust settles and your offense notches over 500 yards of offense, you’ve done your job.
- Lanning called another great game, even missing Adam Anderson, whose skill package can’t be replaced. Which is not to say there’s nothing to clean up. Mizzou’s quarterbacks did sting Georgia with the run on several occasions, although it was apparent that adjustments were made to clean some of that up.
- They may have been a little sleepy at the start, but the focus came and they took care of business as they have in every game this season. That’s on Kirby.
Bottom line, they turned in their B game against a weaker conference opponent and still almost covered a 39-point spread. That ain’t chopped liver. Now they turn their attention to a Tennessee that’s starting to feel it, at least on offense. They’re going on the road in what should be a hostile environment (after Auburn, they should be used to that).
The most encouraging takeaway from Saturday was the improving health at the skill positions. That receiving corps will only get harder to deal with. I encourage the Vols to sell out on defense to stop Georgia’s running game. If that’s the course of action UT chooses, we’ll see if Willie Martinez’ guys can handle Stetson any better than anybody else has so far.