In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the Georgia Bulldogs went from “SEC East favorites” to “on the outside looking in”.
Late in the 2nd quarter of what was a back-and-forth contest to that point, the Missouri Tigers struck gold on a 36-yard touchdown run by Marcus Murphy to take an unlikely 21-10 lead on the road. However, that wasn’t where the tragedy ended for Georgia, as just 10 seconds later, Aaron Murray was sacked by Shane Ray, and Missouri’s Michael Sam took the fumble return 21 yards to the house. In fairness, that wasn’t the end of the game, but it placed the Bulldogs in a hole that they weren’t able to effectively escape.
Following the halftime break, it looked like we would see a new and improved Georgia offense. In the span of 4 drives, Aaron Murray engineered three scoring drives, and after a Marshall Morgan field goal and a Rantavious Wooten touchdown catch had cut the lead to just 8, the presumptive Heisman candidate found Chris Conley in the end zone to nearly catch the Tigers at 28-26. Unfortunately, the 2-point conversion hit Conley in the “wrong” place (the hands), and the ball caromed to the ground to leave the Dawgs trailing by 2 points.
UGA would never get closer, and that was the stop of seemingly all momentum in Athens. Missouri QB James Franklin exited with what is being reported as a separated shoulder, but backup QB Maty Mauk lateraled the ball to WR Bud Sasser, who delivered what would end up being the finishing blow on a 40-yard, double-pass touchdown. For good measure, the Tigers tacked on a late score (a 7-yard Henry Josey run) after a Murray INT put the brakes on any comeback attempt, and that was that.
In short, this was a disastrous result for the Bulldogs, as it puts them in a very precarious position with regard to the SEC East race. The difference in the game was likely the turnover margin, as UGA committed 4 turnovers, including 3 from Aaron Murray, to 0 for Missouri. Speaking of Murray, the numbers were there in some aspects (290 yards, 3 touchdowns), but the 3 turnovers were of the “killer” variety, and his completion percentage slipped to just 55% on the day.
Blame will surely be placed for this loss, and there are many targets ranging from injuries to the aforementioned Murray to the under-fire UGA defense (led by Todd Grantham). For me, you can look no further than the turnovers, but the defensive output has been lacking in big games (even during those won by Georgia) and that was certainly the case here. It’s important to note that the Dawgs outgained Missouri by a significant margin (nearly 80 yards), and that the defense was put in tough situations by turnovers. However, Grantham and company can’t be absolved of any wrongdoing, especially in the wake of two late touchdowns while Missouri was without their best and most dangerous weapon in Franklin.
On the positive side, the stage is now set for what could be an undefeated run from here to the end of the season. However, no one wants to hear about that result, and now, Missouri (who improved to 6-0 and 2-0 in the SEC) and Florida each hold the edge over the Bulldogs in the SEC East, and in the case of the Tigers, that advantage is now the equivalent of 2 games.
It’s going to be a long week in Athens.