On Saturday in Athens, the #25 Missouri Tigers (6-0, 2-0) dominated portions of the first half and overcame adversity to regain momentum and win the 4th quarter on their way to a 41-26 road win over the #7 Georgia Bulldogs (4-2, 3-1).
“These guys battled,” said Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, referring to his undefeated team. “This is a special group of guys. I said that this summer. I’m really proud of them. And you know what, we’ve haven’t played our best game, yet.”
Georgia owned the 3rd quarter, and after an early 4th-quarter TD and a failed two-point conversion attempt, Missouri’s 28-10 halftime lead had been cut to 28-26, with 12:15 remaining in the 4th quarter.
Missouri took over at their own 25-yard line, and 5 plays later, senior QB James Franklin went down hard and was forced to leave the game and the field with what was initially described as a “sprained shoulder”. Facing third and six at the Missouri 45-yard line, RSF QB Maty Mauk came in and rushed over the left side for 6 yards to move the chains. Then, Henry Josey carried for 9 yards to set up a second and one at the Georgia 40-yard line. It was from there that Missouri Offensive Coordinator Josh Henson played the trickeration card, as Mauk threw a lateral out to junior WR Bud Sasser along the right side. Sasser then heaved a long pass into the end zone that senior WR L’Damian Washington hauled in for a TD that put Missouri ahead 34-26.
Despite a missed PAT that could have stretched Missouri’s lead to 9, that TD seemed to recapture the momentum for Missouri, momentum that clearly had been on the Georgia sideline up to that point in the 2nd half.
After Missouri punted the ball back to Georgia, Randy Ponder stepped in front of a Murray pass for the interception at the Georgia 33-yard line. From there, Mauk found Dorial Green-Beckham for a first down at the Georgia 12-yard line, and two plays later, Henry Josey took it in from 7 yards out to seal the win for Mizzou.
“We finally got the momentum back on our side,” explained Coach Pinkel, whose Tigers head home after Missouri’s first road win over a top-10 team in over 30 years.
Late in the game, Franklin reappeared on the field with his right arm in a sling. He finished 18-27-0 for 170 yards and 1 TD through the air. Washington finished with 7 receptions for 115 yards and 2 TDs. Missouri managed just 375 yards of total offense, but the Tigers won the turnover battle 4-0, after twice intercepting Murray, and coming up with their first two fumble recoveries of the season.
The Missouri defensive front was relentless in pressuring Murray, a factor which seemed to wear on the great Georgia QB. Following Golden’s sack, Murray threw interceptions on Georgia’s final two possessions.
After the two teams traded punts early in the game, Georgia drew first blood with a 12-play 86-yard drive that culminated in a 7-yard TD pass from Murray to Brendan Douglas to put the Bulldogs ahead 7-0 with 3:44 remaining in the 1st quarter.
Missouri answered with a 9-play 79-yard drive that resulted in a 5-yard TD run by James Franklin to tie the score at 7-7 with 1:00 remaining in the 1st quarter.
After Georgia went three-and-out, Missouri took over near mid-field. The Tigers struck quickly, as Franklin found L’Damian Washington in the left side of the end zone for a 16-yard TD reception that completed a 6-play 52-yard drive to put Missouri ahead 14-7 with 12:33 remaining in the 2nd quarter.
Georgia answered, as Murray drove the Bulldogs 64 yards in 7 plays before settling for a 29-yard Marshall Morgan field goal that pulled the ‘Dogs to within four points with 9:54 remaining in the 2nd quarter.
Missouri extended their lead to 21-10 with 5:56 remaining in the 2nd quarter on an electric 36-yard run by Marcus Murphy to cap off a 9-play 75-yard drive.
A 57-yard run by J.J. Green set up a Marshall Morgan field goal to open the 2nd half for the Bulldogs. Coming out of the halftime locker room, Georgia opted to spread the field with multiple wide-receivers, opening up running room in between the tackles.
Despite excellent field position for the Tigers, Georgia held Missouri scoreless in the 3rd quarter, as the more physical Bulldogs seized the momentum coming out of the halftime locker room.
Murray drove the ‘Dogs 80 yards in 11 plays, finding Rantavious Wooten for a 7-yard TD reception to pull Georgia to within 20-28, with 3:23 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
Then, after Missouri failed to sustain a drive, Murray drove the Bulldogs 58 yards on 9 plays and found Chris Conley in the end zone for a 10-yard TD reception to pull Georgia to within two points early in the 4th quarter.