No. 2 Georgia outduels Missouri, 43-29
COLUMBIA, Mo. – A defensive first half and offensive onslaught in the second half pushed the second-ranked Georgia Bulldogs past the Missouri Tigers, 43-29, Saturday afternoon at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium.
A fumble recovery touchdown in addition to a blocked punt scoop-and-score highlighted Georgia’s scoring in the first half. Meanwhile the fast-paced offensive second half consisted of seven total scores with Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) using three touchdowns and a field goal to seal the win. With its first loss of the season Missouri falls to 3-1 and 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference.
“The flow of the game was about what I thought it was be, there was a lot of emotional big plays,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I didn’t see us having the big plays in the turnover game with the fumble recovery and blocked punt, but they were really big plays. We struggled some to stop the run today, which is not indicative of defense we want to have, and we struggled to run the ball. When you have that combination then you are going struggle some and we did. Give Missouri credit, they have a good football team. We knew that coming in. I’ve always respected them. They’ve won nine of the last 10 games and you don’t do that by accident.”
Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm finished 13-for-23 with 260 yards and three touchdowns and one interception despite finishing the first half with only 66 yards in the air. Fromm’s main target was junior wide receiver Riley Ridley who hauled in five catches for 87 yards and one touchdown. On the ground, junior back Elijah Holyfield piled up 90 yards on 14 carries and sophomore D’Andre Swift added 71 yards on 16 attempts.
Defensively, junior J.R. Reed led the team in tackles with eight with fellow defensive backs Deandre Baker and Richard LeCounte tallying seven apiece. D’Andre Walker created havoc in the backfield with two sacks including two forced fumbles. Freshman defensive back Tyson Campbell returned a fumble for a touchdown, while redshirt freshman Eric Stokes blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown.
The Bulldogs headed into the half with a 20-7 lead after defense and special teams dominated the pace of the game. On third-and-nine, Campbell stripped Missouri’s Al Okwuegbunam and scoop-scored for a 64-yard fumble return to put the first points on the board.
After the Tigers evened the score, junior place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship connected on a 44-yard field goal to move Georgia back in front 10-7. On the ensuing drive, the Georgia defense produced another turnover – this time a 43-yard interception return by linebacker Tae Crowder. The takeaway turned into another Blankenship try, a 21-yard field goal, for the 13-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Special teams then made its splash later in the second to put the Bulldogs up 20-7. Georgia bombarded Mizzou punter Corey Fatony with Stokes blocking the kick and scooping the football for an 8-yard touchdown.
A back-and-forth third quarter saw both teams trade touchdowns. First, Georgia with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Fromm to Ridley capped the five-play, 59-yard drive.
Mizzou responded with a long drive and score, but the Bulldogs struck on their second play from scrimmage. Fromm threw a jump ball to sophomore receiver Jeremiah Holloman who eluded the sideline to run free for a 61-yard touchdown.
The Tigers got the last touchdown in the third to put the score at 33-22, and the scoring commenced immediately in the fourth quarter. On the first play, Fromm connected with a wide-open Mecole Hardman for a 54-yard touchdown pass to finish the Bulldogs’ longest drive of the game that spanned 77 yards in just five plays.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock pulled the game to a 40-29 margin on an 11-yard run with 10:47 left in the game. However, Georgia took the reins in terms of time of possession to seal the game.
The Bulldogs ate nearly five minutes off the clock before Mizzou blocked a field goal, but the Georgia defense forced a turnover on downs to mitigate the loss. Another drive taking up 3:17 ended with a 40-yard Blankenship field goal, putting the game at 43-29 with less than two minutes remaining.
For the fourth straight game this year, Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) scored at least 40 points marking the first time since 2012 the Bulldogs have done that.
The Bulldogs return home for a two-game home stand starting with Tennessee next Saturday at 3:30 p.m., which will be aired on CBS.
* Scoring/Series History: For the fourth straight game this year, Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) scored at least 40 points marking the first time since 2012 the Bulldogs have done that. In 2012, Georgia opened the year with five straight games of scoring at least 40 apiece. This season, Georgia now is averaging 44.5 points a game. The school record is 37.8 set in 2012. With today’s 43-29 win, Georgia improves to 7-1 in the all-time series including 4-0 in Columbia.
* Defense: In the first half, Missouri ran 38 plays for 159 yards and was held to one touchdown after coming in today averaging 43.7 points a game. In the 2ndhalf, Missouri tallied 22 points and finished the game with 393 yards of total offense on 85 plays, that’s four more than No. 2 Oklahoma ran in the Rose Bowl game double-overtime game, the previous high against a Kirby Smart team.
Georgia notched its second defensive TD of the year today, this latest by freshman Tyson Campbell, a forced fumble and recovery as he raced 68 yards for a TD. It’s the ninth defensive/special teams score in the Kirby Smart era. Before today, the last fumble return for a TD came by J.R. Reed in the 2017 win over Florida in Jacksonville. Junior Tae Crowder’sfirst career interception was returned to the Tiger 7 and led to FG and 13-7 edge.
Georgia’s leading tacklers were J.R. Reed(8) and Deandre Bakerand Richard LeCountehad seven apiece. Also, D’Andre Walkerhad 2 forced fumbles and 2 sacks in the first half. Georgia had one sack coming in.
2nd Half TD Bombs From Fromm: In the 1st half, sophomore QB Jake Frommwas 6-for-14 for 66 yards, no TDs and an INT. However in 2nd half,Fromm went 7-for-9 for 194 yards and 3 TDs withthe scoring strikes covering 33 (Riley Ridley), 61 (Jeremiah Holloman) and 54 (Mecole Hardman) yards to finish 13-for-23 for 260 yards, 3 TDs.
* Stokes With A Special Teams Score: Redshirt freshman Eric Stokesblocked his first career punt and returned it eight yards for a touchdown to put Georgia in front 20-7 with 5:45 left in the first half. It was the first blocked punt return for a TD since 2006 when CJ Byrd did it against UAB. It marked the 10thspecial teams/defensive score in the Kirby Smart era and second today to go with a 68-yard fumble return by freshman Tyson Campbell. Today marked the first time since the 2015 road game at Tennessee that Georgia has scored a defensive TD and special teams TD in the same game. That year, Leonard Floyd had a 96-yard fumble return and Reggie Davis had a 70-yard punt return.
* Busy Day For Blankenship: JuniorPK Rodrigo Blankenshipwent 3-for-5 on field goals (made 44, 21 and 40, missed 49, 36-yarder blocked). His first kickoff today was not a touchback for the first time this year as there was a strong wind, ending a streak of 23 that led the nation. Blankenship’s 44-yard FG put Georgia in front 10-7 with 13:51 left in the 2ndquarter and a 21-yarder made it 13-7 early in the 2nd quarter. He missed a 49-yarder with 7:17 left. He added a pair of PATs in the second half. For the year, he is 6-for-8 on the year in field goals and 30-for-32 in touchbacks. A 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked in the 4thquarter, the first by an opponent since TCU in the 2016 Liberty Bowl.
* Points off Turnovers: Georgia scored 10 points off three Missouri turnovers, all in the first half, while the Tigers got no points off 1 Bulldog miscue. For the year, Georgia is +5 in Turnover Margin, scoring 31 points off eight turnovers on the year. Opponents now have forced three turnovers and turned them into no points.
On Georgia’s first possession, Missouri picked off Jake Fromm, and it led to a turnover/forced fumble and recovery by freshman Tyson Campbellwho returned it 68 yards for a TD and a 7-0 lead. Georgia junior LB Tae Crowderpicked off his first career pass and returned it 43 yards to the Tiger 7. It led to a field goal. With 2:18 left in the half, D’Andre Walkerforced a sack/fumble and recovered by Deandre Bakerat the Georgia 45. It led to a failed fourth down conversion attempt at the Tiger 31.
* Points To Ponder: Georgia led 20-7 in the first half as both teams came in entering 40+ points a game, and the lone offensive touchdown came by Missouri. Georgia leads the SEC in scoring defense, allowing just eight points a game. Missouri came in averaging 43.7 points a game. In the 1sthalf, Georgia had 148 yards of total offense while the Tigers had 159. Georgia had a defensive TD and a special teams TD plus a pair of field goals to gain the early advantage. The Tigers first TD drive covered 55 yards on nine plays to tie the game at 7-all with 2:03 left in the first.
* For Starters On The Line: Sophomore LT Andrew Thomasreturned to the starting lineup after missing the MTSU game. Senior C Lamont Gaillardstarted his team-leading 32ndstraight game. Thomas went out in the first half and freshman Cade Maysfilled in for the remainder of the game. In the third quarter, right guard Ben Clevelandwent out with a left leg injury and was replaced by sophomore Justin Shaffer.
* Captains: Today’s captains were juniors Issac Nauta, Tyler Clark and sophomore Ben Cleveland.
* Up Next: Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) returns to Sanford Stadium next Sat., Sept. 29 against Tennessee with kickoff slated for 3:30 p.m. (CBS-Sports).