No. 7 Georgia trailed by eight points early in the third quarter and was down by three late in that quarter. Missouri was rising to the occasion in its SEC debut, fueled by a sellout crowd that anticipated the game for months and had been tailgating much of the day.
”It was definitely a great challenge. There were times when I was just starting to wonder what was going to happen,” coach Mark Richt said. ”And then our guys started to come through with some big plays on both sides of the ball.”
Aaron Murray hit Marlon Brown for two of his three touchdown passes, the second for the go-ahead score as the Bulldogs recovered from a shaky start with 32 second-half points that spoiled Missouri’s SEC debut in a 41-20 victory Saturday night.
The Bulldogs (2-0, 1-0) trailed 17-9 early in the third quarter before turning Missouri’s SEC debut into an unsatisfying initiation for the Tigers (1-1, 0-1) and a sellout crowd of 71,004 clad in yellow and waving yellow pom-pons.
”You can’t make the kind of mistakes we made in games like that,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. ”You’re not going to win games like that against people like that.”
Up by 21 points with the clock winding down, Georgia’s fan contingent, mostly concentrated in one corner of the end zone, chanted ”Old Man Football! Old Man Football!” That was in reference to comments by excitable Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who said he turned off the TV last week during Georgia’s opening victory over Buffalo because he was unimpressed with the Bulldogs’ no-frills style of play.
”We try not to focus on what’s said,” Murray said. ”The trash talk is pre-game. But it definitely did add a little incentive.
”I still don’t know exactly know what old man football is. We’re just saying all week, `Hey, we play grown man football. `”
Brown had eight catches for 106 yards with an 11-yard score that put Georgia ahead for good at 24-20 late in the third quarter. A pair of big plays by linebacker Jarvis Jones helped put it away.
”We’ve got to come out and play a full four quarters,” Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines said. ”I felt like they saw our `A’ game in the first half. We didn’t get it done in the second half.”
Jones returned an interception to the 1 midway through the fourth quarter to set up a score by Todd Gurley, then just three plays later he forced a fumble on a sack that gave Georgia possession at the 5 and set up a 6-yard scoring run by Ken Malcome.
”Obviously, he may be the best defensive player in America,” Richt said about Jones.
Georgia outscored Missouri 32-10 in the second half, making a statement to three defensive starters left behind due to suspensions that there’s plenty of depth.
Missouri got two touchdown passes from James Franklin but had little success with the run while falling short of lofty expectations. Pinkel predicted on media day that it would be a game that ”will go down in history.”
Missouri peaked on a 69-yard touchdown pass from Franklin to L’Damian Washington that made it 17-9 early in the third quarter.
The schools were a combined 1 for 7 on third down conversions with five first downs and three punts apiece in a sloppy, scoreless first quarter. Each opened 3-and-out, Missouri with minus-22 yards and Georgia with minus-12.
Center Mitch Morse was behind Missouri’s shaky start with two high snaps dooming the opening series. The second was looped far above quarterback James Franklin’s head for a 24-yard loss back to the 4 leading to a punt.
The Tigers and Bulldogs each one big gainer in the second quarter, with Franklin hitting Marcus Lucas for a 41-yard touchdown, and a 34-yarder from Murray to Tavarres King on a screen to the 2 that set up a 2-yard scoring pass from Murray to Marlon Brown with 30 seconds to go in the half.
But Georgia missed a shot to tie it when freshman Marshall Morgan, who hit a 52-yard field goal earlier in the second quarter, was wide right on the extra point kick.
Missouri senior offensive tackle Elvis Fisher was carted off with a right knee injury in the second quarter after getting hurt in a pileup on a running play. Pinkel said the injury was to the MCL, which could sideline Fisher for a month.
Fisher was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing last season with surgery to repair the patellar tendon in his left knee. He started every game from 2008-10.