Gary Pinkel said No. 25 Missouri won more than a second straight SEC road game when it upset No. 7 Georgia.
”I just think we earned a little more respect,” Pinkel said. ”The respect level just went up a couple notches.”
Receiver Bud Sasser threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to L’Damian Washington in the fourth quarter after quarterback James Franklin left with a shoulder injury and Missouri held off Georgia’s comeback attempt to beat the short-handed Bulldogs 41-26 on Saturday.
Pinkel said Franklin separated his right shoulder and expects the quarterback to miss at least one week.
Freshman Maty Mauk, who replaced Franklin in the fourth quarter, could start when Missouri (6-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) plays No. 17 Florida next week.
Missouri led by 18 points in the first half before Georgia (4-2, 3-1) cut the lead to 28-26 in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers answered the challenge with two late touchdowns, despite losing Franklin.
Missouri’s first road win over a top 10 team since 1981 helped continue the Tigers’ recovery from a 5-7 finish in 2012, their first in season in the SEC. The Tigers have scored 38 or more points in each of their six wins, including last week’s 51-28 win at Vanderbilt.
”There is no question that one of the goals for this team is to get back to Missouri’s winning ways,” Pinkel said. ”It is a big deal to them. … They want to get back to competing for championships.”
The Tigers ended Georgia’s streak of 15 straight home wins.
After Franklin was taken to the locker room, Mauk threw a lateral to Sasser, who stopped and tossed a high, deep pass to the end zone for Washington. Washington, who outfought cornerback Damian Swann for the catch, had 115 yards and two touchdowns.
”I came in and everybody just told me to keep calm,” Mauk said. ”So I came in and got the plays to our guys. We executed well at the end. … We scored when we needed to.”
James Ponder’s interception of Aaron Murray’s pass with 4:25 remaining set up Henry Josey’s 7-yard touchdown run to end Georgia’s hopes.
Murray threw two interceptions and lost one of Georgia’s two fumbles.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said turnovers helped decide the game.
”It was 4-0 on the turnovers,” Richt said. ”They did a really good job of securing the ball, and we didn’t. You hear coaches say it over and over, but you can’t win a game turning it over like that.”
The Bulldogs had won four straight on the strength of a powerful offense, including 44-41 over LSU and 34-31 in overtime over Tennessee the last two weeks. Georgia’s wave of injuries at tailback and wide receiver left Murray with inexperienced backups at the skill positions to keep pace against another high-scoring opponent.
Georgia almost filled a bench on its sideline with injured players who wore their red game jerseys over black warm-up pants. Among them was star tailback Todd Gurley (ankle).
After the game, Missouri players ran to edge of the Sanford Stadium hedges and celebrated their biggest SEC win yet with fans in the corner of an end zone.
Murray threw his second interception in the final minute. He completed 25 of 45 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns.
”We had plenty of chances to tie it up, but we just didn’t execute,” Murray said.
”We did a pretty good job of getting back in the game. We were within 2 points of tying it up but just couldn’t quite get it done.”
Franklin scored on a 5-yard run in the first quarter and threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Washington in the second quarter.
Franklin completed 18 of 27 passes for 170 yards. Marcus Murphy had a 36-yard touchdown run for the Tigers.
Defensive end Michael Sam returned a fumble recovery 21 yards for a touchdown to give Missouri a 28-10 lead late in the second quarter. Murray fumbled when he was sacked by defensive end Shane Ray.
Georgia rallied as Murray threw touchdown passes of 7 yards to Rantavious Wooten in the third quarter and 10 yards to Chris Conley early in the fourth quarter. Conley couldn’t catch Murray’s pass on the 2-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game, leaving Missouri with a 28-26 lead.
Georgia was also without running back Keith Marshall (right knee) and three of its best receivers. Freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas filled in at tailback.
Georgia starting safety Tray Matthews, who hurt his hamstring in practice Tuesday, also did not play.
The loss of so many top threats on offense was the big news of the week for Georgia, but season-long problems on defense were just as glaring against Missouri. The Bulldogs began the day 12th in the SEC in pass defense and last in the league with its average of 32.2 points allowed.
Missouri almost matched that total in the first half.
Georgia needed help from three Missouri penalties, including two offside calls, for its only touchdown drive of the first half which ended with Murray’s 7-yard scoring pass to Douglas late in the first quarter.
Missouri outscored Georgia 28-3 the remainder of the half.