ATHENS, Ga.—It might have been an ugly win but, nonetheless, it was a win tonight for Georgia (5-2, 3-2 SEC) over Missouri (4-3, 1-3 SEC) on Homecoming by the mere score of 9 to 6. All the game’s scoring was via five combined field goals, resulting in only the second Georgia game (besides a 12-3 win over Kentucky on Homecoming of 1995) since 1956 when the Bulldogs were victorious without scoring a touchdown. It also marked the first Georgia game since 1977 (a 7-6 loss to Clemson) when both teams scored in the single digits.
“I’ll take that every day, just so long as there’s a victory at the end of it,” said an “ecstatic” head coach Mark Richt following the game. “I’m thankful and happy right now. It’s not going to be pretty all the time, but the victory is pretty.”
It looked like a victory could elude the Bulldogs when senior placekicker Marshall Morgan missed a chip-shot, 26-yard field goal with the score tied 6-6 and 5:40 remaining in the game. However, as it was for nearly the entire contest, Georgia’s defense was dominant against the Tigers on the ensuing possession, soon forcing a punt.
Aided by a crucial 8-yard pass completion from quarterback Greyson Lambert on 3rd down and 7, and several key runs by sophomore tailback Sony Michel, Georgia positioned itself for another Morgan try with 1:44 left. For the game, Lambert completed 23 of 32 passes, but for only 178 yards and was intercepted once. Filling in for the injured Nick Chubb, Michel gained a workhorse-like 87 yards on 26 carries, and also made four receptions.
“I told him, I love him no matter what,” Richt replied when asked what he said to Morgan just before his game-winning attempt. “There’s so much pressure on these kids. I told him, ‘I believe in you, so relax and focus on your job and your fundamentals, and let it rip.'”
And, indeed Morgan let it rip, nailing a 34-yarder to give the Bulldogs a 9-6 advantage.
“That’s what you crave for,” Morgan answered when asked if he ever visualized kicking a game-winning field goal. “I mean, you obviously want to blow [the opponent] out but, as a kicker, that’s when people may realize that we do make a difference.”
Still, Missouri had one more shot on offense; however, the Tigers had been absolutely stagnant on that side of the ball all night. Whereas Georgia had its scoring opportunities, reaching the opponent’s side of the field on nine of 13 possessions, the Bulldogs’ defense gave the Tigers little opportunity to move the football.
After allowing Alabama and Tennessee an average of 449 total yards and 38 points the previous two games, Georgia remarkably yielded just six first downs tonight, and 164 total yards of offense. And, more than half of Missouri’s yardage was generated on a 12-play, 84-yard drive just before the end of the first half, resulting in the second of placekicker’s Andrew Baggett’s two field goals.
“I knew we were going to get a stop,” senior linebacker Jake Ganus said regarding Missouri’s final possession. “I am so confident in our defense and the way we were playing. The crowd got into it, which was nice, so it was fun.”
On its final drive, Missouri lost seven yards in four plays, turning the ball over on downs.
Defensive standouts included Ganus, who tallied a team-high 9 tackles, including a sack. Linebacker Davin Bellamy recorded 6 tackles and a sack, and linebacker Leonard Floyd made 5 tackles, including a sack and a tackle for loss. Georgia, which entered the game having recorded just six sacks in six games on the season, totaled four tonight of Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. For the game, Lock was also only 11-of-26 passing for 143 yards.
As they say, a win is a win is a win, and for Georgia, tonight’s much-needed victory, coupled with Florida’s loss to LSU, puts the Bulldogs back in the driver’s seat, controlling their own destiny to capture the SEC East. After an open date this week, Georgia faces Florida in Jacksonville on October 31.
“We’ll enjoy this victory for a bit and start focusing on the Florida game,” Richt said. “We’ve got a lot of guys playing through pain and now thankfully we’ve got a little time to heal up and get some rest.”