The Missouri Tigers had plenty of opportunities to shock the SEC in Saturday's loss against the Georgia Bulldogs. Redzone turnovers, missed field goals, dropped touchdowns and late injuries haunted the Tigers at Faurot Field Saturday night.
Let me first start off by saying I hope Mizzou never wears gold jerseys ever again. Mizzou has created their own version of Notre Dame's "Green Jersey Curse" by losing their last two gold-clad games in heartbreaking fashion. The 2008 loss to Kansas at Arrowhead on Kerry Meier's last second TD grab still haunts me to this day and I'm sure going to lose sleep over how the Tigers let this game get away against Georgia.
The atmosphere in Columbia was amazing. Electric doesn't even begin to describe the scene in CoMO. I really hope that Mizzou fans can duplicate that atmosphere for years to come, even against lesser opponents. Faurot has been a daunting venue for the past five years in marquee matchups, but sometimes leaves much to be desired against inferior opponents. With another night game this week against a good Arizona State team, I'm sure Columbia will be radioactive once again.
I knew it would be another head scratching night right from Mizzou's first offensive play from scrimmage. James Franklin was split out, while a high, direct snap to Kendial Lawrence nearly sailed over his head and went for a two-yard loss. Mizzou's first drive went three and out, mired by terrible snaps from center and ending with Franklin saving what would've been either a safety or disastrous UGA touchdown on an exchange from center that went all the way down inside the Tiger 10-yard line.
The first quarter saw plenty of opportunities for both teams to capitalize on one another's mistakes, but Mizzou and Georgia failed to take advantage of fumbles, interceptions and plenty of short field advantages.
Brad Madison was a bright spot all game, coming up with two huge sacks on third down in the first and third quarters. With his performance, Madison has been moved up to first string for Saturday's game against ASU. Sheldon Richardson wreaked havoc in the middle of the offensive line, shedding double teams and giving Madison, Michael Sam and Will Ebner opportunities to get in Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray's face. The Tigers had little trouble sustaining a pass rush on deep drops by Murray.
Back to the offense. The Tigers continued going back to the read option after the Bulldogs sniffed it out multiple times. Those plays rarely went for more than three or four yards and I wonder if the Tigers are not quite comfortable with Franklin distributing the ball downfield. The Tigers' insistence on sticking with the read reared its ugly head early in the second quarter resulted in a turnover deep in Tiger territory. Luckily, Donovan Bonner made an outstanding effort on UGA's first play after the turnover, reading Murray's play action and getting an interception, leading to Mizzou's first points on a short field goal.
After going up 10-3, Mizzou gave up a lengthy drive to Georgia right before half. Completely inexcusable. UGA marched down the field and brought the game within one point. A Marcus Lucas drop in the endzone on single coverage on a hail mary at the end of the half was crucial, but you can't rely on plays like that.
I was encouraged by how the Tigers came right out of the half with a defensive stand and then torched the UGA secondary with a spectacular catch and run by L'Damian Washington. I said earlier in the week that Lucas and Washington would play big roles in the game, and they did. It seemed Georgia were locked into TJ Moe and Dorial Green-Beckham, good on David Yost for exploiting UGA's lack of depth with the Tigers versatile stable of athletic receivers.
Mizzou could've very well been up 24-9 at one point in the third quarter, forcing UGA into a pass-heavy offense and continuing to get pressure on Murray. But that's only what could've been. Franklin throws a pick, fumbles, Mizzou botches a mind-numbing fake punt and that was all she wrote. It seemed like the game changed in a matter of minutes, because it did.
The opportunities were there for the Tigers, they just didn't take advantage. I was encouraged by the defense and the pass rush, but Mizzou's inability to close out Georgia early was the story in this game.
It's easy to point to one or two plays as the keys to the loss, but this was a slow march towards heartbreak and the Tigers did their best to delay it as long as they could, but to no avail.
Now, it's on to the Arizona State Sun Devils and then down to Orlando to face a tough C-USA road contest against Central Florida. The Tigers can't afford to dwell on the shortcomings against UGA. No weeks off at this point.