The Missouri Tigers will play their first SEC game this Saturday night, as they entertain the seventh-ranked Georgia Bulldogs at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium.
Georgia allowed visiting Buffalo to hang around longer than most people expected in last week’s season opener, but the Bulldogs eventually took control of the game and claimed a 45-23 victory. It was the 11th consecutive regular-season win for Georgia, which ranks as the second-longest active streak in the nation behind LSU, which has won 14 straight.
Following this clash, Georgia will step out of conference to host Florida Atlantic, and the team will also face non-league foes Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech to close out the regular season.
The Bulldogs are 7-4 in conference lidlifters under current head coach Mark Richt, and this is the first time since 1992 that they will not be opening SEC play against South Carolina.
Despite some obvious mistakes he would like to see corrected moving forward, Richt was happy to come away with the win against the Bulls, “There’s no such thing as a bad victory. We are thankful for the win. I want to congratulate Buffalo for the effort. They played extremely well. 1-0 is a great thing.”
Missouri had very little trouble establishing its dominance in last week’s season opener against visiting FCS opponent Southeastern Louisiana, whipping the Lions in a 62-10 final. The Tigers have won five straight games dating back to last season, which ranks as the third-longest streak in the nation.
It was the also the 35th win in the last 41 home games for Mizzou, which will actually play its first three games at home before heading to another Columbia, this one in South Carolina to battle the Gamecocks in its first road tilt of the season.
This bout marks only the second meeting all-time between Georgia and Missouri, with the Bulldogs winning the first back in the 1960 Orange Bowl, 14-0.
Georgia freshman RB Todd Gurley certainly made his impact felt in his first collegiate game last week against Buffalo, as he rushed for 100 yards and two TDs, and returned a kickoff 100 yards for another score. As a result, he was named the SEC’s co-Freshman Player of the Week.
QB Aaron Murray was impressive as well, as he hit the mark on 15-of-26 pass attempts for 258 yards and three TDs. Tavarres King served as Murray’s favorite receiver, as he hauled in six balls for 117 yards and a score, while Michael Bennett added five grabs for 76 yards and a TD.
Overall, the Bulldogs compiled 485 yards of total offense, did not commit a turnover, and converted half of their third-down opportunities (7-of-14).
Despite allowing points on all four trips Buffalo made to the red zone last week, the Georgia defense did a decent job in allowing 347 total yards, only 148 of which were a result of pass plays. The Bulls were forced to punt 10 times.
Linebacker Jarvis Jones and DB Damian Swann led the Bulldogs with eight tackles apiece, the former also being credited with 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and six QB hurries. Being active at the point of attack is the key for a Georgia defense that allowed almost 200 yards rushing last week and only recorded two sacks.
Like Gurley for Georgia, Missouri’s Marcus Murphy had a game he won’t soon forget in last week’s season-opening rout of SE Louisiana, as the redshirt sophomore took two second-half punts back for TDs (72 and 70 yards) — tying a school record that has stood for nearly half a century in the process.
With the game never really in doubt, head coach Gary Pinkel didn’t make wholesale changes in personnel until midway thorough the second half. When the dust had settled, the Tigers had rolled up 452 yards of total offense, compared to just 223 for the Lions.
The run game featured a solid outing from senior Kendial Lawrence (10 carries, 121 yards, two TDs), while QB James Franklin simply needed to run the offense efficiently, and wound up going 13-of-21 for 131 yards and a TD. No receiver had more than three catches, but again they didn’t need to be all that productive with the rushing attack averaging better than seven yards per attempt and finding the end zone three times.
In addition to Murphy’s special teams performance, the Tigers also scored a pair of defensive TDs in the first quarter, as Zaviar Gooden returned an INT 20 yards for a score, and Michael Sam scooped up a fumble and brought it back seven yards to paydirt.
Missouri allowed just 58 net rushing yards, and the Tigers came up with four turnovers. Gooden and Andrew Wilson logged six tackles apiece to pace the team, which tallied nine TFL and four sacks.
For the most part, Pinkel liked what he saw last week. However, he knows that cutting down on mistakes will be huge this week, and against the better opponents his team will face this season. “A lot of our guys came in and stepped up when they needed to. They did what was asked of them. We do have to look at the film and see where we can improve because we can improve as we move forward.”
As if playing their first-ever SEC game in front of the hometown faithful isn’t motivation enough, the Tigers have won two of their last three home games against ranked opponents.