For Sunday lunch, I joined my two brothers and my UGA freshman daughter at the Butt Hutt in Athens (recently honored for best barbecue in the SEC by Fox Sports South), where the staff obligingly put a replay of the Georgia-Missouri game on the tube for us.
Later, one of the servers stopped by our table to talk a little football, and the conversation pretty much focused on the same two players who drew much of the post-game comment and acclaim from fans and media alike — Jarvis Jones and Richard Samuel.
Jones, of course, was freakishly good all night, as I discussed in my post-game Blawg, making eight tackles, forcing a couple of fumbles (plus another that was ruled an incomplete pass) and snagging that interception that many (including me) consider the play of the game, the real turning point in the Dawgs’ win over Missouri.
And his showing became even more impressive when we learned after the game that he did it all while suffering through a groin injury. Now, that’s a big-time football player!
Others, including Mark Richt talking right after the game, thought the big play was Samuel sniffing out and stuffing that Mizzou fake punt early in the fourth quarter with Georgia holding a slender 24-20 lead over the Tigers. Seeing the way an uncharacteristically emotional Richt rushed over to hug Samuel after the play, you could indeed make a good case for him being right about it being the game-changer.
But there were other deciding moments in the game worth considering: Georgia finally scoring a touchdown late in the first half; and, perhaps more crucially, after the Tigers went up 17-9 in the third quarter, the Dawgs immediately answering with a 75-yard, 12-play scoring drive on which they converted third down four times (a decided improvement over the first half in that category). Then they tied it up with a successful 2-point play. That drive was definitely a nail-biter for Georgia fans.
But while we’re talking about turning points, let’s throw in a couple of crucial Tiger miscues, too: that poorly defended hail-Mary pass at the end of the first half that should have been caught; and the Tiger false start that turned a fourth-and-4 that Missouri would have gone for into a fourth-and-9 punting situation on the ensuing drive after the Dawgs had gone up 27-20.
Some would add to that list Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel’s decision to try the fake punt, but I give him a pass on that. Anyone who’d paid any attention to Georgia football over the past few years or had watched game film from last season would have considered the Dawgs to be prime suckers for such a ploy. Fortunately, this time that wasn’t the case.
Anyway, I think I’d still opt for the Jones interception. What’s your pick for play of the game?
A few other thoughts and observations on the Georgia-Missouri game …
Another game, another erratic start by Aaron Murray, only to see him thankfully settle down and play his game later on. But while Murray definitely was off-target on some balls early on, his decent stats for the night (22 of 35 for 242 yards) could have been a lot more impressive without at least five dropped passes, three of them by the normally reliable Michael Bennett. (Say this for Bennett, he caught a career-high eight passes for 79 yards, including an impressive snag where he went up high for a clutch 18-yard gain. And he caught that 2-point conversion.)
Also in Murray’s favor: After misfiring early in the game, he threaded the needle several times in the second half, including on both of his touchdown throws to Marlon Brown, who finally had the kind of game everyone expected of him when he first signed with Georgia, catching eight passes for 106 yards and the two scores. …
With at least two missed blocks that turned into sacks and three false starts (including one that wiped out a big third-down conversion) offensive lineman John Theus played like a gimpy true freshman. But let’s cut him some slack, because that’s exactly what he was: an injured player who wasn’t able to practice properly and who was in his first big game. I liked that Murray made a point of saying afterward how proud he was of Theus: “It had to be nerve-wracking for him. He had a couple of penalties, but he fought through it and had a heck of a game for us.”
A classy move on the part of the Georgia quarterback.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg