It was a classic case of misdirection.
Starting several months ago and lasting well into Saturday night, all fans and the media could talk about when the subject of the Georgia-Missouri game came up was how the Dawgs would be taking on the Tigers’ high-powered spread offense without four suspended defensive starters.
What everyone should have focused on instead was that Jarvis Jones would be playing.
Thanks to another remarkable effort by Georgia’s All-American linebacker, Mizzou’s James Franklin never could get any sustained momentum going in the two teams’ SEC opener. Jones spent almost as much time in the Missouri backfield in the first half as Franklin did, stopped running plays, caused fumbles. And then he capped off his evening in the fourth quarter by intercepting a Franklin pass and returning it to what the officials ruled was just short of the goal line, setting up the score that put Georgia up by two touchdowns.
Yes, Georgia started sluggish and sloppy on offense, and didn’t successfully convert a third down until the third quarter, after going 0 for 8 before that.
However, with the exception of a couple of brief lapses when the absence of those suspended veterans in the secondary did indeed make a difference, Todd Grantham’s defense did a superb job in the first half of keeping Mizzou’s fast-tempo offense from getting on track. At halftime, the Tigers’ vaunted running game had only 8 yards on 20 carries!
And in the end, Mark Richt’s team managed to overcome its own mistakes and an inspired three quarters of play by the Tigers defense to score 24 unanswered points and take a major SEC road win.
Georgia fell behind but didn’t panic. They kept fighting back and stayed with what they do best on a night when Mike Bobo generally called a fine game.
A triumph for “old man football,” as Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson infamously branded Georgia’s style of play? Indeed. That’s probably going to sell a lot of T-shirts to Georgia fans for someone.
But what was echoing in my head after Georgia outlasted Missouri and then poured it on in the fourth quarter — despite playing a very imperfect game — wasn’t Richardson’s latterday equivalent of Pat Dye’s “not man enough” as much as another, earlier, ill-considered comment from one of the Tigers.
Back at SEC Media Days in July Mizzou receiver T.J. Moe got a lot of attention by dismissively noting of the conference his team was joining: “It’s not all 12 teams who are dominating everybody. It’s one or two. The rest are kind of … average.”
Welcome to the new “average,” T.J.
I’ll have more on this big win later Sunday, but for now I’ll open it up for your comments …
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg