COLUMBIA, Mo. — SEC Commissioner Mike Slive was present for the pregame coin tosses of both the Florida-Texas A&M game in College Station, Texas, and the Missouri-Georgia game at Faurot Field.
Slive flew by private jet to both venues, leaving Kyle Field in the second quarter to fly the 750 miles to Central Missouri.
“I talked to the Georgia fans and they said the hospitality and the fans and the reception they received was as good as they’ve ever had,” Slive said at halftime of the Saturday night’s game. “And you can’t walk five steps downtown without finding an SEC logo, so we like that a lot.”
Slive actually went to College Station on Friday night for a reception and stayed up late to watch A&M’s famous midnight “yell practice” with about 40,000 students.
“I’m not usually up at midnight,” Slive said. “At my age 9 o’clock is usually my limit.”
He said it all made for “a long day,” but it was worth it considering the historic significance of the moments.
“I was able to flip the coin in both games, which was a real treat for me,” he said. “In both stadiums, you could just feel the energy, you could feel the euphoria, you could feel the pride and how excited everybody is. These are the third and fourth teams we’ve added to the league in 80 years. So it’s a historic day, and everybody wants to be a part of that history.
Tough (but good) night for Theus
Right tackle John Theus got his first start in a nationally-televised game and it was a tough debut.
The five-star freshman from Jacksonville was whistled three times for false starts and gave up both of Georgia’s quarterback sacks to Missouri defensive lineman Brad Madison. But Theus toughed it out and played with a left-ankle sprain and helped paved the way to a 355-yard night for the Bulldogs.
“I was proud of the whole line, but [Theus] in particular,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “It was his first big game and he’s a freshman. 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. The whole O-line did great.”
Mitchell not sure what awaits
Playing his first college game as a defensive back at “80 percent” due to an ankle injury, Georgia’s converted wideout Malcolm Mitchell said he “loved it. It was a blast.”
Regular starter Sanders Commings, for whom Mitchell was filling in, returns next week after serving a two-game suspension for an off-season arrest. Mitchell, who started at wide receiver as a freshman, said he’s not sure what that will mean for him.
“I have no idea,” said Mitchell, who had no tackles but recorded two pass break-ups. “Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it. It’ll be all right.”
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has some feelings about it.
“We’ll keep playing him there,” he said. “The thing that hurt us the most was he couldn’t play last week. I think he would have been a lot better tonight. To have your first game against an explosive team like [Missouri] is pretty difficult. He really worked his tail off to be able to play. I was really proud of how he was able to perform.”
There was a low-light for Mitchell. He tried to scoop up a punt return on a bounce in a crowd and ended up fumbling away to Missouri.
“It was crazy, but the team stayed positive with me,” Mitchell said. “They know if I feel like I can make a play I’m going to take that chance. When you take risks, it can be a good thing or a bad thing. It just turned out to be bad this time.”
John Jenkins ‘going to be OK’
Georgia noseguard John Jenkins had to be helped off the field late in the second half with an apparent leg injury. But Richt indicated after the game that Jenkins was not seriously hurt.
“I think he’s going to be OK,” Richt said. “He was in good spirits after the game and walking around on his own. I think he’s fine.”
Big night for Brown, Bennett
Senior Marlon Brown and sophomore Michael Bennett both recorded career bests with 8 catches each. Brown’s catches totaled 106 yards and 2 TDs while Bennett had 79 yards and caught a two-point conversion. In all, seven players caught passes from Murray.
“I don’t know if we have one superstar receiver,” Richt said, “but we have a bunch of receivers who are really good at what they do.”
This & that . . .
Georgia played without four defensive starters, all of whom were suspended: Commings, linebacker Alec Ogletree, safety Bacarri Rambo and outside linebacker Chase Vasser. Vasser and Commings are back this week. . . . Fullback Zander Ogletree, who started once last season, did not travel. . . . Freshman Todd Gurley ended up getting the start at tailback. He ended up having 13 touches for 122 yards and one touchdown. Against Buffalo he had 10 for 227 and three scores. . . . Freshman place-kicker Marshall Morgan kicked a career long field goal of 52 yards. He also made a 41-yarder but missed an extra point. It was Georgia’s first missed PAT since 2010. . . .
Redshirt freshman tight end Jay Rome had his first career catch, a 15-yarder for a big first down. . . . Linebacker Amarlo Herrera led the Bulldogs with a career-high 10 tackles. . . . Murray now has 65 career TD passes. . . . Georgia starts 2-0 for the first time since 2008. . . . The Bulldogs improve to 39-10 on opponent’s home fields and 8-4 in SEC openers under Richt.