COLUMBIA, Mo. — It was a good day for Georgia’s young defensive backs. Especially for Eric Stokes.
The redshirt freshman cornerback from Covington made a game-turning play with a blocked punt and scoop-and-score late in the second quarter. But that was only part of his good work for the day.
Replacing injured starter Tyson Campbell in the Georgia secondary, Stokes also helped corral Missouri’s big-play offensive attack. Stokes had three pass-breakups and four tackles as quarterback Drew Lock continually threw his way.
Campbell, a former 5-star prospect and fellow freshman, started the game at the cornerback position opposite of All-American Deandre Baker. But Campbell suffered some sort of injury somewhere around the time he returned a fumble 64 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. That play gave Georgia a 7-0 lead just six minutes into the game.
Campbell went into the injury tent shortly after that. He tried to come back later in the first half but then left the game for good some time in the second quarter. But Stokes stayed on the field and finished the game.
Missouri’s offense eventually heated up and scored 21 points from midway through the third quarter to the 10:47 mark of the fourth. But Georgia’s offense had already gotten going by then and matched the Tigers score for score.
Stokes was a track star at Eastside High School in Newton County who was considered raw as a football prospect. But after redshirting last season, Stokes has steadily moved up the depth chart to the point it was between him and Campbell to start the season opener. Campbell got the nod and has been starting since.
The Bulldogs fulfilled their main goal for Saturday’s game, which was to eliminate the Tigers’ explosive plays in the passing game. Emanuel Hall, who hit them for a pair of 63-yard scores last year in Athens, did not have a catch with six minutes still to play in this year’s game.