ATHENS — Georgia heads to Missouri intent on making quarterback Drew Lock uncomfortable, whether that means recording a sack or not.
Bulldogs linebacker Monty Rice made that clear in his media session this week at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall when asked about the Bulldogs generating just one sack through three games.
“It’s not about getting sacks — sacks don’t win games,” Rice said. “It’s about getting pressure on the quarterback, making sure he’s not comfortable, getting him moving his feet.”
The No. 2-ranked Georgia football program (3-0) will be facing arguably the best quarterback in the nation in Lock, who has led the Tigers to a 3-0 start and wins in nine of their past 10 games.
“I’ve enjoyed my time so far these first three weeks,” Lock said on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show on Wednesday. “Getting UGA in here, being a big-time SEC game, it’s something Columbia needs.”
The Bulldogs’ defense certainly won’t have stars in its eyes, having seen top quarterbacks the past two seasons.
“Last year Baker Mayfield was an NFL quarterback,” Rice said, “so [Lock] is a person just like we are, he makes mistakes just like I do, so it’s not that big of a deal.”
The Bulldogs are a two-touchdown favorite in what many believe could turn into a shootout.
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is completing 80 percent of his passes this season with six touchdowns and one interception. The Bulldogs have been so dominant that Fromm has not played in a fourth quarter in the 2018 season.
Lock and the Tigers could change that with their potent offense.
While Georgia has allowed just two passes of 20 yards or more this season, Missouri has seven receivers who have caught passes of 20 yards or more in the first three games.
Rice, who has played both of the inside linebacker positions in the Bulldogs’ 3-4, said taking away the Tigers’ run game is ultimately the key to getting to Lock.
“It’s big because we’ve got some good stuff on third down that we can go to, that people won’t be able to block,” Rice said. “But if it’s third-and-2, we can’t run that.”
Smart alluded to the same thing, pointing out that Missouri’s commitment to the run under first-year offensive coordinator Derek Dooley has led to favorable matchups for the receivers.
“To have the commitment and play in the SEC, you’ve got to be able to run the ball,” Smart said, “and the last three games, their [Missouri’s] commitment to that has allowed them to get one on one matchups outside.”
Smart pointed out that Middle Tennessee geared its scheme to get rid of the ball quickly, erasing opportunities for quarterback sacks.
South Carolina and Austin Peay were similar, Jonathan Ledbetter said.
“The teams that we’ve been playing, we haven’t been able to get a lot of pass rush, that is true, but we’ve been playing teams that have been doing a lot of quick game, the ball is out of the quarterbacks hands in under two seconds, so it’s hard to get to the quarterback,” Ledbetter said.
“You have to find other ways to affect them, like batted balls and trying to break up passes with D-Linemen, just to help out the secondary in coverage.”
Ledbetter said the Georgia defensive line will be intent on getting to Lock, but like Rice, he said the ultimate objective is to make Lock uncomfortable.
“That’s really you can do, you try to get back there as fast as you can, have good pocket push, and the really the way to affect him is to make him step up and get uncomfortable in the pocket,” Ledbetter said, “that just comes with pass rush and everyone working together.”
Georgia football LB Monty Rice