COLUMBIA, Mo. — Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker called it “a game-time decision.”
But Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart knew exactly what Baker had in mind where Missouri receiver Emanuel Hall was concerned Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Lock down, shut down, whatever you want to call it — Baker shadowed Hall all day and didn’t allow him to catch a pass.
“Deandre’s a competitor, and he wanted to cover him all week,” Smart said. “That guy [Hall] is a good player, but they’ve got other good players.”
Perhaps so, but Hall entered the game leading the SEC with 430 yards receiving off his 18 catches. The 430 yards also ranked fourth-best in the nation through the first three games.
“I’d like to thank my D-Line for that,” Baker said, asked about shutting out Hall. “They got pressure on the quarterback, he had to get the ball out quicker than usual.”
Baker continued his All-American campaign with seven tackles and a fumble recovery in addition to his sticky coverage.
“Every week I look forward to going against the top receiver on the opposite team,” Baker said. “Throughout the week, we hadn’t really talked about it, but it was a game-time decision.”
Without Hall, Missouri quarterback Drew Lock struggled, just 23-of-48 passing for 221 yards with an interception and no touchdowns.
Baker essentially shutdown South Carolina’s celebrated receiver, Deebo Samuel, in the Bulldogs’ first SEC road game of the season, a 41-17 win.
Baker smothered Samuel, limiting him to six catches for 33 yards — none longer than 10 yards.
Samuel was targeted 12 times — and five of the six incompletions thrown his way came in the first quarter as Georgia built a 14-0 lead in that contest.
Smart said earlier this week he wanted to reserve judgment on Baker, who had a 26-yard interception return last week in the 49-7 win over Middle Tennessee.
But after Saturday’s performance, Smart said bluntly, “Deandre’s a good player.”
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