AUBURN, Ala. — Just who does this Georgia football team think it is?
First of all, what it’s not: the 2021 national championship Bulldogs — just as Coach Kirby Smart has been saying since last January.
Forget all that ridiculous talk about this year’s team being on par or better than last season’s.
What this Georgia team is, is a reloading group trying to meet lofty standards set by the 15 NFL draft picks off last season’s team.
These No. 2-ranked Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0 SEC) took care of business on the road in the SEC under the lights — 26-22.
Many expected a more impressive result against Missouri (2-3, 0-2), but all that really matters is the “W.”
The SEC is a survive-and-advance league, and a coach’s ability to manage his roster — ensuring plenty of snaps to talented, young and impatient players who might otherwise transfer — trumps the style points associated with more lopsided margins.
In Georgia’s case, Smart is also looking to rest key players where he can so the Bulldogs will be primed for their stretch run: Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State in succession.
Smart and his staff and players had an offseason to scheme for the season-opening 49-3 win over Oregon.
The execution and efficiency was impressive, but being that prepared on a week-to-week basis is more challenging.
Missouri had the better game plan, the hungrier players and an advantageous home crowd.
Georgia won anyway.
Jack Podlesny remains the unsung hero for a Georgia team that continued its Red Zone touchdown struggles, drilling pressure-packed field goals of 40, 34, 28 and 29 yards.
Jamon Dumas-Johnson was asserting himself in the game with a team-leading 8 tackles and on the sidelines, providing some much-needed fury.
Kenny McIntosh was the coach’s choice on a fourth-and-2 run near the goal line and to spark the game-winning drive by trucking a defender on one play and breaking loose for 22 yards on the next.
Darnell Washington supplied 3 clutch receptions for 64 yards along with necessary run blocking and brute strength on his 47 snaps.
Brock Bowers remains the most important skill position chess piece on the board, delivering 5 catches for 66 yards including a 12-yarder that set up the game-winning TD.
Tykee Smith got his first UGA start after not playing the previous game. Smith played 55 snaps at the “star” position previously held by suspended DB Javon Bullard.
Dominick Blaylock came off the bench and came through with 3 timely catches for 42 yards, playing a total of 12 snaps.
Brett Thorson has done a nice job of not making himself the story, punting effectively enough with a 41-yard average against Missouri including one inside the 20-yard line.
Daijun Edwards might not be the most explosive back, but he’s emerging as a reliable and steady option.
QB Play: Stetson Bennett said he didn’t play well, and Smart echoed that more than once, saying his QB needs to be more accurate. Smart also said he and Todd Monken need to do a better job not asking the sixth-year QB to do too much.
Kelee Ringo is a rising talent, but his position is prone to tough moments and there were a couple against Missouri when the third-year cornerback had a third-down pass interference penalty and got beat deep on another occasion.
The offensive line was another repeat offender in the lackluster department, with Smart going so far as to say they got “whipped” by Missouri. The timing appeared off, and some of that may be related to the pre-snap calls at the line.