ATHENS–Missouri linebacker Michael Scherer tipped Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert’s first pass. Teammate Ian Simon intercepted it and kept running and running until he was tackled inside UGA’s one-yard line.
Suddenly Georgia’s defenders faced the most difficult scenario possible when they took the field for the first time. But they were up for the challenge, stuffing the Tigers on three straight plays to force a field goal.
Missouri would get no closer than six yards from the end zone the rest of the night while losing 9-6 at Sanford Stadium.
“That was some adversity,” UGA senior linebacker Jake Ganus said. “As a defense, we are sitting on the bench but (now) hey, we’ve got to rally. We’ve got to hold them to a field goal, and we did. That set the tone for the whole game.”
After Alabama and Tennessee rang up a combined 898 yards against Georgia, the defense carried the Bulldogs to victory on a night the offense sputtered. The Bulldogs held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since shutting out Missouri last season and won without scoring a touchdown for the first time since beating Kentucky 12-3 in 1995.
“It’s a great feeling to get that bad taste out of your mouth,” Georgia defensive end Sterling Bailey said. “It’s good. It shows you that when we play our style of defense, execute the game plan and have fun we can be a really good defense.”
The Bulldogs held Missouri to 164 total yards, including 21 rushing, and six first downs. The only drive of substance for the Tigers was a 12-play, 84-yard march that ended with their second field goal just before halftime.
Missouri’s seven drives after halftime resulted in five punts, a lost fumble and a turnover on downs as the Tigers never made it past their 43-yard line.
“Our defense played insanely great,” Lambert said. “They were out of their minds out there, making plays left and right. And we knew once we got the lead we could trust them to hold it for us. We finally were able to do that at the end of the game. But yeah, we knew this was the game we could lean on them a little bit.”
Missouri’s second field-goal drive started at its own 10-yard line. On third-and-10, quarterback Drew Lock found running back Russell Hansbrough uncovered in the middle of the field for a short pass that turned into a 24-yard gain.
A 29-yard pass from Lock to Cam Hilton set up a first-and-goal at the UGA 9-yard line. But the Bulldogs stopped two runs for short gains and forced an incomplete pass on third down before Missouri kicked the field goal for a 6-3 lead.
“I’m sure Missouri’s offense was thinking, ‘Man, we couldn’t get it in from the six-inch line (before) so how are we going to get it in from the 8-yard line?’” Ganus said. “I think that (goal-line stand) set the mentality and the mood for the whole game. Overall as a defense I think we did a good job.”