Seven thoughts (and a final thought) from Sanford Stadium as Georgia trails Missouri, 6-3, at halftime:
1. This game turned very quick at the end of the half, going from a tie game Georgia controlled into one that is suddenly very worrisome for the home team. And it turned – surprise, surprise – on a play in which the middle of Georgia’s defense was shredded. On third-and-10 Georgia brought the house, but Missouri quarterback Drew Lock stood in and dumped off to an open man in the middle, and the Tigers were in business. If the defense holds there then Georgia gets the ball in good enough field position to at least get a field goal attempt and lead at halftime. The feeling at halftime would have been: Yeah, close game but Georgia is dominating. Instead … it’s not.
2. Well, maybe Missouri having the ball isn’t such a bad thing. Georgia’s defense just needs to re-discover what was working before that. It was a great first half for Georgia’s defense, starting with the goal-line hold on the first drive. It also forced a three-and-out after the failed onside kick. Yes, Missouri’s offense isn’t very good, so don’t go thinking Jeremy Pruitt suddenly has the ’85 Bears out there. But Georgia’s defense just looked different from the start. More energetic. Leonard Floyd was jumping on the bench after they came off the field. The Bulldogs need to bring that again in the second half.
3. So what to make of Georgia’s offense? Let’s start with the passing game, because that’s how the Bulldogs started. And it didn’t work out so well. Greyson Lambert’s first pass was tipped in the air for an easy interception; it looked like Lambert just didn’t see the defender who tipped it. When Lambert is bad, he’s real bad. There were more throws that easily could have been intercepted. But Lambert also shows why he’s in there, hitting Terry Godwin for a 35-yard gain, and fitting some other passes into tight windows. If Georgia just knew it was getting good Greyson every game, it would feel fine. But it’s hard to tell which Greyson it’ll be from drive to drive, or throw to throw.
4. Sony Michel hasn’t erupted yet; he has 37 yards on 10 carries, his longest carry for 10 yards. Perhaps that’s to be expected against a strong Missouri defensive line. But Georgia needs more. Georgia’s offensive line continues to not get a push, as evidenced by the third- and fourth-and-shorts that Missouri stopped on the third drive. Missouri’s front four is good, as usual. Still, not a good look for this Georgia line.
5. Georgia hasn’t won time of possession in any game this season. That looks like it will change, as it held the ball for 18:04 in the first half. That sets up very well for the Bulldogs, as it should help wear down Missouri’s defense, and help the home team’s running game down the stretch. But the Bulldogs need to establish that running game first, and it’s not clear they can.
6. Hey, a young Georgia secondary got even younger. Georgia did start Juwuan Briscoe and two other freshmen in the secondary – although technically some of them didn’t start, as the Bulldogs’ first defensive play was in a goal-line package. So that skews the starting lineup. But on Missouri’s second drive the lineup was Briscoe and Rico McGraw at cornerback, Jonathan Abram at safety. And one of them – McGraw – had the tip-away on Missouri’s third-down slant pass, ending the drive. But on the next drive a breakdown occurred somewhere in the secondary as Nate Brown got open downfield for a 33-yard gain, splitting the safeties. Aaron Davis, the redshirt sophomore, eventually replaced Briscoe at safety.
7. That kind of game so far: Georgia pulled off the surprise on the onside kick, Missouri wasn’t ready for it. The only problem: It didn’t go 10 yards. Morgan stood over it, alone, waiting, but it wouldn’t go the final yard.
Bonus thought: It still feels like Georgia is the much better team: It’s out-gained Missouri 177-127, and the only turnover has gone the Tigers’ way. But the Bulldogs just aren’t a good enough team right now to assume the scoreboard will square away with the stat-sheet by the end of the game. They need a big play or two on defense or special teams, good Greyson, and to establish the running game. If not, the home team that was a two-touchdown favorite is in for a tight fourth quarter, and potentially the final unraveling of its season.