COLUMBIA, MO. – By design, the ball could’ve gone to any one of four receivers. But when Missouri’s linebackers began to creep up toward the line, Isaiah McKenzie knew the ball might be coming his way. The Tigers were blitzing, and McKenzie was planning to slant into the mass expanse of grass behind.
And that’s what happened. Jacob Eason delivered a strike over the middle, and his lasered throw stuck to McKenzie almost like the ball had penetrated his body. It was a good thing, as Missouri safety Aarion Penton had arrived about the same time as the ball. But, alas, he could not separate McKenzie from it.
“I saw that the linebacker was down, it was me and him one-on-one, I knew I had to beat him to the middle,” McKenzie said after the game. “And he had great coverage, but I had adjusted to the ball, and came down for the catch.”
As for the tug-of-war that ensued as he rolled through the end zone with the eventual game-winner, McKenzie smiled. “I couldn’t let it go,” he said. “I had too much faith that I was going to catch the ball and win the game for our team.”
That fourth-and-10 play from the Missouri 20 was indeed the game-winner. And it capped another remarkable night for the diminutive wideout from Miami. McKenzie finished with a career-high 10 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 19 yards rushing and 25 yards on two punt returns.
“I still can’t believe it happened,” McKenzie said. “I still can’t believe it’s over and we won.”
It looked pretty hopeless right before that. Georgia had been pretty impressive in moving 60 yards down the field in six plays to reach the 20 with less than two minutes to play. But then offensive coordinator Jim Chaney called for two consecutive deep fades, both for McKenzie in the right corner of the end zone. Neither pass was close.
On third down, Eason’s pass for Isaac Nauta was deflected at the line of scrimmage. It didn’t look good.
Then came the fourth-and-10 play.
“The fourth-down play was designed for three or four guys; it depended on their coverage,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “It was a play they actually scored on us in two-minute defense. I felt great about it, Jim (Chaney) felt great about, (assistant coach James) Coley felt great about it. We thought it was our best chance.
“(Missouri) took a chance. They blitzed us on that play. They hadn’t blitzed us much on that drive. … The only decision that’s right is the one that works, and I probably would’ve blitzed there, too. And they got stung on it.”