Head coach Kirby Smart reacts to his defense stopping South Carolina on a fourth-down attempt. (Curtis Compton/AJC)
Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

WATCH: Former SEC coach makes guarantee about ‘relentless’ Georgia coach Kirby Smart

AUBURN, Ala. —Kirby Smart appeared remarkably calm to some Saturday night at Missouri, even as his then-No. 1-ranked team appeared to be melting down.

The Bulldogs, now 5-0 and ranked No .2 heading into next Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game with Auburn, ultimately beat the Missouri Tigers 26-22.

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Former SEC head coach and Alabama and Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt knew what he was seeing as Smart maintained control of his team during its struggles.

“Poise, that’s the first thing I thought of,” Pruitt said on the Ingles On The Beat Show on Monday night. “Tough situation, down 19-9 and not a lot of time left in the game.

“It’s easy to panic, but Georgia did what good teams do: they put together one play after another, executing and getting the ball to their playmakers and then got stops on defense and found a way to win,” he said.

“That’s a really big character win in his league. You’ve got to have those.”

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No doubt, for three quarters it was as bad as Georgia football has looked since an upset overtime home loss to an unranked South Carolina team in 2019.

The offense struggled with fumbles, errant throws and missed blocks, while the defense missed tackles, missed fits and had broken assignments.

It was hard to believe the Bulldogs were the 28-point favorites as they trailed by 10 points at halftime and again entering the fourth quarter (19-9) — the first time in three years UGA failed to score a touchdown through three quarters.

But come the fourth quarter, Smart and his assistants showed why they are among the highest paid in the industry.

“You look at coaching adjustments,” said Pruitt, who worked at Smart’s side for six years at Alabama. “You work all week to put a plan together, and you get three quarters in and maybe the plan is not working as well as you thought.

“It says a lot about Kirby and his staff to be able to make adjustments as the game goes and the players execute it and find a way to win.”

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Pruitt, as he does each week, recapped SEC games and made predictions about the coming weekend.

Georgia, a school he coached at under Mark Richt, remained a favorite topic for Pruitt as he looked to the future.

“I can tell you having worked with the head coach at the University of Georgia, this guy is relentless, he’s not going to let up,” Pruitt said.

“The 2021 season is over, he’s not looking in the rearview mirror, he’s looking straight ahead,” he said.

“I guarantee you in Athens, Georgia, they will improve as a football team, and they will be ready Saturday.”

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