Photo Credit: Sean Taylor / UGA Athletic Association
Thanks to stout defense, Georgia only needed enough points to win a baseball game on Saturday.
Georgia welcomed the Missouri Tigers into Athens for homecoming weekend and won a brutal—for the viewing audience, at least—matchup by a score of 9-6. Your eyes did not deceive you. There were no touchdowns scored by either team in 60 minutes of game time. Fun, right?
While the game was certainly the ugliest win to take place between the hedges in quite some time, it was a win nonetheless and slightly opens a door for Georgia to win the SEC East. The win can be chalked up to the play of UGA's defense, which held the Tigers to only 164 yards of total offense, with a large majority of that coming through the air. Missouri only rushed for 21 yards. But it was the Bulldogs ability to limit Missouri first downs that was the real key. The Tigers were only able to move the chains six times and only converted on third-down twice out of 16 attempts. The Bulldogs held the ball for close to 39 minutes of the game.
Which means that placekicker Marshall Morgan—somehow and some way—was able to get the winner. Morgan's three field goals lifted Georgia in the game. A 34-yarder, his long of the day, with 1:44 left in the game sealed the win. But he didn't do it without making fans nervous, considering he missed an easy kick from 26 yards only four minutes before. Morgan is 9 of 13 on the year, and his shoddy kicking could cost us a game at some point.
Virginia transfer (a moniker he’ll carry until he can string together a few solid games in a row) Greyson Lambert's statline belies his poor play. Lambert went 23–32 for 178 yards and one interception, which took place on UGA's opening drive. But his passes were erratic and more should've been picked off. Like in every game this season, his deep ball looked nice at times, and he showed signs of improvement, but can't seem to pull it together in a complete performance.
Meanwhile, the running game clearly missed Nick Chubb. The Dawgs got only 120 yards on the ground. Sony Michel was the leading rusher with 87 yards on 26 carries, a poor 3.3 yards-per-carry clip. The biggest problem here is the blocking from wide receivers. They just aren't as adept at this phase of the game as big-bodied wideouts such as Chris Conley and Michael Bennett were in the past. Reggie Davis, Malcolm Mitchell and Terry Godwin all have small frames, and it costs us in the run game. Michel is most effective outside the tackles, but if those guys can't sustain blocks, he's forced inside, where it's much harder for him to gain significant yardage.
My anti-Mark Richt fervor from last week has somewhat subsided with a win—although it still bubbles deep inside me—but the performance by the Bulldogs did little to assuage my fears that this is still a bad football team that doesn't have a shot at the SEC Championship, even though there's an opening to get there now.
With Florida's loss to LSU on Saturday, the Gators drop to 4-1 in the SEC. As long as the Bulldogs don't slip up against Kentucky later in the season, this year's World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, on Halloween in two weeks, becomes the de facto SEC East championship game. A win by Georgia would put both teams with two SEC losses, one from a team in the West and one from a team in the East, and Georgia would own the tiebreaker.
After seeing Florida play this year, there is little doubt they are the better of the two teams. Their defense is one of the staunchest in the country, with a secondary that can eat Lambert's lunch. And they were still able to move the ball against LSU without quarterback Will Grier, who will miss the rest of the season because of suspension from testing positive for PEDs.
But the WLOCP isn't always about the best team. If you remember, a lame duck Will Muschamp brought an inferior Florida team to Jacksonville last year and ran all over the Dawgs. Somehow this brings me solace. In a rivalry game, you can throw records out the window. Whatever works against the prevailing narrative tends to be what happens, and right now the prevailing narrative is that UGA is on the way down while Florida is going up. This gives me confidence that we can roll into Jacksonville and give new Florida coach Jim McElwain a proper introduction to the WLOCP and come out with a shot at the SEC Championship.