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It Was Too Late to Save the Season, but the Dawgs Finally Hit Their Stride

Eric Stokes returns an interception against Missouri. Credit: Cassie Florido

I love it when a plan comes together. If only it didn’t come together a month too late.

On Saturday, Georgia traveled to Columbia, MO for the makeup game against the Missouri Tigers. And because of that delay, the Dawgs got to square off against a Mizzou team on a roll. The Tigers came into the game ranked 25th in the nation and established as the third-best team in the SEC East behind Florida and Georgia.

The Dawgs put together their most complete win of the season in the 49-14 victory. It was the kind of dominating performance we’ve waited to see all season. This Georgia team is finally reaching its potential. The shame of it is that it came far too late to factor into the race for the SEC title or the College Football Playoff.

Georgia’s offense was explosive and balanced in the win over Missouri. The Dawgs’ attack racked up 615 total yards—299 passing, 316 rushing. It’s the most since the Arkansas State game in Week 3 of last season, and the most against an SEC team since 2017. Redshirt sophomore JT Daniels continued his tremendous run in the third start of his Georgia career, completing 59% of his passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. He found James Cook in space on a first-quarter third down and let Cook’s feet do the rest on a 38-yard strike. In the third quarter, he found George Pickens on a slant while isolated in man coverage, allowing the sophomore receiver to scamper in for a 31-yard touchdown.

Alongside the emergence of Daniels has been the reemergence of Pickens, who hauled in five catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers. His other touchdown came in the waning moments of the first half on a brilliantly executed two-minute drill after Missouri tied the game at 14-14. The Tigers jumped offside, giving Daniels a free play to heave a pass to the endzone. Pickens showed amazing body control shrugging off a pass interference to snag an eye-popping touchdown reception, giving Georgia a 21-14 halftime lead.

As excellent as the Dawgs were through the air, this wouldn’t be Georgia if we didn’t throw some shine on the running game, though. As a team, the Dawgs rushed for 316 total yards with four players scoring a rushing touchdown—Zamir White, Kenny McIntosh, James Cook and Daijun Edwards. White was the leading rusher with 126 yards, the third 100-yard game of his career, all of which have come in the last five games. The freshman Edwards also eclipsed 100 yards in cleanup duty.

The defense is also seeing a return to form following some poor outings in the middle of the season. The Dawgs allowed 200 yards of total offense—178 passing, 22 rushing—and 11 first downs. Cornerback Eric Stokes set the tone early. He nabbed an interception on the second play from scrimmage to set the offense up for an early touchdown drive.

Both of Missouri’s touchdowns came in the second quarter when it tied the game at 14 apiece, but even those had a somewhat flukey nature about them. The first was set up by a 29-yard trick play which the defense bit on. The second capped off a whopping 1-yard drive after the Tigers blocked a punt deep in Georgia territory late in the first half. But the defense clamped down in the second half, allowing 69 yards on five drives.

It was bittersweet to watch the Dawgs win this way the same day Florida lost to LSU, bringing both teams to 8-2 on the season. The SEC East was there for the taking for the fourth straight year, and we just couldn’t do it because of that piss-poor performance against the Gators.

But the regrets of this season make way to the excitement for the next one. We’ve still got a rescheduled game against Vanderbilt and a bowl to play, but I’m already thinking about the possibilities for next year. I will always have confidence in a Kirby Smart defense, so I expect that to be stellar. And with more than a year of prep in Todd Monken’s system and the top weapons returning, this could be the best Georgia offense we’ve seen in many, many years. I won’t make bold predictions about our chances in the SEC or College Football Playoff next year, but damn if it won’t be fun to watch.