Colleges

Look who’s playing ‘old man football’ now: It’s Missouri

Updated: 2013-12-24T23:53:52Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

Team A leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing; Team B ranks second in passing offense.

Team A leads the SEC in sacks per game and is third in rushing defense. Team B ranks dead last in scoring defense.

Teams A and B square off this weekend, and if a player from Team B wanted to consider the statistics and pop off, he could brand his opponent’s style “old man football.”

Team A is Missouri. Team B is Georgia. Funny how quickly things can change.

Recall the Tigers’ 2012 SEC debut. The Bulldogs arrived in Columbia for a clash of cultures. Mizzou had been shaped in the up-tempo, spread offense Big 12, and surely that approach wouldn’t survive in the meat-grinding, run- and defend-first SEC, starting with old guard Georgia.

Tigers defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson got caught up in the excitement. After watching Georgia deliver a somewhat uninspired effort in an opening-game victory over Buffalo, Richardson said he turned it off. “It’s old man football,” he said.

So sang and taunted the section of Georgia fans to Missouri players as they trotted off Faurot Field as 41-20 losers that night.

Another way Missouri and Georgia have shifted identities: health. The Tigers were a bruised and battered team all last year, especially quarterback James Franklin and the offensive line.

This year, Georgia is wrapped in bandages. In last weekend’s victory at Tennessee, the Bulldogs lost three offensive starters, including running back Keith Marshall, to knee injuries.

But Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is healthy, and he’s been terrific all season. His clutch play on late drives in the last two games helped deliver victories over the Vols and LSU. In last year’s Missouri game, Murray threw three touchdown passes and led a second-half comeback.

The bigger difference is Missouri, especially on defense. Four times this season, a Tiger has been the SEC defensive linemen of the week. End Michael Sam has been honored twice.

“They don’t have a bunch of big old fat bodies (on the defensive line), that’s for sure,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “They’re big men, tall, broad, lean-muscle-mass looking guys.”

And they’re playing something like old man football, in a winning way.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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