The stadium was nearly full, the defense looked unrecognizable (in a good way), and the team is still 3-1. And yet, the overwhelming mood around Missouri on Saturday was letdown.
Georgia, the No. 2 in the nation, looked vulnerable in the Bulldogs’ 43-29 win, but never really got a game out of the Tigers, despite giving them great field position while facing a rowdy home crowd and a multidimensional offense.
With 15 NFL scouts watching, Missouri quarterback Drew Lock completed just 47 percent of his passes and had more interceptions and fumbles than deep passes while passing for 221 yards. It marked the first game in which Lock did not throw a touchdown pass since Missouri’s 35-3 loss to Purdue in September 2017.
“We beat ourselves,” Lock said.
Missouri had early momentum after cornerback Christian Holmes picked off Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm on the Bulldogs’ opening drive. But the Tigers’ first two drives ended in shambles.
Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam fumbled a catch on third down that was returned 64 yards by Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell for a touchdown. Missouri’s next drive ended with a 41-yard missed field-goal attempt by Tucker McCann.
Odom and his staff thought the kick looked good, but officials disagreed.
“They said it was no good, so I guess it wasn’t,” Odom said.
Missouri’s defense kept the Tigers in the game, even after a rough performance against Purdue last week. Defensive coordinator Ryan Walters did his best to contain Georgia’s many weapons and held the Bulldogs to 3 for 12 on third downs.
The Tigers evened the score at 7-7 with 2:03 left in the first quarter on a 6-yard run by Larry Rountree III.
Missouri’s struggles on offense, though, continued into the second quarter. But its play on defense kept the Tigers within striking distance by holding Georgia to a pair of field goals.
On MU’s first drive of the second quarter, Lock threw his second interception of the season on a pass that bounced off slot receiver Johnathon Johnson’s hands and into Georgia linebacker Tae Crowder. Crowder returned the ball to Missouri’s 7-yard line. The play continued a pattern of Lock struggling to find his receivers, as he was barely able to unleash his deep play.
Georgia’s defense played two high safeties and took away Lock’s downfield targets in Emanuel Hall and Jalen Knox, which forced Missouri to make its tight ends and running backs the focal point of the offense.
“They basically said, ‘We’re not going to let you go deep on us,’” Okwuegbunam said.
But Georgia continued to keep Missouri in the game, as a missed field goal gave Missouri the ball back at its own 32-yard line.
The Tigers went three and out, and Corey Fatony’s punt was blocked and recovered by Georgia, which took it into the end zone to extend the lead to 20-7.
“We had some really misfortunate things happen,” Lock said. “Stuff we could have controlled.”
On the following drive, Lock was sacked on third down and fumbled. The ball was recovered by Georgia.
After another scoreless Georgia drive, courtesy of the Tigers’ defense, Missouri had one last chance to score before halftime. The Tigers got the ball back with a minute left and butchered the drive after a delay-of-game penalty by Lock caused a 10-second runoff, sending the game to the half.
Missouri failed to score on its opening drive of the second half, and Georgia extended its lead on a 33-yard touchdown catch by Riley Ridley.
With Hall and Knox out of the picture, Lock relied on Johnathon Johnson and Nate Brown to move Missouri down the field and keep the Tigers offense alive. Damarea Crockett’s 5-yard touchdown made it a two-possession game with the Tigers’ trailing 27-14 with 7:50 left in the third quarter.
Fromm answered again, this time with a 61-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Holloman, who burned safety Josh Bledsoe for an uncontested score.
Two drives later, true freshman Tyler Badie ran into the end zone and Lock found Okwuegbunam for a two-point conversion, which left Missouri trailing 33-22 entering the fourth quarter. Okwuegbunam was Missouri’s leading receiver with nine catches for 81 yards.
Odom had told his team earlier in the week to try and put themselves in position to win entering the fourth quarter, and down 11 the Tigers had a chance to make things interesting.
Playing in the fourth quarter for the first time this season, Fromm found Mecole Hardman on the first play of the quarter for a 54-yard touchdown to make it 40-22.
A rushing touchdown from Lock and a blocked field-goal attempt by Missouri gave the Tigers hope with 6:08 left. But Missouri was a yard short on a Crockett catch on fourth down to keep the rally alive.
“We didn’t execute well enough to be in that last drive,” Odom said.
A win would have been huge for a program that hasn’t been ranked under Odom in his three years on the job and would have given Lock a signature win to build his Heisman campaign around.
Even with Missouri entering the game undefeated, the team’s biggest home game in a stadium under full capacity was 1,800 people short of a sellout. The boost that a win could have given the Tigers at the gates would have been significant for revenue.
Lock, though, tried to keep it all in perspective heading into Missouri’s bye week.
“We’ve been there before, we’ve fought back from worse: 1-5 is a lot worse than 3-1. It’s just disappointing. That’s how everyone felt.”