Campus Corner

Sunday Rewind: Missouri’s defense stood tall enough against Georgia

Georgia’s Nick Chubb (right) tried to spin out of a tackle by Missouri’s Markus Golden in the first quarter Saturday in Columbia. Despite losing 34-0, the Tigers’ defense played fairly well.
Georgia’s Nick Chubb (right) tried to spin out of a tackle by Missouri’s Markus Golden in the first quarter Saturday in Columbia. Despite losing 34-0, the Tigers’ defense played fairly well. The Associated Press

Missouri gave up 34 points Saturday against Georgia.

That’s not great on the surface and the defense took its share of the blame for a 34-0 loss that dumped the Tigers from the polls and dealt a serious (fatal?) blow to hopes for a repeat in the SEC East.

“The bottom line is, if we don’t let them score, then they can’t win,” sophomore linebacker Michael Scherer said. “No matter what the offense does, if they don’t score, we can’t lose a game. That’s on us.”

It’s great that defensive players are willing to fall on the sword for the loss, but it’s just not an accurate of depiction of Missouri’s loss.

The defense did its part — aside from failing to create a turnover for the third consecutive game.

The Bulldogs were without Todd Gurley, who had been the Heisman Trophy front-runner before he was suspended Thursday amid an NCAA investigation into alleged impermissible benefits in exchange for autographing merchandise for memorabilia dealers.

Still, it’s a Georgia offense that averaged 7.11 yards play and 45 points per game. The Tigers limited the Bulldogs to 4.4 yards.

Georgia’s rushing attack mustered a meager 3.6 yards per carry.

“The defense did a lot of good things … but they’ve all got to play together,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “If we could have got five turnovers on defense to match the five turnovers on offense, that would have helped the game tremendously. We didn’t do that.”

Fair point, perhaps, but also a ridiculous one.

No team in Pinkel’s 14-year tenure with the Tigers had ever committed five turnovers in a game.

Suggesting that the defense needed to match that by forcing five turnovers is a nice line to avoid throwing the offense under the bus, but not a very realistic notion either.

Here’s the truth: The defense forced a fumble on the Bulldogs’ first drive, but failed to recover it and that led to a field goal.

Missouri’s next two drives ended with Maty Mauk interceptions that set up Georgia in in the Tigers’ half of the field.

The Bulldogs, who started at their own 42 on average and never began at drive inside their own 25, came away with three points from that entire exchange.

Meanwhile, Missouri’s offense didn’t have a drive longer than 26 yards and didn’t have a possession longer than 1 minute, 46 seconds in the first half.

The Tigers, in fact, had only one drive in the game longer than 1:46 — a 3:30 third-quarter drive that covered 45 yards in eight plays before Mauk’s fourth interception.

Missouri’s offense had never run fewer than 51 plays in a game during Pinkel’s tenure until the Tigers ran 43 on Saturday.

The Bulldogs had the ball for 42:23 compared and its defense was on the field for 17:37.

Even hinting that the defense was at fault for the loss is silly.

Fortunately, the offense didn’t do that.

“You can’t expect an offense as good as Georgia’s not to score, especially if they’re out on the field three times more than we are,” left tackle Mitch Morse said.

Missouri’s defense could have played better, but I’d argue that the Tigers’ D couldn’t have played much better than it did given the circumstances of the game.

It’s on the offense to right the ship if Missouri is going to salvage the season and gain bowl eligibility.

Last week, fans were talking about returning to Atlanta for another SEC Championship Game.

This week, chatter will center more on whether the Tigers have two more wins on the schedule — at Florida (Oct. 18), home for Vanderbilt (Oct. 25) and Kentucky (Nov. 1), at Texas A&M (Nov. 15) and Tennessee (Nov. 22) before wrapping up the season at home against Arkansas (Nov. 28).

“I’ve been here before,” Pinkel said. “It’s not a whole lot of fun, but that’s my responsibility. … I’d like to say that it magically can be fixed, but it doesn’t. It’s going to be hard work. We’ve got to coach better and get it fixed.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.

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