No. 2 Georgia prepared for high-powered Missouri offense
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Georgia’s defense has been so good this season it has some opposing quarterbacks in awe.
“It’s almost fun to watch when you’re watching tape,” Missouri quarterback Drew Lock said this week. “They’re extremely athletic in the secondary. They’re not going to let you chuck it deep on them. They fly around, man.”
Fun? Lock’s coach begged to differ.
“I haven’t found the fun part of it yet,” said Barry Odom, whose team hosts second-ranked Georgia on Saturday in an SEC East showdown between two undefeated teams.
The Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 SEC) have allowed just eight points per game this season, behind only Stanford, and their secondary is allowing the fewest yards per game through the air. In Missouri (3-0, 0-0), the Bulldogs will face an elite offense led by Lock, a Heisman Trophy hopeful who has helped his team put up at least 40 points in every game this season.
“He can make every throw,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “He threw the ball outside of the stadium last year on us. I don’t know if his arm can get any stronger.”
Georgia has already gone on the road this season, though, carving up No. 24 South Carolina before rolling past Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee by a combined score of 94-7.
While the Bulldogs are a two-touchdown favorite, they know they’re in for a test.
“That’s why I came here, is to play this good of competition,” Georgia defensive back J.R. Reed said. “I love the challenge.”
KEEPING LOCK UP
Georgia has played nearly flawless on defense this season, but Smart pointed out a place where the Bulldogs can improve: Their pass rush has managed just one sack.
“Like I said after the South Carolina game, I didn’t think that we rushed the passer real well and affected the quarterback,” Smart said.
With an experienced offensive line, Lock will be tough to bring down Saturday. The Tigers allowed just one sack per game last year, fifth-best in college football, and have allowed one this season.
Senior wide receiver Terry Godwin could return for Georgia and that would only add to the offensive weapons. Goodwin hauled in 38 passes for 639 yards and six touchdowns last season.
With three viable running backs, two tight ends and a strong group of wide receivers, Missouri wasn’t lacking on offense. But freshman wide receiver Jalen Knox has drawn attention and was the SEC freshman of the week after his five-reception, 110-yard performance last week that included a 59-yard touchdown catch.
No opponent has returned one of Georgia junior Rodrigo Blankenship’s deep kickoffs. Through three games, his 23 touchbacks lead the nation. That creates the possibility the Bulldogs’ kickoff coverage team could be caught napping should a specialist decide to try it.
“We really drive that home each week,” Smart said. “We’ve shown a lot of clips of guys returning the ball nine yards deep. We try to keep them honest. We practice every day where it comes out, even though in a game it hasn’t. A lot of our guys are excited for an opportunity for it to come out.”
Missouri offensive coordinator Derek Dooley is a familiar name to Georgia fans as the son of Hall of Fame former coach and athletic director Vince Dooley, who took the Bulldogs to the 1980 national championship. Derek Dooley, the former Tennessee coach and Dallas Cowboys assistant, also shares coaching roots with Smart after working together at Miami and LSU.
“I have a lot of respect for his dad, and Derek and I have always been good friends,” Smart said.
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Athens, Georgia, contributed to this report.
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