No. 6 Georgia rides tough defense to 27-0 win over Missouri
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia’s defense didn’t settle for just beating Missouri.
The Bulldogs added to their growing collection of shutouts with a late goal-line stand.
Jake Fromm threw two touchdown passes to George Pickens and No. 6 Georgia posted its third shutout, dominating a Missouri offense missing two of its biggest playmakers in a 27-0 victory Saturday night.
Georgia (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference, No. 6 College Football Playoff) moved closer to its third straight berth in the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs can clinch the SEC East by beating No. 12 Auburn next week.
“It will be a big game, and our players have an opportunity to be at their best when their best is needed,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart.
Missouri (5-4, 2-3) fell to 0-4 in road games with its third straight loss. Quarterback Kelly Bryant and leading receiver Johnathon Johnson did not play.
Bryant’s status had been in doubt due to a hamstring injury suffered in a loss at Kentucky two weeks ago. He participated in pregame warmups and then watched as backup Taylor Powell and Connor Bazelak led the offense.
Powell played the full game before Bazelak, a freshman, led the Tigers to their only red-zone appearance late in the game.
Bazelak, playing in only his second game, led the Tigers to the Georgia 1. Bazelak’s passes on third and fourth down from the 4 were incomplete.
The Bulldogs have three shutouts for the first time since 1981. Georgia remains the nation’s only FBS team to not allow a rushing touchdown this season.
Smart said his players were “all kind of chopping at the bit at the end to make it tough to score. ... I thought they showed some competitive character there at the end with that stand.”
The Bulldogs bolstered their claim as the league’s top defense. Georgia leads the SEC in total defense , rushing defense and scoring defense.
The Bulldogs held the Tigers to 198 yards and 11 first downs, including only five through three quarters.
Missouri coach Barry Odom said the Bulldogs are “better up close and in person.”
“I knew they were good, but I think they’re a little bit better than they may get credit for nationally,” Odom said. “Georgia is as good and as solid as a team as I’ve gone against in a long time.”
Johnson was held out due to an illness. Odom said he expects Bryant and Johnson to play next week.
Georgia also lost its top receiver when Lawrence Cager hurt his shoulder making a 30-yard catch late in the first half. Cager had six catches for 93 yards before the injury.
Between Pickens’ touchdown catches of 25 and 18 yards in the first and fourth quarters, respectively, the Bulldogs relied on Rodrigo Blankenship’s four field goals.
Missouri: Without Bryant and Johnson, the Tigers couldn’t generate consistent offense. Powell completed 10 of 22 passes for 84 yards with an interception. Larry Rountree III led Missouri with only 24 yards rushing on nine carries. Bazelak completed 8 of 12 passes for 64 yards.
Georgia: Following an emotional win over Florida, the Bulldogs showed good poise by avoiding a letdown. Facing the SEC’s top pass defense, Fromm was not as efficient as usual. He completed only 13 of 29 passes for 173 yards with no interceptions and two touchdowns. D’Andre Swift had 12 carries for 83 yards, including a 47-yarder.
Following No. 5 Penn State’s loss to No. 13 Minnesota and No. 2 Alabama’s loss to No. 1 LSU, Georgia may move up at least one spot in the next AP Top 25.
PICK A CENTER, ANY CENTER
Georgia had to play three centers. Starter Trey Hill was helped off the field with a left ankle injury in the first quarter. Right guard Cade Mays moved to center before he suffered an apparent right leg injury early in the fourth quarter. Jamaree Salyer took over as the third center of the night.
“That’s tough,” Fromm said. “That can kind of get on you mentally. I was a little bit worried there, but our guys did a good job.”
The Bulldogs also lost right tackle Isaiah Wilson to an undisclosed injury in the fourth quarter. Smart said none of the injuries were believed to be serious.
Missouri: The Tigers face another top 10 SEC rival when they play No. 10 Florida next Saturday.
Georgia: The Bulldogs will play their sixth straight SEC game when they visit No. 12 Auburn next Saturday. Georgia has won the last two games in the series.