Georgia players and coaches know one thing - they'll have to play much better than they did in Saturday's 45-23 win over Buffalo if they want to beat Missouri in what's expected to be a wild and crazy scene for the Tigers' first SEC game.
"I wasn't thrilled with the way we played. We missed some early shots offensively, had a couple of sacks and defensively we gave up some big plays," head coach Mark Richt said. "They controlled the ball. They had over 240 yards of offense the first half and they controlled the clock. Am I concerned about it? Yeah. We better play better than that next week or we're going to be coming home sad."
Although quarterback Aaron Murray - who completed 15 of 26 passes for 258 yards and three scores - missed some early throws, he did not turn the ball over, although offensive coordinator Mike Bobo acknowledged there wasn't the crispness that he wanted to see.
"We were a little off early. I think there was a little confusion early in what they were playing, and where to go to the ball and I thought we were a little bit cautious throwing the ball," he said. "In the second half, we talked about some things and made some better decisions."
Defensively, though, there appears to be a few more concerns.
Although the Bulldog D rebounded from a poor first half to hold the Bulls to 100 yards in the second, Buffalo burned Georgia with big plays throughout, including quarterback Alex Zordich who rushed 14 times for 89 yards and a touchdown.
With Missouri's James Franklin - who rushed for over 1,000 yards last year up next - that's not a good sign.
"It's a problem, quarterbacks who can run well is a problem and Franklin is outstanding. He had over 1,000 yards rushing last year and is a guy who can also throw the ball extremely well. We've been talking about it ever since they came into the league that they're going to spread you out with a lot of four- and five-wide looks," Richt said. "Their quarterback will have the option to throw and run. It's going to be a space game and space is the enemy of defense. In order for us to win we've got to stop the run and whether it's a running back run or a QB run, we've got to do a good job of staying in our rush lanes and be good at taking on blocks and shedding them."
Granted Georgia did play Saturday's contest without five starters - linebacker Alec Ogletree, linebacker Chase Vasser, cornerback Sanders Commings, cornerback Malcolm Mitchell and safety Bacarri Rambo. But Richt knows his team can't make any excuses.
"We're definitely not going to let that me an excuse in how we play. We had some issues as coaches. We had 10 guys on the field one time; we had 12 guys on the field one time so we've got to make sure we're doing our part," Richt said. "Whoever's out there has got to play good enough to win, that's really what it comes down to."
The injury bug reached out and bit Georgia twice Saturday when starting running back Ken Malcome and starting right tackle John Theus both went down with injuries.
Malcome suffered a left hand injury, and was seen wearing a hard cast after the game.
Richt did not know how long he will be out.
Theus, meanwhile, suffered an ankle injury, but according to a source close to the situation is expected to play against the Tigers after X-rays proved negative.
It's not yet known how long Mitchell will be out after spraining his ankle on Thursday.
"We were practicing on Thursday and he was running around, jumps up and winds up landing on somebody's foot and rolls his ankle." Richt said "He's out and I don't know how long it's going to be. We hope he'll be able to practice and play this week, but right now I really don't know."
Marlon Brown also did not play Saturday due to a strained hamstring.
"Everybody's got issues, everybody's got problems. Somebody's got a sprained ankle, somebody's got sprained foot or a busted up hand, or whatever it may be," Richt said. "The bottom line is we're going to play next week against a team that's going to be very, very excited, very well coached
it's going to be a war."
Offensive line "fair"
There were some good points, and well, some not-so-good points regarding the play of Georgia's offensive line.
"They did OK. I don't know if it was an unbelievable performance. We had a couple of sacks that weren't very pretty , they had a three-man rush one time where both edge rushers came squeezed the pocket to sack (Aaron) Murray. I wasn't too thrilled about that," Richt said. "It was not a poor performance, but there are some things we've got to clean up. We will be OK if we can stay healthy."
The Bulldogs did receive a couple of scares, first when Chris Burnette had to leave briefly with a bruised sternum before Theus sprained his ankle in the third quarter and had to leave, never to return.
With Theus out, the Bulldogs turned to redshirt freshman Xzavier Ward at right tackle, with Austin Long checking in for Burnette at right guard.
"I thought Xzavier did well," Burnette said. "He really came on during camp, which is great, because you can always use the depth."
• "It was a great experience. There were nerves and everything but I wasn't nearly nervous as I thought I would be." - freshman running back Keith Marshall
•"I'm worried if I don't go out there and play my hardest. I'm just worried about myself. I've got to go out there and play hard." - senior nose John Jenkins
•"I got a helmet straight to the sternum. It hurt pretty badly. I tried to stay in but they took me out. I should be fine." - Chris Burnette
This and that
Georgia's pregame activities featured a nice touch with former head coach and athletic director Vince Dooley bringing out the game ball. Dooley handed it to Olympic gold medalist Allison Schmitt, who gave it to former Bulldog baseball player Chance Veazey who in turned passed it to UGA legend Charley Trippi to give to the officials.
Movie star Samuel L. Jackson provided the voice over for Georgia's pre-game "hype video."
True freshmen [db]Sheldon Dawson, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Quayvon Hicks, Marshall Morgan, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Jordan Jenkins, Collin Barber, Preston Mobley, Josh Dawson and James DeLoach each saw action for the Bulldogs.