Bulldog defense hangs tough
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Georgia's highly-touted defense didn't have an easy first half.
The Bulldog offense couldn't get anything going and also turned the ball over twice. Missouri gained more momentum, leaving it up to the Georgia defense to keep the Tigers at bay and keep the team in it.
The defenders did just that. They bought the offense enough time to rally late, leading to Georgia's come-from-behind 26-22 victory over Missouri.
"If your brother calls you and says he needs help, you’re going to drop everything to go help him," outside linebacker Nolan Smith said. "That’s kind of the mindset."
Georgia's offense mustered just 182 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes. The Bulldogs ran for just 33 yards, went 2-of-8 on third downs, and turned the ball over twice. That led to just six first-half points for a Bulldog offense that came into Saturday averaging 42 points per game.
To make matters worse, Georgia dealt with a host of injuries defensively. All-American defensive lineman Jalen Carter left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury. Defensive lineman Warren Brinson and linebackers Smael Mondon and Trezmen Marshall all felt the effects of various ailments.
That left the remaining defensive Bulldogs with the chore of keeping the game close.
"We just know we’ve got to keep fighting," defensive lineman Zion Logue said. "We know whenever there’s still time left on that clock, we’ve got to keep fighting. We’ve got to go."
One play by a freshman perfectly encapsulated the scrappy mindset from the first half.
With Missouri leading 13-3, Tiger running back Cody Schrader burst through the middle and into the Georgia secondary. He looked destined for the end zone, but defensive back Malaki Starks chased him down and tackled him at the one-yard line.
Smart called that "the biggest play of the night." The play earned that moniker because the Bulldogs ended up forcing a field goal on that possession, turning a possible 20-3 deficit into just a 16-3 hole.
Coming out of the locker room, the team flushed the first half. Logue told the offense the defense would be getting them the ball right back. The unit did just that, forcing a three-and-out from Missouri to begin the final 30 minutes.
After battling uphill all night, Georgia's defense took the field one more time with 4:03 remaining. The Bulldogs held a four-point lead, leaving the defense with the task of stopping the Tigers and sealing the win.
One more time, the defense delivered. Georgia forced three straight incompletions, and the offense proceeded to run out the clock.
There's still plenty Georgia needs to work on as a defensive collective. There were some busts at various points against Missouri, as well as some costly penalties.
But to get where they want to go, the Bulldogs need to keep building that connection they talk so much about. A hard-fought, four-quarter win serves to do just that.
"It just makes us closer and just brings us closer together," Smith said. "It’s just the bond. It’s just something that you really can’t play, you really can’t coach. It’s something you’ve got to build."