Defensive woes plague Missouri as No. 4 Bulldogs hurdle Tigers in Athens

Missouri was unable to contain Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm and the rest of the Bulldogs offense that accumulated 696 yards of offense Saturday night.

Maneater File Photo

With 45 seconds remaining in the first half of Missouri’s 53-28 loss at No. 4 Georgia on Saturday night, Bulldogs running back Sony Michel took a handoff from quarterback Jake Fromm to the left and followed his blockers.

As his running lane narrowed, Michel cut back in the opposite direction, found space on the right side and headed upfield. As the senior running back picked up steam, Missouri defensive back DeMarkus Acy stepped up to make a tackle. When the two bodies met, Michel lowered his shoulder and delivered a bone-crushing hit that sent Acy a yard backward, leaving the sophomore DB clutching his right arm.

The play epitomized the night that Missouri’s defense experienced between the hedges in Athens, Georgia, as Georgia’s offense flattened the Tigers’ weak and uninspiring defensive unit that gave up 696 yards of total offense.

Georgia torched Missouri from the opening snap, scoring on all but one of its first eleven drives of the game, the lone stop by Missouri coming on a Cale Garrett interception in the first quarter. Bulldogs punter Cameron Nizialek wasn’t asked to punt until the first possession of the second half, as the Tigers were unable to force a fourth down until 31 minutes into the game.

Once again, the Tigers’ defense spent nearly 40 minutes on the field, and its ineffective pass rush and glaring inability to tackle runners was on full display Saturday. The Bulldogs ran all over Missouri, breaking past the line of scrimmage with ease and consistently breaking tackles in the secondary en route to 370 yards on the ground. In the backfield, Fromm showed complete comfort in the pocket, as Missouri gave him ample time to throw.

In addition to its struggles with tackling and the pace with which the offense continues to play, the overwhelming amount of time Missouri’s defensive unit spent on the field can be attributed to its woes on third down. When the Tigers stopped the Bulldogs on first and second down (it didn’t happen often), Missouri was malleable on third downs, allowing the Bulldogs to convert on 13 of 18 third-down opportunities.

Missouri head coach Barry Odom expressed his disappointment over the missed chances to get off the field in his postgame press conference.

“It obviously extends drives, and a couple of them turned into explosive plays,” Odom said. “Defensively, with third down percentage and allowing big plays, [the game] gets away from you pretty quick.”

As it did in last week’s contest against Kentucky, the Tigers’ offense showed fight and an ability to score points on Saturday. Junior quarterback Drew Lock threw for four touchdowns to power Missouri to its second-highest scoring output of the season, and the team’s offensive performance in the first half kept the Tigers in the game going into the break.

While the Tigers displayed offensive firepower, consistency remains an issue. Missouri’s three first-half touchdowns came on three consecutive drives in the first half and were followed by four drives without a first down. The Tigers also struggled to put up points in the second half. After putting 21 points on the board in the game’s first 17 minutes, Missouri did not cross the goalline again until the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.

Quick Notes:

-Sophomore running back Damarea Crockett left Saturday’s game in the third quarter with a right shoulder injury and did not return. After the game, Odom said he did not yet know the severity of the injury, according to Aaron Reiss of the Kansas City Star. The loss of Crockett is a heavy blow to a running game that amassed just 59 yards on the ground against Georgia.

-Emanuel Hall was Drew Lock’s favorite target for a second consecutive week, as the junior wideout hauled in two touchdowns to go with 141 yards receiving on five targets. In the two games since Dimetrios Mason’s bye-week dismissal, Hall has caught eight passes for 270 yards with three touchdowns.

-With his fourth-quarter targeting ejection, linebacker Tavon Ross became the third Missouri defensive player to be ejected for targeting a defenseless player this season. In week one, junior safety Cam Hilton was ejected for a hit on a Missouri State return man. Last weekend against Kentucky, it was Acy who was disqualified after a hit to the head of Wildcats playmaker Lynn Bowden. Ross will sit for the first half of next Saturay’s contest.

The Tigers return home next Saturday along with Missouri’s alumni for the team’s Homecoming matchup against the Idaho Vandals. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. CT.

Edited by Joe Noser |

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