Week four report card: Grading the MU defensive positions groups against Georgia

Missouri rebounded after allowing 572 passing yards to Purdue, keeping Georgia without an offensive touchdown in the first half.
Senior safety Cam Hilton (left) celebrates with sophomore safety Joshuah Bledsoe after recording a tackle for loss late in Missouri's 43-29 loss to Georgia on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018.

Missouri’s defense managed to keep the Tigers in the game against No. 2 Georgia, but an inconsistent second half allowed Georgia to hang on in down the stretch as offenses picked up.

Here are position grades for the defense:

Secondary: B-

Christian Holmes: 1 interception

The secondary bounced back in a big way after last week’s disaster in Indiana. After allowing 572 yards through the air to Purdue, the Tigers only allowed 260 yards to Georgia’s high-completion-percentage quarterback Jake Fromm.

Holmes ripped the ball out of the hands of a Bulldog receiver for an interception that gave Missouri some life early on.

Safety Cam Hilton also made some strong plays in the backfield to help out in the run defense, despite dealing with a broken thumb that forced him to become limited in the second half.

A third down pass breakup from DeMarkus Acy showed the secondary’s ability to bend but not break in the red zone after turnovers hung the unit out to dry.

But after an improved first half, the secondary started to crack after the break, letting Fromm and the Georgia offense put the game on ice by the time the Missouri offense had found its footing.

In the third quarter, corners were beat deep twice gambling for interceptions while a busted coverage gave Georgia a third touchdown through the air.

Not a perfect performance by any means, but a step in the right direction for a unit that looked like a weak link last Saturday.

Linebackers: B

Cale Garrett: 5 tackles

Brandon Lee: 5 tackles

Terez Hall: 3 tackles

Garrett and Lee each had five tackles to help a linebacking unit that had its moments against the run and prevented the stable of Georgia backs from breaking any huge runs. The group also kept Georgia from scoring a touchdown on the ground.

However, the defense was beaten by a couple of play action passes for the second week in a row and looked unorganized at times, starting to break in the second half.

Georgia gained steam in the run game as play went on and was able to build up chunk running plays that set up the play action throws downfield.

There were a lot of positives for the linebackers and the defense as a whole in the first half, but the group looked a lot more inconsistent and vulnerable after the break.

Defensive Line: B-

Terry Beckner Jr.: 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss

Nate Anderson: 6 tackles

Walter Palmore: 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, blocked field goal

Terry Beckner was a star early on, stopping a couple of runs at the line of scrimmage and leading a group that stuffed Georgia’s prolific ground attack on many occasions.

Beckner had four tackles, including a tackle for loss and a stuff on a fourth-and-1 that gave Missouri a chance to come within one possession at the end of the first half.

It was a chance the offense would squander, but it showed a stout group that can hang with one of the top offensive lines in the country.

The defensive line didn’t record any sacks (it didn’t need many, thanks to the secondary), but Walter Palmore was able to get pressure on the quarterback and block a field goal that gave Missouri a chance to pull within a possession in the fourth quarter.

Palmore and Nate Anderson each added tackles for loss for the defensive line. Anderson helped force a Georgia field goal with an impressive stop on a third down after dropping back in coverage. Anderson also had a team-high six tackles in a showing that was an improvement on last week’s performance.

Special Teams: C-

Tucker McCann: 0-for-1 (wide left from 41 yards)

Corey Fatony: 3 punts for 147 yards, blocked once

Along with the struggles of the offense, the first half struggles on special teams gave Missouri an early 20-7 hole it couldn’t bring itself out of.

Tucker McCann had a 41-yard field goal miss wide left with 7:04 in the first quarter that would have brought Missouri within four. It was a tough break for McCann, though the replay showed that it looked like it may have actually split the uprights.

Later, Georgia overran protection to block a punt by Corey Fatony and took the blocked kick into the end zone, giving the Dawgs a 20-7 lead with 5:45 left in the first half.

The blocked field goal by Palmore was a lone positive for the special teams unit outside of a couple of nice kickoff returns from Badie.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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