Georgia vs. Missouri: Grading All 22 Bulldog Starters
The Georgia Bulldogs officially welcomed the University of Missouri into the SEC in fine fashion on Saturday night with a 41-20 UGA victory on the Tigers’ home field.
The final score, however, is fairly deceptive. This game was much closer than that and Missouri was very much in this contest into the fourth quarter.
Still, Georgia played with much more intensity and looked like a much improved team from what we saw against Buffalo in Week 1. Here are grades for all 22 Bulldogs starters from Saturday night.
Quarterback Aaron Murray
Of course, Georgia fans would expect nothing less from their veteran quarterback, but Aaron Murray was a huge part of the Dawgs victory over the Tigers Saturday night.
Murray put up good numbers—22 for 35, 242 yards, three touchdowns,and one interception—but if not for a number of drops by his receivers, his stats would have been excellent. Murray also connected on a pass to Michael Bennett for a two-point conversion.
The interception was clearly on Murray, but it was his first of the season and it’s going to happen sometimes.
Murray did an excellent job of making quick reads and delivering the ball to his playmakers, putting them in positions to make yards after the catch. He also displayed some pinpoint accuracy on throws into tight windows.
Running Back Todd Gurley
After last week’s performance against Buffalo, expectations were understandably high for Gurley in this game. Lost in those expectations are the fact that he is a true freshman in only his second game, and he looked more like that this week.
Gurley did have one big gain of 44 yards. But he had nine more carries that only went for a measly 21 yards combined, though one of those carries was a one-yard touchdown run.
This offensive line is still a work in progress. Georgia wasn’t able to muster much in the running game, though they were able to open the occasional hole for the backs.
Freshman John Theus is big and physical, but he is still a true freshman and adjusting to the speed of the college game. Theus had a couple of false starts and got beat once around the edge, leading to a sack.
Murray actually made the line look a little better than they were. Being very quick going through his progressions and getting rid of the ball, Murray doesn’t need a ton of time in protection.
Unit Grade: B-
Tight Ends Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome
Much like last week against Buffalo, the tight ends were pretty much a non-factor in this game.Though Lynch officially got the start, both had significant playing time.
Both Lynch and Rome blocked adequately well—and Rome did finally have a catch—but nothing to get too excited about.
Grade for Both: B
Wide Receiver Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett had a very inconsistent day. He made some very big catches—going up and over guys—and was very impressive in that respect.
But Bennett also had some uncharacteristic drops on balls that hit him in the hands. Bennett—usually one of the most sure-handed receivers—has to come down with those catches.
Bennett finished the day with eight catches for 79 yards and did catch a two-point conversion. But he could have had a monster day if he had caught a couple more of the balls thrown his way.
Wide Receiver Tavarres King
King had only two catches for 41 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown grab.
Really, though, it’s not so much a lack of production from King as it was Murray being able to check down his progressions and find other open receivers because of the attention King was receiving from the Missouri defense.
Wide Receiver Marlon Brown
Though he didn’t officially start, Marlon Brown definitely deserves a grade for this game. Brown led the Bulldogs with eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Between Bennett, King, Brown and Rantavious Wooten, this receiving corps is starting to look scary good. With a veteran quarterback spreading the ball around, they may be unstoppable. Oh, and don't forget Malcolm Mitchell will eventually see some time at receiver too.
Fullback Merritt Hall
Hall did what was asked of him well against Missouri. He had a few solid lead blocks, but no carries. He also had a couple fair catches on short kickoffs as part of the special teams.
Nose Tackle John Jenkins
Jenkins did a great job of stuffing up the middle and limiting Missouri’s ground attack. He finished the day with a respectable five total tackles, but he really shined by eating up blocks and allowing the linebackers to come up and make plays.
Defensive End Cornelius Washington
Washington also did a great job of stopping Missouri’s rushing attack. He kept good containment on James Franklin, notched five tackles and was in on a sack.
On the first play of the game, Washington beat his man around the edge and made a nice tackle for loss on Kendial Lawrence. Lawrence took the direct snap out of the Wildcat formation, the first and only time Missouri lined up in the Wildcat.
Defensive End Abry Jones
Again, along with Jenkins and Washington, Jones was effective in stopping the run and eating up blocks. He was a little lighter in the stat department though, with only three total tackles.
Inside Linebacker Michael Gilliard
Gilliard got the start but wasn’t much of a factor in this game. He finished the night with only three total tackles.
Inside Linebacker Amarlo Herrera
Herrera had a very nice game with 10 total tackles. He seemed to be all over the field for the Bulldogs all night.
Herrera also recovered a Kendial Lawrence fumble during Missouri’s first drive of the second quarter.
Outside Linebacker Jarvis Jones
What to say about Jarvis Jones? He was predictably fantastic again. Jones was all over the field the entire game, but really made his presence felt in the fourth quarter.
It started when he intercepted James Franklin and returned it to the Missouri one-yard line, setting up a touchdown. Then just three plays later, Jones sacked Franklin from behind, knocking the ball loose. Georgia eventually recovered at the Missouri 5, and that set up another touchdown.
Jones finished the game with eight total tackles on top of the previously mentioned interception and sack.
Cornerback Damian Swann
Swann played well, mostly as the nickel cornerback for most of the game. He finished the game with six tackles and one pass defended. More importantly, he didn’t let any big plays get behind him.
Cornerback Malcolm Mitchell
Mitchell hasn’t played corner in a game since high school, but you’d never know it to watch him out there against Missouri. He had a couple of great pass breakups, jumping routes and knocking the ball away. Mitchell also had six total tackles on the night.
Note: Mitchell was back to return a punt and let it bounce, then inexplicably tried to field the ball, and ended up fumbling it. Missouri was unable to turn the gift into points, but it was a horrible decision on Mitchell’s part. Even if he had fielded it cleanly, he was surrounded by Missouri defenders and had nowhere to go.
Punt Returner Grade: F
Cornerback Branden Smith
Smith had only one tackle but he did have two passes defended on the night.
However, the play that stood out was when he let receiver Marcus Lucas streak by him and catch a touchdown pass late in the first half.
Safety Connor Norman
Norman had a better game against Missouri than he did in the season opener. He tallied six total tackles and pretty much kept everything in front of him.
He lacks the instincts of Bacarri Rambo and doesn’t have that big-play potential, but he’s doing a serviceable job filling in.
Safety Shawn Williams
Williams once again had a solid day at safety, finishing the night with eight total tackles and not letting any big plays past him.