The No. 25-ranked Missouri Tigers (6-0, 2-0 SEC) upset the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs (4-2, 3-1 SEC) on Saturday in Athens to remain unbeaten, handing the SEC East powerhouse its first loss at Sanford Stadium since 2011.
ESPN College Football on Twitter provides the historical perspective:
Mizzou was out-gained on offense, but forced four crucial turnovers in the 41-26 victory.
Although the final score doesn't necessarily indicate it, the Bulldogs actually got off to a strong start on Saturday afternoon, opening up with back-to-back defensive stops and scoring the game's first touchdown late in the first quarter to pull ahead. Quarterback Aaron Murray engineered a 12-play, 86-yard drive that ended in a seven-yard touchdown strike to Brendan Douglas.
Missouri wasted little time responding, though, as James Franklin matched Murray's scoring drive with one of his own.
The Tigers would score each of the next two times they touched the ball, taking a 21-10 lead with under 5:56 to play in the opening half. The floodgates opened 10 seconds later when Missouri's Shane Ray blasted Murray from his blindside, forcing a fumble that Michael Sam scooped up and returned 21 yards for a touchdown.
Sam's score made it 28-10 Mizzou, and it looked as if the rout was on.
Another key moment came in the waning moments of the first half, with Georgia driving and in position to narrow the gap. The Bulldogs were in the red zone and yards away from cutting the Tigers' lead to 11 points when Douglas fumbled.
This incredible 15-yard catch and run from Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch was one of the highlights of the failed drive.
Whatever Georgia head coach Mark Richt told his players in the locker room at halftime clearly had an impact. The Bulldogs tightened up defensively to start the second half, as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Georgia Sports blog sarcastically pointed out via Twitter:
Hey, two defensive stops in a row by Bulldogs! Who'd have thunk. Dogs take over at own 20 with 8:06 remaining in 3rd Q.— AJC UGA (@ajcuga) October 12, 2013
The offense would follow their lead in the third quarter, piecing together two scoring drives to make it a one-possession game heading into the fourth quarter. Mizzou led 28-20.
Rantavious Wooten capped the drive with his second touchdown of the game.
Less than three minutes into the fourth quarter, Murray would throw his third touchdown pass on the day, finding Chris Conley from 10 yards out to pull Georgia within two points, 28-26. The Bulldogs would fail on the conversion attempt.
ESPN's David Ching highlighted a critical stat for the Tigers after the Bulldogs scored 16 unanswered points:
By my count, Mizzou has 44 yards of offense since it went up 28-10. #MIZZvsUGA— David Ching (@ESPNChing) October 12, 2013
Things appeared to get even worse for Missouri midway through the fourth quarter, when Franklin went down and was forced to the locker room. Freshman quarterback Maty Mauk stepped in, but junior wide receiver Bud Sasser threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to L'Damian Washington moments later on a trick play to extend the Tigers' lead to eight points.
Sophomore kicker Andrew Baggett missed the extra point, though, keeping Georgia within reach.
But after a gut-wrenching interception from Murray with under five minutes to play, Missouri would ice the game with a seven-yard touchdown run from Henry Josey that made it a two-possession game with just two minutes to go.
Key Player Grades
Aaron Murray, Georgia, QB: C+
At times, Murray put the Bulldogs on his back on Saturday. Unfortunately, his fumble in the second quarter (which wasn't completely his fault) and his interception late in the game were absolute killers for the Bulldogs.
His 290 yards passing and three touchdowns were enough to bring Georgia back into the game, but not enough to pull off the comeback.
James Franklin, Missouri, QB: B+
Missouri signal-caller James Franklin wasn't able to play the entire game on Saturday because of a shoulder injury, but the senior was solid during his time at the helm. Franklin wasn't all that explosive, but unlike Murray, he didn't make any costly errors.
Franklin's numbers won't jump off the box score (18-of-27, 170 yards and two total touchdowns), but his leadership and poise were key for the Tigers as they built a massive lead in the first half.
Georgia Defense: D
After allowing 41 points on Saturday, Georgia's defensive unit has now allowed 30 or more points in five of six games this season. Although the Bulldogs' four turnovers certainly didn't help the cause, it's no secret that Todd Grantham's defense has got to step up its play if Georgia hopes to compete for the SEC title again this fall.
Undefeated and now bowl-eligible, Missouri will head back to Columbia in Week 8 to play host to the Florida Gators. Meanwhile, Georgia will have just a week to recover before hitting the road for the second time in three weeks to play Vanderbilt in Nashville next Saturday.
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