No. 16 Georgia rallies, defeats Missouri in 2016 SEC opener
COLUMBIA - The No. 16 Georgia Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) defeated the Missouri Tigers (1-2, 0-1 SEC) in the 2016 SEC opener for both teams Saturday evening at Faurot Field. Georgia scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:28 left in regulation for a 28-27 victory.
Mizzou took an early 10-0 lead on Georgia scoring on its first two drives. Lock found tight end Jason Reese for a 15-yard TD pass 2:07 into the game and following a quick hold by the Tigers defense, the offense drove down the field before Tucker McCann kicked a 33-yard field goal.
Georgia responded with 14 unanswered points. First, Isaiah McKenzie scored on a 6-yard touchdown rush to cap 13-play, 75-yard drive late in the first quarter. Following a three-and-out by the Tigers offense, the Bulldogs took a 14-10 lead with 12:48 to play in the first half on a two-yard bootleg touchdown pass from Eason to fullback Christian Payne.
McCann booted his second field goal of the game, a 46-yard kick on the enusing Mizzou drive to get the Tigers within a point.
The Tigers would then take a 20-14 lead with 6:30 left in the half on a 79-yard touchdown pass from Lock to J'Mon Moore on the first play following a Georgia punt.
Eason showed poise early in his first career conference start, marching Georgia down the field for a five-play, 74-yard drive ending on a 20-yard touchdown pass to McKenzie with 1:48 left in the second quarter to put the Bulldogs up 21-20 at halftime.
Coming out of the locker room, Mizzou's defense stifiled Georgia on its first two plays and Cam Hilton intercepeted Eason on 3rd and 10 with a 26-yard return down to the Georgia 6. That set up the second one-play touchdown connection of the game for Lock and Moore, a six-yard TD pass to make it 27-21 Mizzou just over a minute into the third quarter.
Following a few drives from both sides that ended in punts, Georgia's defense forced Lock into his first major mistake of the game. Juwuan Briscoe came up with an interception as Lock tried to find Moore, setting up Georgia deep in Mizzou territory. The Bulldogs would get nothing out of the short field however, as William Ham missed a 23-yard field goal attempt.
Both defenses buckled down with Georgia forcing a second interception off Lock late in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs drive stalled at the Mizzou 22-yard line as Charles Harris and the Mizzou defensive line put pressure on the offense; Harris recorded three sacks for the game. With the Georgia offense stifled, Ham came on for a 38-yard field goal and missed his second attempt of the night.
The Tigers looked as though they would add to the lead after a 15-play, 60-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter that included a steady dose of Ish Witter and Damarea Crockett, but Lock was intercepted by Quincy Mauger for a second time on an initial incompletion that was overturned by review when it was determined Mauger got a foot down in-bounds.
Mizzou's defense backed their quarterback up however. Georgia only gained 16 yards on the drive following the interception and after a targeting penalty against Georgia's Kirby Chodes on the Bulldogs punt, the Tigers started at their own 44-yard-line with 5:49 left in regulation. Choates was ejected from the game for the illegal hit on Mizzou punt returner Johnathon Johnson.
After Missouri had to punt around midfield on that drive, Georgia had 3:32 to go 80 yards for the potential go-ahead touchdown. The Bulldogs managed to do that in just over two minutes, as Eason found McKenzie for a 20-yard touchdown pass on 4th and 10 for the game's final score.
Lock threw a completion to Moore on the first play following the Georgia touchdown, but Moore fumbled the ball and the Bulldogs recovered around midfield to ensure victory.
[Author's Note: This story was updated with live updates throughout the game and has been edited to reflect the conclusion of the game.]