Georgia running back J.J. Green might be in line for a bigger-than-usual workload today against Missouri because of recent injuries that have depleted the Bulldogs’ offense. (Reuters)
ATHENS — For a change, Georgia coach Mark Richt wouldn’t mind avoiding another close finish.
But Richt expects another tight contest today when No. 6 Georgia hosts unbeaten No. 25 Missouri (5-0, 1-0 SEC) between the hedges. Richt is concerned about a Missouri team that rolled up 523 yards of offense in its 51-28 win over Vanderbilt.
“Missouri is a very, very hot team,” Richt said. “They just moved into the top-25 for good reason. They are 5-0 and 1-0 in league play and very dominating against Vanderbilt last week. It was kind of scary actually to watch the tape of it. They were so proficient on offense.”
Georgia (4-1, 3-0 SEC) survived another nail-biter, beating Tennessee 34-31 in overtime. It was the second straight week that Georgia needed some late-game heroics from senior quarterback Aaron Murray. Two weeks ago, Murray lofted a game-winning pass to Camilla native Justin Scott-Wesley with 1:27 left to lift Georgia to a 44-41 win over LSU.
Last Saturday, Murray connected with WR Rantavious Wooten on a game-tying TD pass with five seconds left to force overtime against the Vols.
“We’ve had the most drama in a two-week period that we’ve probably had in a long time when it comes to games that were just tightly contested and hard fought,” Richt said. “To come out on top has been very gratifying.”
Said Murray: “It can get stressful at times but these are fun games to play in and it’s fun for the fans. I think it really has made some guys on this team grow up a lot and understand that this is the SEC. Every week there’s going to be tough games.”
But the win against the Vols came at a price. Georgia lost Scott-Welsey (torn ACL) and RB Keith Marshall (torn ACL) to season-ending injuries.
The Bulldogs spent the week developing new players to fill holes left by the injuries and improve a defense that ranks last in the Southeastern Conference in point allowed (32.2 ppg).
“We’re obviously a work in progress,” Richt said. “We’re battling, we’re fighting and we’re winning as a team right now.
Georgia is enjoying playing on the edge of late, and the Bulldogs will attempt to put a team away before the final seconds when they host Missouri.
The Tigers are quietly putting up their own impressive numbers on offense but are just now beginning the daunting portion of their schedule. Missouri is averaging 46.6 points behind a stout rushing attack but is playing its first ranked opponent in Georgia.
The Tigers, new to the SEC as of 2012, are making their first trip to Georgia after getting blown out 41-20 at home by the Bulldogs last season. The 2013 squad already matched last season’s win total and owns four rushers, including quarterback James Franklin, with at least 278 yards and an average of 5.2 yards per carry or better. Missouri rushed for 245 yards in the 51-28 win over Vanderbilt last week while Franklin passed for 278 yards and a season-high four touchdowns.