Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray is sacked and fumbles after being hit by Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray on Saturday. Murray turned the ball over three times in the Georgia loss, likely knocking him out of contention for the Heisman Trophy. (Reuters)
ATHENS — Critics may have chortled to themselves at Missouri’s nonconference schedule, but after a 41-26 upset of No. 7 Georgia on Saturday, who’s laughing now?
Certainly not the Bulldogs, who saw their home winning streak snapped at 15, while Missouri defeated a Top 10 team at home for the first time in 32 years.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming down here,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “I said it in August and I said it in May: There is something about these guys that is really special.”
The Tigers improved to 6-0 overall, 1-0 in the SEC, while Georgia fell to 4-2, 3-1.
“We had plenty of chances to tie it up, but we just didn’t execute,” Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray said. “It’s disappointing.”
Missouri was already playing with house money before the game began. Georgia was without running backs Todd Gurley (ankle) and Keith Marshall (ACL), along with Malcolm Mitchell (ACL), Camilla’s Justin Scott-Wesley (ACL) and Michael Bennett (MCL) — the team’s top three wideouts.
Fortunately for Georgia, Murray was feeling just fine.
Murray brought the Bulldogs back from a 28-10 halftime deficit with a pair of touchdown passes, including a 10-yarder to Chris Conley with just over 12 minutes to play.
The two-point conversion failed, but Georgia found itself back in the game, trailing just 28-26.
The Tigers answered on their next possession, scoring on a 40-yard pass from wide receiver Bud Sasser to L’Damian Washington.
On Georgia’s next possession, Murray’s pass was intercepted by Randy Ponder. Moments later, the Tigers tacked on a final score.
They won despite losing quarterback James Franklin to injury, forcing backup Maty Mauk into the game.
Mauk helped engineer the Tigers’ final two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
“Everybody just told me to keep calm,” Mauk said. “I came in and got the plays to our guys. We scored when we needed to and came out with a victory, so that’s all that matters.”
Four turnovers (two fumbles and two interceptions) really helped ruin the Bulldogs’ day.
“It was 4-0 on turnovers,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “They did a really good job securing the ball and we didn’t. You hear coaches say it over and over, but you can’t win a game turning it over like that.”
Missouri couldn’t have asked for a better first half.
The Bulldogs opened the scoring midway through the first on a 6-yard pass from Murray to Brendan Douglas.
But the Tigers answered, driving 79 yards in just nine plays to tie the game at 7.
The second quarter was all Mizzou.
A 17-yard pass from Franklin to L’Damian Tomlinson preceded a beautiful 36-yard run by Marcus Murphy that enabled the Tigers to push the lead to 21-10.
But it got even worse from the Bulldogs’ perspective.
On Georgia’s next possession, Shane Ray sacked Murray, resulting in a fumble and a 21-yard scoop-and-score by defensive end Michael Sam with 5:46 left in the quarter.
It appeared the Bulldogs were about to answer three minutes later. But after they drove 65 yards, Douglas fumbled at the Tigers’ 7, enabling Missouri to go into halftime with a 28-10 lead.
“The guys are obviously disappointed and that’s tough,” offensive guard Chris Burnette said. “But we also understand that we have to go back to work on Monday. Regardless of where the goals we set out are, we can keep getting better. There’s a lot of football left.”
NOTES: Tailback J.J. Green and LB Reggie Carter received their first career starts for the Bulldogs. … With two fumble recoveries in the first half, Missouri has caused a turnover in 36 straight games, the longest active streak in the BCS. … With his three touchdown passes, Murray has 112, two behind Danny Wuerffel’s SEC record of 114.