Georgia’s Defense, Backups Step Up Big and Crush Missouri

Once news broke of Todd Gurley’s suspension, the first question everyone asked was, “How would the Bulldogs respond?”

On Saturday, the Dawgs answered, “With the character and poise of a champion.”

Make no mistake about it: replacing Gurley was a huge task. After all, he accounted for over one-third of the team’s offense, and is considered by many to be the top running back in the country. With Keith Marshall and Sony Michel already out of the lineup due to injury, many wondered aloud if the Bulldogs had enough weapons to beat the Tigers, who entered the contest as the only team in the SEC East without a conference loss.

Those critics don’t have any doubts now. The Georgia defense took over this game from the opening whistle, forcing two turnovers on the first three drives, giving the Dawgs all the cushion that they would need. Missouri had no answers for the Bulldog front seven, which recorded three sacks, and never allowed Maty Mauk to get in any sort of rhythm. As a result, the Tigers gained just 147 yards, turned the ball over five times, and did not convert a third down (0-for-7).

More impressively, the UGA defense allowed only one drive longer than four plays. Not surprisingly, Missouri ran just five plays in Bulldog territory.

As for the offense, it was just fine without Gurley. Nick Chubb carried the ball 38 times for 143 yards, wearing down the Missouri defense as the game wore on. Brendan Douglas added another 65, highlighted by a 15-yard score, in which he hurdled a Missouri defender to the end zone. With the running game clicking, the Dawgs had no trouble throwing the ball, completing 23-of-29 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.

Are these numbers going to win any fantasy football contests this weekend?

No, they aren’t.

However, the performance demonstrates why Georgia is very much alive in the SEC championship and College Football Playoff races. Just as they’ve done all year, when the Dawgs lose a key player, another one steps in and gets the job done. Whether it’s a lightly-regarded backup or a Heisman Trophy frontrunner, Mark Richt simply says, “next man up,” and the team continues to win.

That’s the type of grit and character that championship teams are made of.

About Terry P. Johnson

Terry Johnson is the Associate Editor for The Student Section. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.