Rapid reaction: Eason's 4th-down TD pass stuns Missouri
Jacob Eason’s first signature moment came on a fourth-down touchdown pass on the road.
Not bad for the true freshman’s first road SEC start.
Eason hit Isaiah McKenzie for the winning touchdown as Georgia rallied in the final minute for a 28-27 victory Saturday night.
What it means: Just when it looked like Missouri would turn the SEC East into a four-team race, Eason rescued the Bulldogs with a dramatic game-winning drive. Georgia stamped itself a contender in the East.
What I liked
Quarterback play: Georgia and Missouri each have a young quarterback, but it certainly didn’t look that way Saturday. Eason and sophomore Drew Lock were brilliant in the first half, combining for 541 yards and 4 touchdowns. Eason was the more methodical of the two, leading the Bulldogs down the field numerous times and converting 4 third downs on his team’s first touchdown drive.
Lock showed how quickly the Tigers’ offense can move the ball on opposing defenses by getting it to his receivers in space, as he and receiver J’Mon Moore did on a 79-yard score in the second quarter.
Lock threw for 358 yards and three scores, but also threw three interceptions — his first three of the season. Missouri committed five turnovers.
Eason started the final drive on his 20 and converted the winning pass on 4th-and-10. He finished 29-for-55 for 308 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Missouri run defense: Missouri did a good job of filling gaps and preventing Georgia from running the ball in the first half. The Bulldogs tried to establish a ground attack early in the game, but could not get anything going on the ground. Georgia carried the ball 19 times in the first half for only 31 yards.
J’Mon Moore: The junior receiver had a night to remember for the Tigers. In the second quarter, Moore torched the Bulldogs on a slant route for a 79-yard touchdown. He scored again on a 6-yard pass to begin the third quarter. Moore was the team’s top offensive weapon against the Bulldogs and has emerged as a true threat. He finished with eight catches for 196 yards and two scores.
Isaiah McKenzie: An offensive catalyst in the Bulldogs’ first two games, McKenzie once again made several big plays for Georgia, including the game-winning catch. The junior receiver scored Georgia’s first touchdown on a 6-yard run and later gave his team the lead with a 20-yard touchdown catch before halftime. He made some nice plays on special teams, and it’s become clear that McKenzie is Eason’s favorite target.
Charles Harris: Missouri’s star defensive lineman had a slow start to the season, but quickly made up for that on Saturday night. Fighting double teams for most of the night, Harris had three sacks that ultimately ended Georgia drives. Harris generated pressure as the night wore on and came up big in other aspects of the game, like batting down a pass at the line of scrimmage on third down or blowing up the run game in the backfield.
What I didn’t like
Penalties for Mizzou: The Tigers had several penalties in the first half against Georgia, including one that led to a Bulldogs’ touchdown. On third-and-one, Missouri stopped Nick Chubb for a 1-yard loss but committed a substitution infraction on fourth down to keep Georgia’s drive alive. The Bulldogs then continued to march down the field and took a 14-10 lead on an Eason touchdown pass. Missouri had five penalties in the first half. A pass interference gave Georgia a key first down on its final drive.
Missed Georgia field goals: Special teams have been a problem area for the Bulldogs this season and played a big role on Saturday. Kicker William Ham missed two field goals in the second half, a 23- and 38-yarder, that would have tied the game at 27, had the kicks been successful.
Georgia’s secondary: Against Missouri, Georgia’s secondary was going to face a big test. A veteran unit, the Bulldogs’ defensive backfield wasn’t up to the task, surrendering several long gains through the air. Juwuan Briscoe, in particular, had a rough outing. The sophomore cornerback struggled to contain J’Mon Moore, who torched Georgia for 172 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The Bulldogs’ secondary looked much better in the second half, intercepting Lock three times at crucial junctures, but there are still some issues that need to be ironed out.
The Bulldogs’ offensive line: It’s not easy for Georgia to establish a running game when teams stack eight or nine players in the box, but after being challenged by the coaching staff to improve after a lackluster game against Nicholls State, the Bulldogs’ linemen again struggled. Tyler Catalina gave up two sacks against Harris and looked lost at several points during the game. There’s no question that Georgia has talent in the backfield, which means that much of the blame lies up front.
Missouri’s running game: Missouri didn’t need to go to the ground often, but it lacked a running game for most of the second half that would have helped shorten the game. After an easy touchdown to begin the third quarter, Missouri had two three-and-outs and an interception. Without a steady run game, the Tigers became one-dimensional on offense. Fortunately, Missouri’s aerial attack was up to the task, but it will likely need more balance in the future.
Dropped passes by Georgia: The Bulldogs’ receivers didn’t do Eason any favors on Saturday night. Georgia had several big drops in the second half. McKenzie let a touchdown pass slip through his fingers on the left sideline of the end zone, and Reggie Davis dropped a bullet on third-and-seven late in the game that would have given the team a first down.
Who’s the man: Ultimately, Eason. But Harris was instrumental in shutting down the Bulldogs’ offense in the second half. The star defensive lineman accounted for three sacks and lived in Georgia’s backfield after halftime.
What’s next: Georgia will have another road SEC game next weekend against Ole Miss at noon. Missouri stays at home to welcome Delaware State for a 4 p.m. kickoff.