Why the Missouri Tigers are disappointed, but not discouraged, after loss to Georgia

Top-ranked Georgia struggled all night against feisty Missouri. Finally, with 4 minutes, 3 seconds remaining, Bulldogs running back Diajun Edwards scored from the 1 to give the Bulldogs the lead for the first time.

A deflated Mizzou? Not at all, wide receiver Barrett Banister said.

“If you had asked anybody on this team, we’d have signed up for that,” Banister said.

But the Tigers couldn’t finish the deal and fell 26-22. Their defense excelled throughout the game until giving a bit at the end. Kicker Harrison Mevis, who missed a chip-shot field that would have won last week’s game at Auburn, was good on all five attempts in this one, including two over 50 yards.

The Auburn loss came up often in Saturday night’s postgame interviews. Both were devastating, but this one felt different.

“We came out of this game knowing we can play with anybody,” safety Joseph Charleston said.

Any thought that ill effects from last week’s loss could carry into the Georgia game was quickly dispelled. Missouri’s defense forced three Georgia punts and two turnovers on the Bulldogs’ first five possessions.

Meanwhile, quarterback Brady Cook and the Missouri offense encountered difficulty moving the ball against the Bulldogs. But the Tigers forged ahead 13-0 on two Mevis field goals and a 6-yard touchdown pass from Cook to tight end Tyler Stephens.

Georgia hadn’t trailed this season until Saturday.

“They knocked us back up front,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “They just had a lot of momentum.”

Missouri owned a 22-12 lead early in the fourth quarter, but once Georgia started scoring it never stopped. The Bulldogs got four field goals and two touchdowns the last six times they had the ball before going into the victory formation after Cook missed his final three pass attempts.

“Eventually we wore them down,” Smart said.

Missouri, which has been battling penalties all season, paid a price for a pair of flags against the same player. They likely cost the Tigers points.

In the second quarter, running back Cody Schrader followed excellent blocking and rolled toward the end zone. After 63 yards, he was tackled at the 1. Missouri decided to run tempo and got to the ball quickly. But Mitchell Walters jumped and that cost Missouri five yards. The Tigers settled for a Mevis field goal.

In the fourth quarter, after Georgia had closed the margin to 22-19, Cook completed a first-down pass to Banister inside the Bulldogs’ 40. But Walters was flagged for hands to the face, and Mizzou wound up punting. The Bulldogs scored the go-ahead touchdown on their ensuing possession.

“They’re killing us right now,” MU coach Eli Drinkwitz said of the penalties. “We’re not meaning to, but you have to take it off the table. It’s part of maturing, part of growing.”

Another factor for Missouri in the second half: The team’s top wide receiver, Dominic Lovett, didn’t play because of an injury.

Seven games remain for the Tigers, who dropped to 0-2 in the SEC and 2-3 overall heading into next week’s game at Florida.

Saturday’s outcome was a disappointment, but not discouraging.

“If you put yourselves in these situations over and over again and eventually the dam breaks and the water comes,” Banister said. “It’s tough, and I’m sure Missouri fans feel the same we do. It’s hard. But we took steps in the right direction and we have to get ready for next week.

“We just went toe to toe to against the No. 1 team in the country. Our record doesn’t show it, but it’s what we’ve been building. We just haven’t found ways to finish those games. We’re making strides. There’s no moral victories. We just have to win games.”