Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley (31) catches a touchdown pass against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Missouri defeated Georgia 41-26. (USA TODAY Sports: Dale Zanine)
After a tough 41-26 home loss to Missouri, injury-depleted Georgia will try regroup to for its showdown Vanderbilt.
“We are going to Vanderbilt coming off a loss and one that stung,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “But we know in our league you have to shake it off and get ready to go again, because no one is going to feel sorry for you.”
Georgia (4-2, 3-1 SEC) had its 15-game winning streak at Sanford Stadium snapped and now finds itself trailing Missouri in the SEC East race. That leaves the Bulldogs with little margin for error if they want to return to the SEC title game for the third straight season.
“Right now that goal is still attainable,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “We feel like if we take care of business and we win the rest of our games, Missouri has a very tough schedule left, then who knows what happens. They might win all their games, or they might lose a couple and give us a shot. We just have to take care of business and we can’t lose anymore. Hopefully we will be back in Atlanta.”
To do that, Georgia must improve a defense that still ranks last in the SEC in points allowed. The Bulldogs have given up 33.7 points per game.
Georgia’s much-maligned secondary will face another challenge against a Vanderbilt pass offense than ranks fourth in the SEC at 272 yards per game. Vanderbilt senior receiver Jordan Matthews leads the SEC in receiving with 709 yards and has scored 5 TDs this season.
“We obviously all know about Jordan Matthews who is a great receiver, but they also have a couple of other guys on the perimeter who are good receivers, and backs that can come out of the backfield too,” Georgia safety Connor Norman said. “Really, it’s going to be all about our assignments and executing what’s called.”
Scouting the running game: Despite being down to third and fourth string RBs J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas, Georgia still ran the ball effectively against Missouri, rushing for 164 yards on 5.3 yards per carry. The return of RB Todd Gurley would provide a huge boost to the running game if his sprained ankle heals before the Vanderbilt game. Georgia ranks eighth in the SEC in rushing offense at 206.3 yards per game.
Scouting the passing game: Georgia had issues in pass protection against Missouri. Quarterback Aaron Murray was sacked four times and was pressured throughout the game. Having to deal with injuries to his receivers throughout the season, Murray has remained impressive, averaging 304 yards passing per game with a TD-to-interception ratio of 17 to 5.
Scouting the run defense: Georgia limited Missouri to 142 yards rushing on 3.8 yards per carry. Senior Garrison Smith has proved to be capable at NT in Georgia coach Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme. Smith’s ability to occupy blockers has allowed LBs Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera to rack up tackles against the run. Wilson has a team-high 61 tackles, while Herrera has 55 tackles.
Scouting the pass defense: Richt felt like CB Damian Swann played better in the second half against Missouri. But Georgia’s pass defense continued to have breakdowns against Missouri, giving up 233 yards and 2 TDs. The return of S Connor Norman provides some experience in the secondary that Richt hopes will help improve the pass defensive in the future, but it remains a work in progress.
Scouting the special teams: Collin Barber and Adam Erickson alternated at punter against Missouri and Richt did not rule out using both again this week against Vanderbilt. Barber, coming off a concussion, averaged just 32 yards in two punts against Missouri, while Erickson averaged 40.5 yards in two punts. PK Marshall Morgan made both of his field goal attempts against Missouri to improve to 8-for-10 for the season.