ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia Bulldogs have enjoyed their share of exciting victories in recent weeks.
Saturday they had to swallow an exciting defeat.
Missouri registered its first signature win as a Southeastern Conference member, as the No. 25 Tigers upset the No. 7 Bulldogs 41-26 on a gorgeous afternoon at Sanford Stadium. The Tigers used two turnovers to build a 28-10 halftime lead, nearly crumbled as the Bulldogs pulled within 28-26 early in the fourth quarter but then used two more turnovers to pull away.
"It was just a tough, tough day for Georgia," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "We got ourselves in trouble obviously in the first half. Our biggest problem was four turnovers to zero. That usually doesn't equate to victory."
While Georgia was watching its 15-game home winning streak end, the Tigers were notching their first road win over a top-10 team since a 14-3 triumph at No. 9 Mississippi State in 1981. The Bulldogs need Missouri to lose twice to regain control of their SEC East destiny, which could happen the next two weeks with Florida and South Carolina visiting Columbia, Mo.
Starting quarterback James Franklin separated his shoulder in the fourth quarter and is expected to miss both of those games and probably more for the Tigers, who already are bowl-eligible at 6-0 after going 5-7 last season.
"We knew that 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 that there is something about these guys that is really special. The toughest game that we are going to play is next week."
Georgia dropped to 4-2 overall and has not gone undefeated through its SEC schedule since Herschel Walker's third and final season in 1982.
The Bulldogs took their only lead at 7-0 on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Brendan Douglas with 3:44 left in the opening quarter. Missouri answered with three consecutive touchdown drives, the third of which was capped by Marcus Murphy's 36-yard scoring run on third-and-5 that put the Tigers up 21-10 with 5:56 left in the half.
Georgia's first of four turnovers occurred on the next play from scrimmage, when Murray was sacked by Shane Ray and fumbled. Michael Sam scooped up the ball and raced 21 yards to make it 28-10.
"That sack was on me," Bulldogs tight end Arthur Lynch said. "He was in wide nine technique, which means he was lined up outside of me. I thought he was going to cut wide and that I was going to meet him, but he made a good move in the middle.
"I tried to recover, but I didn't, and he hit Aaron in the back. That's seven points, and that sack is completely my fault."
Georgia regrouped offensively by marching to Missouri's 10-yard line, but Brendan Douglas fumbled at the 6 with 1:31 before halftime.
"I was just fighting for some extra yards and the ball popped out," Douglas said. "I tried to go out and make up for it in the second half, but you really can't make up for something like that. You win and lose games with turnovers, and we had too many today."
Georgia played turnover-free in the third quarter and dominated as a result. The Bulldogs had 147 yards to Missouri's 35 in the third quarter, and they pulled within 28-20 on a Marshall Morgan field goal and a 7-yard touchdown from Murray to Rantavious Wooten.
After getting within 28-26 on a 10-yard touchdown from Murray to Chris Conley with 12:15 to play, the Tigers answered with a 40-yard score from Bud Sasser to L'Damian Washington. With 4:24 remaining and Georgia trailing 34-26, thoughts of a Knoxville repeat were dashed when Murray's first-and-10 pass from his 24 was intercepted by Randy Ponder at the 39.
"It was me trying to force the ball in there when a corner was dropping," Murray said. "I tried to force it instead of checking it down."
Missouri capitalized on the short field to make it 41-26, and Murray threw another interception with 49 seconds left. The Bulldogs will try to rebound this week at Vanderbilt, which had Saturday off.
"You never want to be in the position of not being in control of your destiny," said Murray, who completed 25 of 45 passes for 290 yards. "Right now we're not in control. The past few years we've been hoping South Carolina would lose, and we've just got to keep battling and take care of ourselves."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...