Georgia committed four turnovers Saturday, one fewer than in the season’s first five games combined, and they figured prominently in the math of a 41-26 loss to Missouri.
The first turnover, a fumble by quarterback Aaron Murray in the second quarter, was returned 21 yards for a Missouri touchdown.
The second, a fumble by tailback Brendan Douglas at the Missouri 7-yard line in the second quarter, stopped a Georgia drive that seemed headed for a score.
The third, an interception thrown by Murray with Missouri leading 34-26 and just over four minutes left in the game, denied Georgia a shot at a potential game-tying drive and led to a clinching Missouri touchdown four plays later.
And the fourth, an interception of a Murray pass at the Missouri 18-yard line with 49 seconds to play, was incidental to the outcome, but punctuated the troubling trend.
“Turnovers killed us,” Murray said afterward. “You can’t cough the ball up in a game like that.”
“Probably the easiest way to explain our biggest problem: four turnovers to (Missouri’s) zero,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “That usually doesn’t equate to a victory against a really good team.”
Georgia trailed 21-10 before committing its first turnover because its porous defense had allowed touchdown drives of 79, 52 and 75 yards on consecutive Missouri possessions.
The first turnover came when Missouri defensive end Shane Ray defeated a double team (tight end Arthur Lynch and left tackle Kenarious Gates) to sack Murray from the blind side, forcing the fumble. Ray’s fellow defensive end, Michael Sam, recovered the ball and returned it for a touchdown and a 28-10 lead.
“Just as I was throwing the ball, I got hit, and the ball came flying out,” Murray said.
After Sam’s score, Murray drove Georgia’s offense down the field. But on second-and-2 from the Missouri 10, Douglas fumbled after a 3-yard carry. Missouri’s Markus Golden recovered.
“I was fighting for some extra yards, and the ball popped out,” Douglas said. “I thought I was down, but I’m sure (the referees) had a better view of it.”
Georgia eventually cut the deficit to 28-26, failing on a two-point conversion try that would have tied the score early in the fourth quarter. Later, the Bulldogs trailed 34-26 when they got the ball at their own 24-yard line with 4:25 remaining. But on the first play, a Murray pass intended for Chris Conley was intercepted by Missouri cornerback Randy Ponder.
“Both (interceptions) were pretty much forced balls, trying to put a ball in a tight spot rather than probably checking it down,” Murray said.