Drew Lock’s arm, experience pose challenges for Bulldogs

Pinpointing a weaknesses in Missouri’s offense is difficult, and that’s largely thanks to senior quarterback Drew Lock.

Averaging 9.4 yards per pass and totaling 1,062 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, Lock should continue to put up big numbers as Georgia travels to Missouri’s Memorial Stadium on Saturday, but the Bulldogs will be challenged to limit that success.

“I don't know if his arm can get any stronger. ... He can make every throw,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Monday.

The Georgia-Missouri game has a noon start time and will be televised on ESPN.

Lock, the SEC passing leader through three games, not only is impressive because of his athletic ability, but because of his experience playing in big conference games.

Lock throws “with purpose,” Smart said, and knows how to wait for a play to break open, and those skills have only improved with time.

“I think the biggest thing is his maturity level, his confidence,” Smart said. “He's seen the coverages. He's seen the checks. He understands where he wants to go with the ball. He's got as fast of release as I've ever seen. He can get the ball out so quick, and he does such a good job of keying your defenders and knowing where to go with the ball.”

Although Lock’s experience is part of why Missouri won its first three games, the strength of his offensive line allows him to wait longer than most quarterbacks to find the Tigers offensive weapons.

With Missouri receivers like Emmanuel Hall who is averaging 23.9 yards per reception, Jalen Knox, Johnathon Johnson and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, Georgia defensive back J.R. Reed said the Bulldogs secondary feels the pressure to eliminate the long plays they now Lock is capable of making.

“Those guys are very speedy on the outside and they can get open,” Reed said. “They can run past anybody, so it’s just we got to play our good technique and stay over the top and not allow big plays.”

Missouri’s offense which averages 587 total yards— third in the SEC behind Texas A&M and Mississippi State respectively— and leads the SEC with 389 passing yard will give the Bulldogs a chance to prove their pass rush is still strong without pass rushers like Roquan Smith and Davin Bellamy.

The Bulldogs (3-0) rank last in the SEC in sacks this season (1) and have recorded only 10 tackles for loss in their convincing wins over Austin Peay, South Carolina and Middle Tennessee.

Georgia defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said the quick play of offenses the Bulldogs have faced so far this season have impeded the defense from effectively rushing the passer because the ball is out of the quarterback’s hands “two seconds” after the ball is snapped, forcing the Bulldogs to find other ways to affect the quarterback, such as batting down passes.

To catch Lock and the Missouri offense off-guard at home, Ledbetter said the defensive line must be aggressive and communicate, just as it did at South Carolina.

“You basically have to pass rush from the line of scrimmage and just try to get back there as fast as you can and just pocket push,” Ledbetter said. “Really the way to affect him is to make him step up and get uncomfortable in the pocket and that just comes with level pass rush and working together in that pass-rush game.”