5 things we learned from Georgia’s 43-6 win over Missouri

Georgia quarterback JT Daniels prepares to play Missouri in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Athens.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Georgia quarterback JT Daniels prepares to play Missouri in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Athens. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

ATHENS – Georgia players and coaches weren’t planning to do much celebrating after their 43-6 win over Missouri on Saturday. The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs said they planned to give Tennessee their full attention as soon as possible.

Conveniently, the Vols were playing at Kentucky in a game that kicked off at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. So, most of the team was likely watching in as Tennessee outlasted the Wildcats 45-42 in an offensive slugfest.

With a win over the Vols Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS), the Bulldogs can become the first Georgia team to run the table in SEC play since the league went to divisional play and an eight-game conference schedule in 1992. The 1982 Bulldogs were the last Georgia team to go unbeaten in conference play with a 6-0 record in 1982. That team finished 11-1 with only a loss to Penn State in a national championship matchup in the Sugar Bowl.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart wasn’t thinking about any of that Saturday. He was already fretting about facing the Vols’ high-powered offense in a charged-up Neyland Stadium minutes after Georgia’s game was in the books.

“We’re gonna be playing in a really tough environment, one of the toughest places in the country,” Smart said. “Their fan base is bought-in, all-in on coach Heupel and his staff. It will be a tremendous atmosphere and opportunity. ... We need to prepare the players for it.”

Georgia has won four in a row over Tennessee by an average margin of 29.8 points. In one of its tightest SEC series, the Bulldogs pulled ahead 25-23-2 having taken 10 of the last 13 games since 2008. In that span, Tennessee has had eight different head coaches, including interims.

But the Vols believe they finally got a good one in Heupel. He came to Rocky Top from Central Florida, where he went 23-8 the last three seasons. But he’s best known for his time as Oklahoma’s quarterback. Heupel was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2000 when he led the Sooners to an undefeated season and national championship.

“They have a really good football team,” Smart said. “I’ve been able to watch them play several weeks where we’ve either been off or had this early game. They’ve actually played a lot better than some of their scores indicate. I’ve got a lot of respect for their team and how hard they play.”

Meanwhile, Smart thought the Bulldogs had a “sub-par” outing against Missouri. Here are some things we learned during the game:

JT Daniels spotted

Smart never says much about Georgia’s quarterback rotation. Then again, his actions do all the talking for him. They say, loud and clear, “Stetson Bennett is my quarterback!”

Even with junior JT Daniels 100% healthy, Bennett started his fifth straight game on Saturday (sixth overall). And it wasn’t a rotation. Bennett took every snap of the Bulldogs’ first six offensive possessions. After punting on its opening possession, Georgia had five straight scoring drives behind Bennett.



It wasn’t until Georgia led 33-3 at the 11:04 mark of the third quarter that Daniels entered the game. He mostly handed off the football, but did complete three passes for 20 yards on his first series, including a 7-yarder to John FitzPatrick on fourth-and-3 and a 7-yarder to Ladd McConkey for a touchdown. However, his fourth pass was intercepted after throwing well behind flanker Jermaine Burton and deflecting off Burton’s hands.

Daniels played the rest of the game and finished with 82 yards on 7-of-11 passing. Bennett was 13-of-19 for 255 and two touchdowns.

“I thought he had really good command of the offense when he went in,” Smart said of Daniels. “He’s got great poise in the pocket. He got a little unfortunate on the tipped-ball interception.”

Bennett said he was glad to see Daniels finally get back on the field.

“Anytime someone else goes in there and has success, it’s cool,” Bennett said. “We’re buddies, and we’re friends and it was pretty cool to see him out there.”

Anderson’s absence

Georgia on Saturday played its first game in four years without outside linebacker Adam Anderson on the field. The senior from Rome was suspended indefinitely by UGA earlier this past week after it was learned he is being investigated by Athens-Clarke County police for a rape allegation.

Smart addressed Anderson’s absence in his opening remarks after Saturday’s game but told reporters he would not be answering any questions because it remains “an ongoing legal situation.”

“I can’t talk about it and I can’t comment on it,” Smart said. “I will tell you we are cooperating fully with all the law enforcement and campus organizations. That’s all I can say about it. If you want to ask, I’m going to have to stick to that statement.”

Smart was not asked any more about it.

Anderson was not allowed to be with his teammates during Saturday’s game. His attorney, Steve Sadow of Atlanta, has formally asked UGA for reconsideration since Anderson has not been charged in the case. School policy dictates that students charged with felony crimes cannot participate in school activities.

Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith is a close friend and roommate.

“I love him to death,” Smith said. “We talk every day. We talked (Friday) night and he just let me know that ‘I’ve got it.’”

Fifth-year senior Robert Beal took the majority of the snaps in Anderson’s absence. He finished with two tackles and a half tackle-for-loss.

Run-game issues

Once again, Georgia did not run the football particularly well. Granted, the Tigers sold out to stop it, crowding the line of scrimmage and rolling down their safeties. But against a defense that was dead last in the nation against the rush (283.3 yards per game) Georgia could manage only 168 yards.

The Bulldogs averaged 5.1 yards per carry, but that number was boosted by carries by receivers that went went for 37 yards, by Kearis Jackson, and 15 by Arian Smith. Otherwise, Georgia’s backs and Bennett averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Leading rusher Zamir White managed just 14 yards on nine carries.

“We did not run the ball well if that’s what you’re asking,” Smart said when asked if Missouri loaded up to stop the run. “We did not do that super well, but there was no like massive change in what they did.”

Bennett begged to differ.

“I think their game plan was for us to not run the ball,” he said. “They were popping ‘backers and had low safeties to stop our run game. When they do that, we’ve got to be explosive, either to make them back off or that’s how we score points.”

That’s how they scored points. Georgia passed for 337 of their 505 total yards.

In their defense, the Bulldogs played without starting left tackle Jamaree Salyer. He’s sidelined for at least another week with a sprained knee.

QBs on the run

For only the third time this season – but second week in a row – an opposing offense ran for more than 100 yards against Georgia’s renowned defense. The Tigers managed 121 yards on the ground Saturday. Florida had 161 the previous week and Alabama-Birmingham recorded 127.

“That was 100 percent the QB run game,” Georgia’s Nolan Smith said. “They run the quarterback pretty good and they put us in a lot of situations where they got a lot of yards. That’s not our standard and we shouldn’t let anybody come in here and run the ball on us in our house.”

Missouri playing without injured starter Connor Bazelak, rotated a pair of freshmen in Tyler Macon and Brady Cook. They combined for 74 yards on designed runs and scrambles. Running back Tyler Badie added 41 yards on nine carries.

“When the quarterback can run the football, you’ve got to treat it like an extra hat,” Smart said. “You’ve got to use an extra person in the run game to try and stop them. We’re usually really good at that because we’re physical up front but … we didn’t play well.”

Warning: Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker averages 51 yards a game running the football and has scored four rushing TDs.

Memorable day

Considering it was a noon game against an overmatched opponent, it was a memorable day full of highlights inside Sanford Stadium.

It started with the attendance of Joc Pederson, one of the stars for the World Series champion Atlanta Braves. The right-fielder known for wearing a pearl necklace and hitting timely home runs was recognized on the field along with the mascot “Blooper.” All of Georgia’s managers and trainers – and a few administrators – wore pearls in Pederson’s honor.



Former Georgia coach Mark Richt was honored with a basically an entire halftime show. It included the Redcoat Marching Band playing “In the Air Tonight” while spelling out his name in formation, a narrated video tribute on the jumbotron and Rich and his wife Katharyn receiving a commemorative football from Athletic Director Josh Brooks while 40 of his former UGA captains stood behind.

The emotional outpouring left the 61-year-old Richt in tears.

“That’s why I wore these sunglasses,” Richt told the Athens Banner-Herald’s Ryne Dennis. “I had a feeling this was going to happen.”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Also, the incomparable Loran Smith was recognized on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of his involvement with Georgia’s “Tailgate Show.” Smith, now 83, actually founded the pregame radio show in 1971 and served as the sideline reporter into the 2000s. Legendary play-by-play announcer Larry Munson would summon Smith’s reports by saying, “whattayagot, Loran?” On Saturday, with Smith at midfield, the entire Sanford Stadium crowd counted down and performed an orchestrated “whattayagot, Loran.”

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