Late first-half drive flips momentum for Georgia in win at Missouri

After Will Norris blocked Jake Camarda’s punt late in the second quarter of No. 9 Georgia’s game at No. 25 Missouri on Saturday, followed by a game-tying touchdown by Larry Rountree, it looked as if the Tigers were going to head into halftime with all the momentum.

The Bulldogs got the ball back with 80 seconds left to play in the second quarter. Forty-three seconds later, wide receiver George Pickens caught his first touchdown of the day — a 36-yard pass from quarterback JT Daniels — to put Georgia up, 21-14, heading into halftime. Momentum flipped.

Missouri didn’t score again, and the Bulldogs continued to pile up the points on their way to a 49-14 win.

“That two-minute drive was huge,” Daniels said. “That was an absolute game changer. Went from having none of the momentum, on the road, to now the momentum’s in our favor. That started the whole second half for us.”

To start the third quarter, Georgia received the kickoff and came out firing. Running back Zamir White quickly gained a combined 44 yards on the first two plays of the drive, and it didn’t take Daniels long to find Pickens for another touchdown. Pickens finished with a season-high 126 yards — his first 100-yard receiving game of the season — and two touchdowns on just five catches, many of which were difficult, contested grabs.

“That was the first look you really got where nobody’s playing help on George, and it’s George one-on-one,” Daniels said. “That’s what it looks like when it’s George one-on-one. I’ll never overthrow George. I’ve never overthrown George. ... I tell him, ‘I’ll throw it to you every single time as long as you make it sure it’ll never get picked if it isn’t the right throw.’ That’s George. One-on-one, throw it up to him.”

The Bulldogs weren’t done. On their next five drives after the blocked punt and ensuing touchdown, they scored a touchdown each time. After the second touchdown to Pickens, running backs James Cook, White and Daijun Edwards all found the end zone.

Daniels completed 16 of his 27 passes for 299 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The rushing attack added 316 yards and four more touchdowns. In total, Georgia’s offense gained 615 yards — the first time the Bulldogs have gained more than 600 yards since a 55-0 win over Arkansas State in September 2019. The much sought-after balance between running and passing finally came to fruition.

“It’s what we’ve been looking for the last couple weeks,” Daniels said. “I’d say that was our first real, complete game. (Against) Mississippi State, great throwing, didn’t run it like we wanted to. South Carolina, more of a statement game, came out trying to run it. Today, we threw when the (defense’s) look said to throw, and we ran when the look said to run.”

By the time Missouri backup quarterback Brady Cook was sacked to end the game, what began with a sequence to tie the score at 14 points apiece just before halftime had become Georgia’s highest point total — and margin of victory — of the season. The momentum briefly swung to favor the Tigers, but the Bulldogs swung it right back and didn’t let up from there.

“We were able to get the ball back and we were able to have time on the clock to go down and score, which made it a two-for-one where we got the possession before the half and we got the possession to start the second half,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “That was the biggest difference in the game, the 14-point swing.”