ATHENS — The Georgia Bulldogs won more moments Saturday than Missouri. Coach Kirby Smart said that essentially was the difference in an incredibly hard fought and well-played SEC East showdown at Sanford Stadium, won by the No. 2 Bulldogs over 12th-ranked Missouri, 30-21.

The victory gets the two-time, defending national champions one step closer to clinching their third consecutive SEC Eastern Division title and the SEC Championship game berth that comes with it. To do that, Georgia (9-0, 6-0 SEC) will have defeat No. 10 Ole Miss (8-1, 5-1), which will visit Athens on Saturday and attempt to stop the Bulldogs’ school-record tying streak of 24 consecutive home wins between the hedges.

The Bulldogs will worry about that game later because the one against Missouri on Saturday left them out of breath. Of securing a record 35th regular-season game in a row for Georgia, Smart simply shook his head in marvel.

“They believe in each other,” Smart, who improves to 43-4 in his career at Sanford Stadium, said of his team. “They just believe if they don’t win the last moment, they’ll win the next moment. If you win enough moments, you win the game. We won enough moments tonight.

Georgia, who had to come back from a 14-point deficit to beat Missouri 26-22 last year in Columbia, had to come back again Saturday. The Tigers (7-2, 4-2) forged a three-point lead early in the second half and hung close until late in the fourth quarter. But Georgia’s defense and kicking game came through in the end.

Peyton Woodring’s 48-yard field goal with 3:57 to play came after an interception and return by defensive lineman Nazir Stackhouse gave just enough distance for the Bulldogs and the sellout crowd of 92,746 to know victory was theirs. It was freshman place-kicker’s third field goal of the game and extends his streak to 13 in a row without a miss.

“The difference in the game was probably kicking game this time and Woodring coming through and (Mekhi) Mews’ returns and some critical red-area stops,” Smart said. “That’s what games come down to sometimes.”

That and defense. The biggest play of the game was made by nose guard Nazir Stackhouse with 7:46 to play. A 6-foot-3, 320-pound senior from Stone Mountain, Stackhouse found himself in coverage on an attempted screen pass for Missouri running back Cody Schrader. Stackhouse read the play perfectly and reached out with his right hand to snag the ball at the Tigers’ 48-yard line. Known for a lot of things but not speed, Stackhouse rambled down the Georgia sideline toward the east end zone before finally was run out of bounds at about the Missouri 8.

To say Stackhouse badly wanted to score is an understatement. But it wouldn’t have counted anyway because linebacker Smael Mondon – well behind the play – was flagged for an illegal blindside block, Marking off from the spot of the foul, Georgia’s offense ended up taking over at its own 30. Essentially, it was a 65-yard penalty.

“I was just in the moment,” Stackhouse said after the game. “I found out later, like, say three plays after that, that it was called back. “I was like, ‘man, I should’ve scored.’ Jonathan Jefferson said, ‘it would’ve been called back if you did. I was like, well, I still got a pick.”


No problem. The Bulldogs’ offense responded. Taking over at their own 30 with 7:46 to play, they got a 22-yard run from Daijun Edwards on first down and knocked out another first down on a Kendall Milton run and a Ladd McConkey reception. On third-and-10, Georgia would get five more critical yards, setting up the field goal try by Woodring, the longest of his young career.

Woodring, a freshman from Lafayette, Louisiana, drilled it through.

“We are a very composed team. We are resilient,” said Georgia quarterback Carson Beck, espousing two of Georgia’s program “pillars.” “I think we’ve shown that at this point in the season. We stand on that. ... When you practice those things, they show up in games.”

Beck had a terrific second half, completing 11 of 14 passes after halftime. He finished with 254 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-32 passing. Former Missouri receiver Dominic Lovett (4 catches, 33 yards) scored one of the TDs, tight end Oscar Delp had the other score and Ladd McConkey led Georgia wideouts for the second consecutive week, with seven for 95 yards. Daijun Edwards added 77 yards rushing.

Schrader, the SEC’s second-leading rusher, hit Georgia’s defense for 112 yards on the ground. Quarterback Brady Cook was tough running the ball as well, gaining 57 yards. But he lost 18 yards on three sacks and threw two picks. Javon Bullard intercepted Cook’s last throw of the game with 1:36 to play to end the Tigers’ comeback bid.

“You have to go to battle; that’s what we did,” Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “There’s no guarantee in the outcome of the battle. You just have to go out and give it everything you’ve got and put your whole heart in it, and that’s what we did.”

They certainly had the sellout crowd of 92,246 worried. The Tigers used a run-heavy, nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters and a two-point conversion to get within 24-21 not even three minutes in the fourth quarter. But the Bulldogs made sure Missouri would get no closer.

Georgia answered with another scoring drive that ended Woodring’s 30-yard field goal and extended the lead to 27-21 with 8:59 to go. The Bulldogs were fortunate to get the opportunity after being called for offensive pass interference just a couple of plays earlier. But video review determined that Beck’s throw-away for Edwards on a screen was behind the line of scrimmage and nullified the penalty.

That was only one of several adverse moments Georgia overcame. The Bulldogs now have trailed in five of their six SEC games. But they have yet not to overcome. Georgia has won 42 of its past 43 games.

“Tight games are what you do in the SEC,” Smart said. “I mean the margin of victory is it’s hard to win. These guys enjoy it because they realize how hard it is. It’s like the NFL. You’re going to get every team’s best shot. ...

“Great team, great game. It’s what the SEC’s all about. Our reward is we get to do it again next week. It’s what the life in the SEC is.”