Aaron Murray was noticeably nervous in the early portion of Saturday's game. A first quarter interception led to a Missouri field goal. In fairness to Murray, his intended target—Marlon Brown—was open and would've had a big gain if Murray would've gotten rid of the ball just seconds sooner. Later, a pair of overthrows kept Georgia out of scoring position.
As the game progressed, Murray settled in, and his numbers showed it. Finishing 22-for-35 with 242 yards and three touchdowns, the junior proved he could win a big game. An SEC game. On the road. He wasn't perfect, but without his improved play in the second half, the outcome certainly would have been different.
Running Back – B-
A week after Todd Gurley's dazzling debut, all eyes were on the freshman, who earned the first start of his career. However, Georgia coaches used a backfield-by-committee Saturday, with Keith Marshall receiving 12 carries for 32 yards, including four straight carries 17 yards to start a second quarter drive. Ken Malcome received seven carries for 32 yards and recovered his own fumble on a third-down play early in the game that could have been costly.
Gurley reeled off some punishing runs, yet the bulk of Gurley's game-high 65 yards came in the fourth quarter on a crucial 44-yard run. Georgia's had its back against its own endzone, starting the drive from its own 8-yard line, but Gurley's big run put the Bulldogs at midfield and seemed to close the door for Missouri to make a comeback.
Wide Receivers/Tight End – B+
Georgia fans have long awaited a big performance from Marlon Brown, and aside from a career game at Vanderbilt in 2011, this was Brown's strongest performance in red and black. The senior caught eight passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Bennett also had eight grabs for 79 yards. The sophomore from Alpharetta dropped a long pass and was called for a false start on back-to-back plays in the second quarter, but made up for those miscues by bringing in a few acrobatic catches later. Senior Tavarres King also made a big grab to put the Bulldogs in the redzone for their first score, and redshirt freshman TE Jay Rome caught the first pass of his career in the fourth quarter that led to a Georgia field goal.
Offensive Line – C+
For the second straight week, Georgia's front five disappointed. Right tackle John Theus played through an ankle injury suffered last week, but the true freshman struggled in his first road game. He was flagged twice for false starts and allowed Murray to be sacked once on the first drive of each half. That is to be expected from a freshman in his first conference game, especially after missing almost all of practice last week.
Kenarious Gates also had trouble with the snap count, and the lineman as a whole struggled to open up holes for the running game (aside from Gurley's big run in the fourth quarter), particularly in the first half. However, when it counted most, the group gave Murray enough time to get the ball to his receivers. Still, this group must improve moving forward, as teams with a stronger defensive front than Missouri will exploit the OL's weaknesses.
Defensive Line – B
Georgia's defense controlled the line of scrimmage most of the night against a weakened Missouri offensive line. The group held Missouri's rushing game in check all evening, limiting the Tigers to a mere 2.6 yards-per-carry. The Bulldogs played much better up front on defense this week compared to last week against Buffalo, and John Jenkins and Cornelius Washington combined for 3.5 tackles for loss.
Linebackers – A+
This group turned in as good of a performance as any coach could ask for. An All-American in 2011, Jarvis Jones had perhaps the best game of his career Saturday, disrupting Missouri quarterback James Franklin's ability to pass and run. The junior made plays all over the field and showed why he is a deserving candidate for every major award given to defensive players, if not the Heisman trophy. He finished the game with eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, an interception and a pass breakup. The two turnovers he forced on back-to-back Missouri possessions set up Georgia's offense for easy touchdowns and put an exclamation point on his already-special performance.
Jones's protégé Jordan Jenkins recovered Jones's forced fumble on the Missouri 5. The freshman outside linebacker finished with four tackles, including one for loss, in just his second game as a Bulldog.
Amarlo Herrera's play will go relatively overshadowed, but the middle linebacker led Georgia with 10 tackles, all in the first half and good for a career-high. He also recovered a second quarter fumble on a poor handoff exchange by Franklin.
Christian Robinson also had a key stop on a third-and-2 play from the Georgia 25. With the score 3-3, Missouri tried a field goal on the next play but missed left. Robinson (8) and Mike Gilliard (3) combined for 11 tackles in the absence of suspended starter Alec Ogletree.
Defensive Backs – B+
Aside from two big passing plays, Georgia's defensive backs held their own against the fast-paced Missouri offense. Malcolm Mitchell's much-anticipated debut on defense was a success. The sophomore from Valdosta finished with six tackles and two pass breakups. Safety Shawn Williams roamed the field, racking up eight tackles, and Connor Norman had six tackles filling in for suspended Bacarri Rambo.
Youngster Devin Bowman got beat on a deep pass that went for a score, and Branden Smith allowed a long touchdown catch that gave the Tigers a 17-9 lead in the third quarter. Overall, without those two plays, Georgia allowed 23 completions on 39 attempts for just 159 yards, and Georgia finished with seven pass breakups on the day.
Special Teams – B+
Richard Samuel had one of the biggest plays of the game, preventing Missouri punter Trey Barrow from reaching the first-down marker on a fourth-and-11 fake punt. The Tigers' failed attempt essentially ended their chances at a comeback.
Freshman kicker Marshall Morgan missed an extra point that would have tied the game at 10, but he added two important field goals—a 52-yarder in the first half and a 41-yarder in the second half. The 52-yarder is the best in his young career and might have been good from nearly 60 yards.
Malcolm Mitchell muffed a punt return in the first half, giving Missouri the ball in the heart of Georgia territory, but the Tigers were unable to capitalize. Gurley had a big 35-yard kickoff return and finished with 62 yards on just two kick returns.
Georgia's two-punter system continues to work. Adam Erickson, the pooch punter, had his only punt downed inside the 20-yard line, and Collin Barber, the deep punter, had two punts downed inside the 20. Jamie Lindley handled the bulk of kickoffs with three of his six kicks ending his touchbacks.