Georgia pulled off a thrilling comeback last week in Missouri, and perhaps the most impressive part of the comeback was the trust the coaching staff placed in freshman Jacob Eason. In his first SEC start and first road start, Eason took command of the offense in the final drive and led the Bulldogs to the 28-27 victory.
Let’s take a look at the final drive:
Following a Missouri punt that ended in a touchback, Georgia takes over at its own 20 with 3:32 to play.
The Bulldogs come out with three wideouts, Jeb Blazevich at tight end and Sony Michel in the backfield with Eason. The outside receivers will each run to stick routes to try and pick up a first down, while inside receivers Blazevich and McKenzie run underneath routes to open space.
Michel runs out in the flats, and here’s where Georgia catches a break. Missouri is in man coverage underneath, but the inside linebacker—Missouri’s only defender between the hashmarks—follows Michel to the outside. However, Mizzou’s slot corner already has Michel covered in the flats.
With two defenders on Michel, the middle of the field is open. Eason sees Blazevich and lets it rip. The result of the play is a 15-yard gain after Blazevich picks up 10 after the catch.
1st-and-10. Own 37. 3:15 and ticking.
With the same personnel, Georgia again identifies man coverage underneath after some movement by Sony in the backfield.
This time Georgia exploits Missouri by pulling center Brandon Kublanow (54) and right guard Lamont Gaillard (53) to lead the way for Michel. Gaillard cuts down the inside cornerback before Kublanow finishes him off (tough to see for #7 Cam Hilton of Mizzou).
Right tackle Greg Pyke is unable to get leverage on and control defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr., who chases Michel down after a nice 7-yard gain.
2nd-and-3. Own 44. 2:40 and ticking…
Still in the hurry-up no huddle and no substitutions, Georgia again leaves Missouri with only one linebacker, who they shade to the strong side of the formation. In the slot, McKenzie shifts a couple of steps pre-snap, perhaps trying to bait the corner into thinking he needs more room to get outside the defender to the sideline. Instead, McKenzie sees that he’ll get a release to the inside. One stutter step to the outside and a hard inside cut gives McKenzie a free release and the separation he needs to hit the open area in the middle of the field.
Charles Harris, the nightmare of a defensive end, drives up the field, and without a body in the middle of the field underneath, Eason has a clean lane to hit the smaller McKenzie in stride across the field.
Despite a hard hit from the Missouri safety, McKenzie does a nice job holding on to the football—something Georgia needs him to be able to do in order to fully utilize his dynamic abilities—and picks up a critical first down at midfield.
First and 10. Midfield. 2:30 remaining…
Terry Godwin, lined up at the top of the screen, makes a nice move to get a clean release from the corner but slips coming out of the break. While he had inside leverage and a half a step on his defender, Eason and Godwin can’t connect.
2nd-and-10. Midfield. 2:24 remaining.
Here Georgia runs a nice rub play to get Reggie Davis (81) open over the middle, but Eason is flushed from the pocket, doesn’t see Davis over the middle and throws the ball away. Sure, it’s not a completion and perhaps Eason had some happy feet after the pressure Missouri cooked up early, but a wise play by a freshman quarterback to throw it away and play another down.
3rd-and-10. Midfield. 2:16.
Georgia brings in Chigbu and Chubb for third and long. The Bulldogs leave Chubb and Blazevich in to protect, perhaps hoping to hit the deep ball to Davis here.
Blazevich has his hands full with Charles Harris (of course!), so Eason is flushed from the pocket. The freshman keeps his eyes downfield and delivers a damn good ball to Reggie Davis, who has a step on CB John Gibson.
Gibson interferes with Davis, slapping at his helmet before Davis has a chance to catch it, and the penalty gives Georgia 15 yards and a first down.
1st-and-10. Miz 35. 2:07 remaining.
Georgia knows it can potentially drain the clock and make this the final possession of the game, so offensive coordinator Jim Chaney wisely goes with a run on first down.
The Bulldogs run a power play out of shotgun, pulling Kublanow and left guard Isaiah Wynn out front for Michel. Blazevich does a nice job of sealing the edge, and Godwin gets a great block on his man. Missouri safety Cam Hinton overruns the play and Michel redirects. Seeing a wad of Missouri defenders are all outside of him, Michel makes a nice cut up the field for a 15-yard gain. With an extra block, you wonder if Michel may have turned this into a touchdown.
1st-and-10. Missouri 20-yard line. 1:55 to play.
Now Georgia goes to four wide with tight end Jeb Blazevich and McKenzie as the slot receivers and Chubb in the backfield. At this point, Eason is locked in on McKenzie and looks to exploit his matchup in the slot against Aarion Penton.
Eason, more or less, throws this one up for grabs but puts it in a spot that would take a miraculous catch by anyone to haul in. Georgia was looking for a one-on-one and a free release for McKenzie to get a takeoff to the end zone. It wasn’t there, and luckily, Eason threw it to a harmless spot in that situation.
2nd-and-10. Missouri 20. 1:43.
Georgia flip flops its receivers on the bottom side and runs nearly the identical play. This time, Stanley sits down after five yards to keep his man out of the play downfield.
Georgia again tries to attack the matchup of McKenzie against Penton. Eason again puts the ball in a great spot for McKenzie to win his one-on-one, but the throw is just a tad long and Penton has solid coverage on the play.
3rd-and-10. Missouri 20. 1:41 remaining.
Georgia brings in a receiving core of Stanley (left) and Davis (right) at wideout. Isaac Nauta (left) and Godwin (right) are in the slot. Nauta and Godwin run to the sticks for the shot at the first down. Chubb chips in the backfield and then releases for a pass over the middle if need be.
Nauta attempts/gets away with a slight push off at the sticks, but his defender recovers in plenty of time, batting the ball away in front of Nauta’s hands.
4th-and-10. Mizzou 20. 1:36.
Now we arrive at the play of the game.
Georgia comes out in a 5-wide set with Stanley and Michel to Eason’s right. To his left, Godwin is out wide with Blazevich and McKenzie in the slot. Missouri defensive backs are in man coverage, and Georgia again has the matchup they want: Penton (#11) on McKenzie.
This isn’t a video game, but for Madden or NCAA video game fans, this is essentially four verts, a hail mary, or all gos rolled into one. Penton gets caught flat footed, so McKenzie gets a clean release and shoots up the seam.
Missouri brings a linebacker on a blitz, but that doesn’t matter. Without a safety in the middle of the field, all that’s required now is a throw that gives McKenzie a chance…
Eason delivers, and the Dawgs steal one in Missouri. Hugs all around.