Sunday, January 4, 2015

Georgia hammers Missouri, Tigers head to the Swamp next

34-0. Wow.

At 11 a.m. last Saturday, Missouri was a leading SEC East contender and Faurot Field was rocking. By 2 p.m., fans were streaming out of the quiet stadium and Georgia was putting the finishing touches on an emphatic beatdown of the Tigers.

This game was a demolition, the football equivalent of a perfect game.

After the news late in the week that star Georgia running back Todd Gurley was suspended for possibly breaking NCAA rules, Missouri seemed to have a wind at its back. Instead, Georgia (5-1, 3-1 in SEC) pulled Nick Chubb out of its toolbag and hammered away again and again and again until the scoreboard clock brought a merciful end to the proceedings. Chubb ran for 143 yards on 38 carries and added four receptions for an astonishing 42 touches for the freshman who was used to a backup’s workload.

But the disaster for Missouri (4-2, 1-1 in SEC) was on offense. The Tigers managed just 147 yards of offense and never moved the ball inside Georgia’s 20-yard line. In an incomprehensible development, Missouri ran just four plays in Georgia territory and turned it over on three of them.

Missouri hadn’t been shutout since a 2002 loss to Kansas State in Columbia.

Maty Mauk had a nightmare game, throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble. To be fair, two of the interceptions bounced off a receiver’s hands first. Missouri’s receiving corps continued to struggle big time, especially with No. 2 receiver Darius White again out with an injury. Still, Missouri cannot win when Mauk has a game like this.

The offense was awful for most of the South Carolina game before a frantic rally saved the day. Georgia’s defense is not elite, but they still suffocated the Tigers’ anemic attack. Missouri has to find a way to move the football or this season could come off the rails.

Missouri is nominally still in the SEC East race and home games with Vanderbilt and Kentucky provide an accessible route to bowl eligibility, but the offense has to get better for this season to amount to much.

In college football, the narrative can change in a hurry, and Missouri has a chance to change the course of its season this Saturday at Florida (6 p.m., ESPN2).

Florida (3-2, 2-2 in SEC) also has a scuffling offense, so this game may not be for those with weak stomachs. The Gators do have a stout defense, led by Vernon Hargreaves, one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC, although he left the game last week after taking a knee to the helmet.

Florida let a game slip through its fingers against LSU on Saturday, and Gators coach Will Muschamp could really use a win against the Tigers.

In this defensive struggle - emphasis on struggle - any points will be precious. Missouri had turnovers problems last week and last time playing at Florida. The Tigers and this offense can’t afford to do that if they’re going to win in the Swamp.

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