COLUMBIA, Mo. — Jarvis Jones made a game-changing interception to set up one touchdown, forced a fumble on a sack to set up another and had eight tackles to boot.
Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Jarvis Jones (29) carries the ball after an interception during the NCAA college football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Missouri Tigers in Columbia Mo., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012.
The Georgia outside linebacker looked every bit like the All-American he is in No. 7 Georgia’s 41-20 win at Missouri, but he wanted more.
He wanted six points on his fourth-quarter pick off of quarterback James Franklin.
“I actually think that was a touchdown, but they didn’t give it to me,” Jones said of the 21-yard return called down at the 1-yard line. “You’ve got to take what you can get. We came out of here with a big win.”
Jones wouldn’t say it was his best game as a Bulldog, but most would consider it up there.
“Jarvis is a great football player, obviously,” coach Mark Richt said. “He’s an All-American. He may be the best defensive player in America.”
Jones certainly made a compelling case with his big plays in the fourth quarter, the first coming with 7:38 to play and Georgia up just 27-20.
Richt said he was “really worried,” about even having Jones available for the Southeastern Conference opener after he pulled a muscle in practice Wednesday.
He played and played big, just what Georgia needed with four defensive players missing a second straight game due to suspensions, including safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree.
“My teammates look at me as a leader,” said Jones, a fourth-year junior who transferred from Southern California. “I’m the one that gets the boys going. I had to step it up. They were checking out of passes really quick. I got off the ball good, I learned the snap count and made plays.”
Missouri was sliding protection his way, he said.
In the second half, there were more one-on-one opportunities.
“I was beating them off the ball,” Jones said. “The guys in the back were playing coverage really good. In the second half, outside of the one big play they got, I thought we played well on defense. The guys up front and the guys behind me allowed me to get on the edge and make plays.”
On the interception, Jones said he read Franklin’s eyes.
“He threw it straight to me,” Jones said. “I caught it and tried to score.”
“He’s a great player,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “Going in, you try to contain the guy, but he was all over the field.”
Pinkel said Missouri tried to adjust its play calls and get rid of the football quicker to account for Jones.
That wasn’t enough to slow down the SEC’s sack leader from last season.
“We were short a couple of guys, big-time players that we have, but a lot of those guys that stepped in tonight played well, and I applaud them,” Jones said. “I just had to go that extra mile to push myself to push them to be that much better. They did their jobs up front, the guys in their back did their jobs and I came free and made some plays.”