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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Dogs have some ‘tightening up’ to do before Mizzou

Georgia fans who expected perfection from Saturday’s 45-23 season-opening win against Buffalo came away disappointed.

The defense looked more than a little ragged at times. The offense sputtered more often than Georgia coach Mark Richt would have liked.

But the end result was a predictably lopsided win against an overmatched opponent in what amounted to a live-action scrimmage.

Georgia out-manned Buffalo at every position and in the final analysis, out-produced the Bulls in every phase of the game despite missing nearly half of the starting defense.

The Bulldogs’ uneven performance left Richt and the coaching staff plenty of talking points for the upcoming week. Buffalo didn’t really expose anything alarming. The periods of poor play came and went instead of persisting through the entire game. 

Georgia didn’t play like the No. 6-ranked team in the country. It looked more like a potentially good team working out the kinks in the first game of the season.

The challenge
for Georgia now
is to improve its
efficiency by
multiple degrees before traveling to Missouri for the Southeastern Conference opener next week.

The Tigers will be
playing at home in their first SEC game in school history and come off of a 62-10 spanking of Southeastern Louisiana.

The Good

Georgia’s freshmen didn’t ease their way into their first college game. They cannonballed into the deep end and swam away like it was just a summer afternoon at the pool.

Running back Todd Gurley made the biggest splash, scoring two touchdowns the first three times he touched the ball. Gurley finished the game with 100 yards on eight carries with a pair of scores and an eye-popping 12.5-yard-per-carry average. He added a 100-yard kickoff return for a score and showed he not only has power but breakaway ability, at least against a mid-major opponent like Buffalo.

Gurley’s freshman backfield partner Keith Marshall added 51 yards on 10 carries. John Theus started at right tackle but had to come out with an ankle injury in the second half.

Freshmen might have their biggest impact this year on special teams with rookies at kicker and punter. Kicker Marshall Morgan missed his first field goal attempt from 45 yards. But he made his second, hit all six of his extra points and put every kickoff into the end zone. The two-headed punting tandem of Collin Barber and Clarke Central’s Adam Erickson played well overall but the coverage allowed one return and Buffalo gained 33 yards on it.

Georgia will lean heavily on its freshmen this year and they passed their first quiz against Buffalo. But they will face a far more comprehensive exam against Missouri on Saturday.

The Bad

Georgia had a chance to bury Buffalo in the second quarter but failed miserably.

The defense took much of the heat for allowing a 94-yard touchdown drive and a field goal in the final 5:31 of the half. But the offense and special teams contributed to the flop just as much.

Georgia led 24-6 when Damian Swan returned a punt 30 yards to the Bulls’ 39-yard line. Georgia went to the trick or treat section of the playbook and tried a flanker pass by Rantavious Wooten. Keith Marshall was open for a time but Wooten’s pass laid up like an Erickson pooch punt which gave the defense a chance to react and it fell incomplete. Two plays later Aaron Murray was sacked to force a punt and Georgia wasted its second-best field position of the entire game.

Buffalo needed nine plays and just one third-down conversion to drive 94 yards to a touchdown to pull within 24-13. Georgia’s offense tripped over its own feet again in the next possession as it gained five yards in three plays. Murray compounded the problems as he threw the ball away on third down instead of taking a sack that would have kept the clock moving with less than a minute left in the half. Armed with a gift timeout that it didn’t need to spend after Murray’s incompletion, Buffalo returned a punt 33 yards and eventually kicked a field goal to pull within 24-13 going into halftime.

The Ugly

Georgia had coughed up all the momentum at the end of the second quarter and gave Buffalo reason to hope as the second half started. But Georgia’s defense took control of proceedings in the third quarter.

Despite playing without starting defensive backs Bacarri Rambo (suspended), Malcolm Mitchell (injured) and Sanders Commings (suspended), starting inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (suspended) and backup linebacker Chase Vasser (suspended), Georgia stonewalled the Bulls on five straight possessions.

Buffalo came to the field in the third quarter with downhill momentum after scoring the last 10 points of the first half. But the Bulls managed just 19 yards and one first down in its first 18 snaps of the second half. Georgia’s defense forced four three-and-outs in the first five possessions and the fifth was a six-and-out. Georgia’s offense shook off its second-quarter cobwebs and scored three touchdowns to put the game out of reach. Richt substituted liberally in the late stages of the game and Buffalo took advantage with a touchdown drive to recover some pride at the end.

What’s Next

Georgia has some tightening-up to do this week and not much time to finish it. The Bulldogs travel to Missouri for the SEC opener at 7:45 p.m. on Saturday. Missouri should be on an emotional high to play its first SEC game in school history.

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