No. 13 Georgia didn’t need Todd Gurley to escape an SEC test at No. 23 Missouri. With their star running back sidelined due to an NCAA investigation, the Bulldogs took advantage of the Tigers’ miscues for a 34-0 win. Here are three thoughts from Georgia’s victory:
1. Georgia’s Hutson Mason showed what he can do
Gurley was not the only missing face for the Bulldogs on Saturday. With running backs Keith Marshall and Sony Michel out with injuries, Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason, who hadn’t needed to carry the team yet this season, stepped up.
Mason managed the game well against a Tigers front seven that includes vaunted defensive ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray. Mason completed 22-of-28 passes for a season-high 79 percent completion percentage and kept the offense moving by converting 12-of-20 third downs and notching 25 first downs. The quarterback had help from a strong day by freshman running back Nick Chubb, who chipped in 143 yards and one touchdown on 38 carries on the ground. But despite doubts about Mason’s ability to lead a Gurley-less offense, the quarterback displayed poise in the pocket in a tough road atmosphere.
The timeline for Gurley’s suspension remains up the in air, and some reports suggest the running back could miss the rest of the season. Coach Mark Richt might have to rely on Mason more in the future. He looked like he could handle that on Saturday.
2. Missouri’s Maty Mauk was a disaster
The Tigers quarterback did nothing to help his offense move against Georgia. Mauk, who had thrown four interceptions all season prior to Saturday, contributed all five of Missouri’s turnovers against Georgia.
Mauk, who finished 9-of-21 for 97 yards, threw four picks and lost Missouri's first fumble of the season. He didn’t even lead the Tigers across midfield until late in the second quarter. On the Tigers’ first play in Georgia territory, Bulldogs outside linebacker Leonard Floyd sacked Mauk, who fumbled the ball with 1:55 until halftime.
Mauk had two weeks to prepare for a home game and still struggled mightily against an SEC East rival. This was not the offensive performance the Tigers had hoped for.
3. The Bulldogs are alive in the SEC East
Georgia improves to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the SEC with Saturday’s win. There’s still plenty of football left to play in the conference, but the Bulldogs’ shot at reaching Atlanta would’ve been incredibly difficult with a loss to Missouri.
The Tigers were the only SEC East team without a conference loss heading into Saturday. Now Missouri boasts a 1-1 SEC record, and with the exception of Vanderbilt (0-4 in SEC), the Eastern Division is still totally up for grabs. Tougher games lie ahead for Georgia, like a trip to Arkansas next week and a visit from Auburn in November. But a win over Missouri is a definite step in the right direction for the Bulldogs, especially without Gurley.