How much respect did Mizzou earn Saturday? 10 thoughts from near-upset of No. 1 Georgia

A night where almost everything seemed to work in Missouri football's favor until the end fell short of a cataclysmic upset that would have shaken college football and the SEC.

Here are 10 thoughts on Missouri's shocking near-upset in a 26-22 loss to No. 1 Georgia.

1. Five games in, it's hard to get a read on this team.

Saturday night was exhilarating. It was tense. It was the complete opposite of what most were expecting.

Missouri led entering the fourth quarter by playing the best it had so far this season. Unfortunately it was against Georgia, where the Tigers' best still wasn't enough to knock off the Bulldogs. But if you're ever going to have that kind of game, it's good to have it against UGA, where a win gives you the right kind of national attention.

We didn't see the win. Instead, we saw MU drop to 2-3. Now, I'm wondering what Missouri team we'll see next week:

So far, we've seen:

  • A confident and creative Missouri that took care of business against a Group of Five team;

  • A shook and unprepared Missouri team that was blown away by Kansas State;

  • A wounded MU team that picked up its broken pieces against lower-level Abilene Christian;

  • Perhaps the unluckiest Missouri team alive that had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory twice against Auburn;

  • And a prepared and motivated team that gave the No. 1 overall team in the nation everything it could handle.

What does Mizzou do well? Defense. What is the Tigers' ceiling now? For the first time, I feel like it's a major shift in the right direction as opposed to a step or two after the first two wins.

If Missouri plays like it did Saturday night against South Carolina and Vanderbilt, the Tigers win those games. I can even see Missouri pulling an upset on Kentucky or Arkansas if they play like they did against the Bulldogs.

But that's just one edition of Missouri we've seen.

A saying from longtime NFL coach Bill Parcells that "you are what your record says you are" rings in my ears here, as MU currently sits with seven games remaining. The Tigers need to win four of those seven to earn a bowl game.

MU can achieve that if the latest edition is the norm. Eli Drinkwitz's squad has to prove that will continue into SEC play.

More:Three takeaways as upset eludes Mizzou's grasp against No. 1 Georgia

2. The game came down to two key plays and the offensive line.

With first-and-goal at the 1 and a chance to take a 20-3 lead, the offensive line was flagged for a false start that drove the ball back to the 6 and resulted in a 22-yard field goal instead of a short-yardage touchdown.

With third-and-seven at the Georgia 47-yard line, Brady Cook hit Barrett Banister for one of the biggest trademarked Banister third-down receptions for a first down. MU was flagged for illegal hands to the face, which negated the first down and doomed the drive.

Mitchell Walters, in his second start, was responsible for both fouls.

That marred what would have otherwise been two solid starts for Walters, who was a mid-season insertion on an offensive line that's still looking to piece together a successful five.

Two games does not a season make, but Walters is the latest player in need of a bounce-back game.

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) and Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz share a moment after the game Saturday at Faurot Field.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) and Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz share a moment after the game Saturday at Faurot Field.

3. This Mizzou defense is legit. The offense needs to follow suit.

Holding a Georgia team that has playmakers like Arik Gilbert and Brock Bowers — as well as quarterback Stetson Bennett who's capable of getting them the ball — to 26 points is a respectable feat.

Blake Baker, you have earned your praise and more. I'd even venture to say an extension or a raise isn't out of the question if Missouri can swing it.

The defense has given MU chances to win in the last two games. It's a sign that the scheme is working, the players understand the game plan and the execution is sound. There were three defensive penalties, but none of the three were back-breaking fouls.

The offense, however, had two game-changing penalties. The false starts and holding calls on the offensive line remain, which is a reason why the offense is 12th in the SEC in yards per game, 12th in the SEC in points per game and 12th in the SEC in pass yards per game.

It doesn't help that Dominic Lovett, who is leading the SEC with 460 receiving yards, didn't touch the ball in the second half after suffering an injury. But, the passing game needs to keep correcting to where it can take care of the ball and stay disciplined.

The run game is doing its job. It's keeping defenses honest with long runs and sets up play-action plays. The pass game needs to follow suit.

4. If anything, Missouri earned some respect from a contender.

Moral victories don't exist in football. But it has to be nice to hear when the likes of Georgia praise Missouri for its play.

It took until the fourth quarter for Georgia to establish its game. That's credit to an MU defense that allowed 43 points in last year's Tigers-Bulldogs game in Athens. Kirby Smart gave props to MU defensive coordinator Baker.

"The defensive coordinator, we know well, we shared a lot of ideas with him," Smart said. "They played tough."

The UGA offensive line features preseason All-SEC first-team selection Warren McClendon, preseason All-SEC second-team center Sedrick Van Pran and five-star sophomore Broderick Jones. It also includes Xavier Truss and Tate Ratledge, who were four-star players in high school.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart yells during Missouri's game against No. 1 Georgia on Oct. 1, 2022, at Faurot Field.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart yells during Missouri's game against No. 1 Georgia on Oct. 1, 2022, at Faurot Field.

The Bulldogs have a talented offensive line, and MU was consistently attacking it successfully.

"They just attacked the line of scrimmage," Smart said. "They got good pressures. The Hopper kid from Georgia made some plays. They did a good job."

That pressure resulted in two sacks, seven tackles for loss and six quarterback hurries. Bulldogs quarterback Bennett said he was feeling the results of that pressure.

"They came after us," Bennett said of MU's defense. "I got hit a lot. I’m hurtin’.”

After the best game Missouri played this season so far, Georgia could see the potential the Tigers have. It's on Missouri to live up to that potential consistently.

"They're competitors," Georgia defensive lineman Zion Logue said. "They're a very well-coached team. They're going to fight to the end. I don't question their heart for one second. They're a damn good team. They're going to be a very good team in this SEC."

5. Give Mevis props for facing the media and responding immensely.

On Wednesday, kicker Harrison Mevis stood at the podium and answered the question: How did he miss a potential game-winning, 26-yard field goal against Auburn?

I assume nearly every Missouri fan considers him automatic from 35 and below. I know I do. His leg is rarely off. That's why it's such a surprise when he does miss.

Mevis was needed against Georgia, more than anything. He responded to the previous week's heartbreak with five field goals. Four of them were from beyond 40 yards. Two were beyond 50.

It's not easy to hit field goals. It's harder to hit from beyond 50 yards consistently. Mevis' long kick was 56 yards.

That performance is why Smart validated Drinkwitz's decision last week to sit on the ball and give Mevis his chance to win the game.

"You can't do anything different," Smart said. "That kid comes out tonight and makes every field goal."

It's why his miss at Auburn is now an anomaly. Mevis has forgotten about it.

More:A lot of As despite a loss: Grading Mizzou football in its near-upset of No. 1 Georgia

6. Speaking of Blake Baker, when will his name start to emerge?

Colorado fired head coach Karl Dorrell on Sunday afternoon. Add the Buffaloes to Wisconsin, Nebraska, Arizona State and Georgia Tech as Power Five programs that need a new head coach.

An early name floated for the Colorado job was Colorado alum and former Missouri defensive coordinator Ryan Walters. He's currently at Illinois, where the Fighting Illini are 4-1 and coming off a statement 34-10 rout of Wisconsin.

It makes me wonder, when will Baker start to hear his name mentioned?

He's turned the defense around in less than a year. That's a storyline being tracked the minute he took over the job.

Baker might not be in the running for Power Five jobs, but he's had defensive coordinator experience all over the country. His work with the Tigers' defense won't go unnoticed.

Someone needs to fill the open jobs at Colorado, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Arizona State and Georgia Tech. If a Group of Five coach makes the jump up to one of those open jobs, I wouldn't surprised to see Baker's name mentioned there.

7. Speaking of the defensive turnaround, take note of the date.

As I write this on Oct. 2, it has officially been 365 days since Missouri played in the 62-24 decimating loss at the hands of Tennessee.

Since then, Al Davis has taken over the defensive line. Baker has taken over the defense overall. Transfers were added to deepen that side of the ball.

Still, the majority of the defensive lineup remains largely the same. Martez Manuel, Trajan Jeffcoat, Isaiah McGuire, Kris Abrams-Draine, Ennis Rakestraw, Jaylon Carlies and Chad Bailey, when Bailey is healthy, are seven returning starters from last year's team.

The year-long rebound is impressive. It's also impressive to see others making an impact.

It was a difficult assignment to replace Bailey in the starting lineup. But redshirt freshman Dameon Wilson was fifth on the team Saturday with five total tackles and two solo stops.

He was part of the defense that didn't break until it got pounded into submission in the fourth quarter. Even then, the defense played well enough to build a margin for error where Georgia's first touchdown still left the offense with a three-point lead.

Wilson's presence wasn't a liability. I credit the player for understanding the game plan and the coaches for making sure he was in a position to play well.

More:'We're self-inflicted wounds away': Eli Drinkwitz reacts to Mizzou's near-upset

8. Chase Daniel's wallet remains full. Harpos still had generosity.

If any MU fan was hoping to raise a glass on Chase Daniel's tab, I feel for you. The Tigers almost made that happen.

It's not every day anyone gets to experience one of the best quarterbacks in MU history buying their beverage of choice on a game day.

Still, Dan Katz, a media personality with Barstool Sports who is also known as Big Cat, paid a $2,000 tab at Harpos that began at 11 p.m.

After another heartbreaking loss that left fans wondering "what if?" for an entire night, that's a kind gesture. He also said on Twitter he'd do it again.

"Any time the number 1 team in the county comes to Columbia I'll do the same deal," Katz tweeted. "Lifetime deal. Totally won't regret this."

9. It's hard not to think Dominic Lovett inspired Luther Burden's cryptic Instagram post, which is a very good thing all things considered.

Last Monday, Missouri five-star freshman wideout Luther Burden struck fear into the hearts of all Missouri fans by doing the one thing that can strike fear into the hearts of Tiger fans: He made a social media post.

Burden posted a cryptic Instagram post that read, "Patiently waiting...".

Fans, media and, probably, other Power Five teams in need of a top-tier wide receiver thought the same: Is there a chance Burden transfers? Burden eased those thoughts with another tweet, saying he's sticking with the team.

Later in the week, we might have found the inspiration for that post. Lovett, speaking to the media Wednesday, shared what advice he told Burden amidst an up-and-down first four weeks of the season where he's fought off injuries and heard fans question why he isn't getting the ball more. That advice sounded familiar.

"It's just a process and I told him that his time is gonna come, you got to be patient," Lovett said. "Patient is a very big word. Patient is big for everybody."

Perhaps Lovett was the inspiration behind Burden's Instagram post? Sure sounds like it, especially when Burden called Lovett his "twin" in another tweet.

At this point, it's clear how much Burden and Lovett look to each other. Lovett mentioned how Burden helped him break out of a freshman shell. Lovett's breakout season has him leading the SEC in receiving yards.

Now, it looks like Lovett has helped Burden in a sense. If Burden can weather the storm and break out like Lovett is, MU might just have a top-three receiving duo in the SEC.

MU fans should hope Lovett's words are a bit prophetic.

"You yourself might not see the vision," Lovett said. "But you just have to be patient."

10. Georgia dropped one spot in the AP Top 25, but that's not Missouri's doing.

Missouri held Georgia down for three quarters. The Bulldogs put it together in the final quarter and imposed their will on the Tigers.

Alabama whipped No. 20 Arkansas by 23 points after Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young left the game with an injury. Backup Jaden Milroe, a four-star prospect, filled in by rushing for 91 yards and throwing for a score.

It's the difference between the likes of Missouri and basically every other Power Five team compared to Georgia, Alabama and, at times, Ohio State. When MU replaces its five-star player, the depth is comprised of three-star players. When Alabama replaces its five-star player, there's a good chance the replacement is another five-star player.

When asked about his Georgia defense holding Missouri's offense in the first half, Smart said he wasn't surprised because the Bulldogs' defense was doing its job. His defense is stocked with top-ranked players.

"We got better players than Missouri up front on our defense," Smart said. "Eli (Drinkwitz) knows that."

The Crimson Tide are inevitable. They're my pick to win the national championship. Their talent is a reason why.

"I hate to say it," Smart said after his blunt comments. He shouldn't feel that way if he's right.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: 10 thoughts from Mizzou's almost upset of Georgia