The Bulldogs were never really in danger then.
Unlike Saturday night when the top-ranked Bulldogs had all kinds of trouble finding their footing against unranked Missouri and seemed on the verge of going down in a shocking upset.
Instead the Bulldogs overcame a 10-point deficit with 14:09 to go and went ahead with 4:03 left on Daijun Edwards 1-yard touchdown run, his first score of the season.
Georgia, a 29 ½ point favorite, survived with a 26-22 victory.
The Bulldogs won on a night they turned the ball over early, their secondary got burned in the passing game for some big plays and the Tigers stuffed Georgia’s run game for much of the night until the fourth quarter.
"At halftime, nobody blinked, nobody questioned," Smart said. "It was the most together I’ve ever seen our team. ...There’s a ton of things to clean up and a lot to get better."
Missouri’s Harrison Mevis went 5-for-5 on field goals including from 52 and 56 yards. He pumped his fist after 49-yard field in the first half.
The Tigers would have won their first ever game against a team ranked No. 1 in the polls. They beat an Oklahoma team in 2010 that was ranked No. 1 in the BCS.
Here are five takeaways as Georgia won its ninth straight against Missouri and improved to 5-0, 2-0 in the SEC
Georgia Bulldogs finally get it going late to grab lead
Georgia didn’t find the end zone until a 1-yard Kendall Milton touchdown run with 9:39 to go to cap a 10-play, 75-yard drive.
Then Stetson Bennett led Georgia on a 7-play, 68-yard scoring drive. He completed a 13-yard pass to Dom Blaylock, hit tight end Brock Bowers on a quick pass to the outside for 12 yards and then Edwards (who had 51 yards on 10 carries including 49 on 8 in the fourth quarter) went in from the 1 to put Georgia ahead for the first time.
Bennett finished 24 of 44 for 312 yards and did not throw a touchdown for the second straight week.
More importantly, Georgia found a way to win on a night it very nearly lost to a Missouri team that fell to 2-3, 0-2 in the SEC.
"We fought and we battled and in the end, we found a way," Bennett said.
Georgia averaged 8.4 yards per play on its first two drives of the fourth quarter when it scored both of its touchdowns.
“I hate that we had to do that," Smart said. "It begs the question why we couldn’t do that earlier. The determination they showed. We always talk about rising to the competitive nature of the opportunity."
Georgia Bulldogs offense sputters at start and in red zone
Georgia scored 46 first quarter points in its first four games and had scored at least one touchdown in the opening 15 minutes in each of its first four games.
This time the Bulldogs didn’t get in the end zone until Milton’s 1-yard touchdown with 9:39 to go in the game cut the lead to 22-19.
That was a shocking development by an offense that had scored 13 touchdowns in the first half of its game entering.
The Bulldogs had averaged 42.2 points per game, 17th in the nation.
Georgia found itself trailing for the first time all season at 3-0 and the Tigers lead grew to 13-0.
The Bulldogs managed just 49 yards on 11 plays in the first quarter and 35 of those came on a Milton run up the middle that ended with the Tigers linebacker Ty’Ron Hooper knocked the ball loose and Missouri recovering.
The Bulldogs punted three times and had a pair of three-and-outs and just one first down in the quarter.
Ladd McConkey, who had two fumbles last week. dropped a pass over the middle that ended one drive.
Bennett was just 10 of 24 for 149 yards in the first half. Star tight end Brock Bowers wasn’t targeted until 11:15 left in the second quarter. He led Georgia with 4 catches for 54 yards.
Georgia’s red zone woes continued despite it being a focal point of this game week.
The Bulldogs had to settle for Jack Podlesny field goals on their first three trips in the red zone. He converted from 40, 34, 22 and 29 on the night as Georgia trailed 19-12 with 2:15 to go in the third quarter.
Secondary matters hurt Georgia football
With Georgia missing suspended starter Javon Bullard, the Bulldogs saw Missouri starting quarterback Brady Cook complete 20 of 32 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown.
Cook hit a wide open Tyler Stephens for a 10-yard touchdown with 12:43 to go in the second quarter.
Tykee Smith, the West Virginia transfer, started in place of Bullard, who was arrested on Sunday for a DUI and six other misdemeanors.
Missouri rode Mevis for much of its scoring. He was money a week after he missed a short field goal in the Tigers’ overtime loss to Auburn.
Cody Schrader blew through the Georgia defense on a 63-yard run up the middle in the second quarter on a play that Smart said two guys had busts, but freshman safety Malaki Starks saved a touchdown from scoring by dragging Schrader down at the 1. Missouri had to settle for a field goal after false start penalty.
"The biggest play of the night," Smart called the Starks tackle. "It allowed us to stop them and we have played good red zone defense.”
Kelee Ringo was beaten in single coverage on a 46-yard completion to Mookie Cooper. Georgia’s defense held but Mevis booted the 52 yarder.
"They threw the ball at Kelee and Kamari (Lassiter) a lot, but we also made them throw it to them," Smart said. "When they can’t run it, what are they going to do? They’re going to throw it at those guys. We’ve got to make some plays on the ball, you know what I mean?"
"For us to go out there and stand them up and stop them," outside linebacker Nolan Smith. "That's all what a team is about. That's how the defense jells."
Turnover woes continue for Georgia football
After three turnovers last week—two on a Ladd McConkey fumble on a reception and muff punt and a Bennett interception—Georgia had two in the first half.
Bennett fumbled after appearing to put the ball in the belly of running back Daijun Edwards.
"It's hard whenever we got two turnovers in the first three or four drives," Bennett said. "Then they go down and get points."
Meanwhile, Georgia didn’t force any turnovers in the first half from Missouri.
"You don't ever want to put it on the ground. but we had three games without any maybe," Smart said. "Then all of a sudden you get a little rash. We're not getting them back.".
The Bulldogs’ three turnovers lost last week matched the highest in any game the last two seasons. Georgia has outclassed opponents so much that they all came in wins—against Kent State, Charleston Southern, Florida and South Carolina. The two games Georgia had three turnovers in 2020 were losses—to Florida and Alabama.
Georgia football running game gets off to slow start
Assistant coach Dell McGee was on the look for a future running back Friday night in California, checking out four-star 2023 prospect Roderick Robinson out of San Diego.
Georgia could have used some help on this night early. It had just 33 yards on 11 carries in the first half, but finished with 169 yards on 36 carries.
"They played really physical, really hard and whipped our butt up front, but I’m proud of the way our guys played," Smart said. "When we had to run it, that was about the only time we could run it when we had to.”
McIntosh picked up 9 yards on the first offensive snap of the second half on a run and finished with a team-high 65 yards on 10 carries including on fourth quarter runs of 27 and 22 yards.
Georgia’s offensive line couldn’t get much push against a Missouri team allowing 108.5 yards rushing, 34th in the nation.
On a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, McIntosh gained three yards to set up Milton’s touchdown. Georgia then milked the clock in the final 3:39 with seven straight runs before Bennett took a knee.
"When they knew we had to run the ball," Bennett said, "they road graded them."
This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: No. 1 Georgia football gets 26-22 comeback win to avoid upset to Missouri