Behind Enemy Bylines: Previewing No. 2 Georgia vs. Missouri
Behind Enemy Bylines is a series in which The Red & Black discusses Georgia’s upcoming game with the sports editor of the student newspaper of Georgia’s opponent for that week. This week, assistant sports editor Michael Hebert talked to sports editor Bennett Durando of Maneater at Missouri.
Michael Hebert: Obviously the big topic with Missouri for Georgia’s defense is quarterback Drew Lock, what do you think he will be able to bring to the table in a game like this?
Bennett Durando: Well, first of all the most important thing regarding Lock that I took away last Saturday against Purdue, which might’ve been the first, sort of, test for Missouri and that offense was that Lock showed that he was human for the first time. There was a point in the fourth quarter where Mizzou was up three and in the red zone and had a chance to probably seal the game, and he panics coming out the pocket and makes a pretty bad choice, which looked a lot like the sort of poor decisions he would make last year. It turned into an interception and Purdue went down the field and tied it on the next possession. There were weaknesses and things like that that I’m going to have an eye on when he takes on Georgia but, the fact that he sort of was able to make the big plays when it counted, that’s the most important thing. There was a moment at the beginning of the game-winning drive. They had a 2nd-and-10 and it looked like he was about to get sacked by like three guys and he was able to escape the pocket, get back to the line of scrimmage and find a tailback who had rolled off a block and that turned a broken play into 20 yards, which saved the drive. The fact he was able to make that kind of adjustment and be more of a guy who can get out of the pocket, improvise and make plays, that’s what makes him extremely dangerous. That’s something he wasn’t able to do as much last year, he needed the protection and to stay in the pocket, had to make the throw that was designed for [him]. This year he is sort of showing the ability to branch out a little more with that. He’s also scrambled a few times. He’s showing that he can read a play now, scramble if he needs to and be smart about certain things. We all know that he’s got a dynamic arm, if he throws a nine-route downfield, it’s going to be a dime, most likely. But the fact that he’s been a little more versatile now is making him more dangerous.
Michael Hebert: With Derek Dooley as the offensive coordinator, it’s probably a little bit different in terms of offensive schemes and formations. But, Missouri was able to run the ball successfully against Purdue, do you think that’s something they’ll try do a little bit more of against Georgia?
Bennett Durando: Yeah, I think tempo has been a big topic. [Derek] Dooley, his whole thing has been, more pro-style offense. I think that’s all great and everything, but it sort of varies from the up-tempo style that they’ve had recently. So that’s been a transition. When they tried going slower against Wyoming for the first time, and then they went back to speed and it got them out to a lead and they were able to get back into some of that stuff. That’s important part of it. But when you get the run game involved, it had been very bad the first two weeks. Against Purdue, Larry Rountree [III], I think his second carry of the game was 18 or 19 yards, that was the longest carry for a running back this season. That was the longest run at that point, but he kept adding on to that. Those explosive plays were missing, that’s what Dooley talked about that after practice earlier in the week. The fact it wasn’t just a “we’re going to run it on a 3rd-and-two and get three yards,” it’s more that they’re going to be able to run it and get 30 yards occasionally and have these explosive plays. That’s where Rountree started to emerge as the go-to guy for them, so he’s going to be more active and I think against Georgia, Missouri is going to want to keep it slow. You want to keep the ball away from Georgia’s offense as much as possible. Those times they went slow against Wyoming and Purdue were trial runs for this week I think, so running may be an important of that to eat as much time in a possession as possible. If you’ve got guys that are becoming more reliable, that’s important. They don’t have one dominant running back, but they’ve got options and I think that’s an important thing for a team that might be able to bully the offensive line like Georgia.
Michael Hebert: Do you think Missouri’s tight ends can be difference makers for the offense?
Bennett Durando: I think they can, it’s just a matter of how they’re used. Against Purdue, they were used more for outside blocking which was important because the offensive line was near perfect in that game. [Albert] Okwuegbunam did catch a touchdown and it was sort of the right kind of play for him to catch a touchdown. The touchdown, they were at the 2-yard line and he basically just boxed out a guy for a corner fade. Pretty easy touchdown catch. Thats the kind of thing where he can bully a corner and be an extra threat to people, especially with him in particular, going through the seam, those seam-routes are what he’s great at. [Kendall] Blanton only got targeted like three times, but I think two of his catches were back-to-back 10 or 15-yard plays. If Lock goes to him once, he might go right back to him. That’s a theme I’ve seen with other receivers as well. They’re going to be sprinkled in among the receivers. Those tight ends will be.. maybe not colossal, but important at any rate.
Michael Hebert: With the defense, Purdue is a team that has struggled a bit but was able to find success on offense against Missouri. How do you think Missouri is going to gameplan to slow down this offense from Georgia?
Bennett Durando: I don’t see any way that Missouri can hold Georgia under 40 points, at least. Last tuesday, Barry Odom said this is the best secondary in my three years here. Then, the secondary looked awful against Purdue. That was a nice dose of irony, I guess. But the fact is, they weren’t able to make adjustments. Demarkus Acy, one of their starting corners got concussed on one of the first plays making a head-first tackle. He missed the rest of the game, the guy they brought in, Terry Petry, the first two plays after they brought him in Purdue targeted him, and they went for like 74 yards on two plays. I don’t know if Acy will be back yet, but the fact is that they looked really bad against the first Power 5 team they played, and Purdue is not a good team, they are 0-3 now. As far as slowing down Georgia, the offense is probably the best solution for that, rather than the defense. Spend as much time on a possession and don’t try to score as much. There were a couple situations when they showed up when it counted, but I don’t see much hope for the defense.
Michael Hebert: Score prediction and final thoughts on the game?
Bennett Durando: The first couple of weeks I would’ve thought “Mizzou won’t win, but they’ll at least maybe slow that Georgia offense down a little bit.” But after I saw what Purdue did, there’s no confidence I can say that I have in that defense. I would say, 55-21, Georgia. That would be my tentative pick right now.