COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Daijun Edwards plunged into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with just over four minutes to go, completing No. 1 Georgia’s rally from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Missouri 26-22 on Saturday night.
Kendall Milton also scored in the fourth quarter for the Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0 SEC), who trailed almost the entire way before finally solving red-zone woes that forced Jack Podlesny to kick four field goals just in time to avoid the upset.
Stetson Bennett struggled all night against relentless blitzing by Missouri (2-3, 0-2), which has never beaten a top-ranked team in 17 tries. But the leader of the defending national champions maintained his composure, and ultimately led the Bulldogs on two late touchdown drives while finishing with 312 yards passing and no interceptions.
Brady Cook had 192 yards passing and a touchdown for the Tigers, but they also struggled to reach the end zone against one of the country’s best defenses. Harrison Mevis wound up kicking five field goals, including two from 50-plus yards, one week after missing a potential game-winner in an overtime loss at Auburn.
Georgia riled up the Tigers long before kickoff when several of them walked through their pregame drills, and Bulldogs defensive tackle Jalen Carter and Missouri’s Darius Robinson had to be physically separated.
The Tigers carried their angst right into the game. Their rebuilt defense, due to coordinator Blake Baker, forced an early fumble and bunch of punts, and Missouri capitalized on the good field position. Mevis made the first of his field goals to put the Bulldogs in their first hole of the season.
They wound up spending the rest of the night digging out of it.
Taking advantage of breakdowns by Georgia’s top-ranked scoring defense, Cook found Dominic Lovett for a 36-yard gain, then got 6-foot-6 tight end Tyler Stephens to make a slick one-handed grab for a walk-in touchdown and 10-0 lead.
After another fumble by the Bulldogs, Mevis added a 49-yarder to extend the Tigers’ advantage.
Georgia finally got on the board on Podlesny’s 40-yard field goal, only to watch Division II transfer Cody Schrader rip off a 63-yard run on the Tigers’ next possession. He was finally tackled at the goal line, and the Bulldogs made a much-needed stand, but Mevis nevertheless added a chip-shot field goal to restore the 16-3 lead.
Even when the Bulldogs successfully faked a field goal late in the first half only to settle for one anyway, then had to kick another after a 16-play drive that took up half the third quarter.
The teams traded field goals again to make it 19-12 heading into the fourth quarter, and Mevis added a 54-yarder to extend the lead to 22-12 with 14 minutes to go.
Bennett began finding holes in the Missouri defense, leading Georgia on a 75-yard drive that Milton finished with a 1-yard run. After the Tigers were forced to punt — thanks in part to a personal foul penalty on right guard Mitchell Walters — the Bulldogs swiftly moved 68 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
Tykee Smith started at the STAR position in the Georgia defense after starter Javon Bullard was arrested early Sunday and charged with seven misdemeanors, including driving under the influence of alcohol. Bullard did not make the trip.
HALL OF FAMER
Missouri honored former coach Gary Pinkel, who will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December. He also is being inducted into the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame.
Georgia had three turnovers, numerous drops and plenty of penalties in a lackluster win over Kent State last week. The Bulldogs had to overcome many of the same miscues against the Tigers, including a pair of lost fumbles early in the game.
Missouri did everything right for more than three quarters Saturday night. But penalties at important moments ruined a pair of drives, and a defense that had caused Georgia fits the entire way finally showed cracks when it mattered the most.
Georgia: The Bulldogs return home to face Auburn next Saturday.
Missouri: The Tigers visit Florida next Saturday.