Georgia's (6-0) Bulldogs Getting Ready To Play Missouri's (1-4) Tigers Saturday In Athens

Defensive End Trenton Thompson Still Not Practicing After MCL Sprain

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 - by special report

From the outside, it’s easy to overlook No. 4 Georgia’s matchup against unranked Missouri on Saturday, Oct. 14, and immediately shift the focus of any speculation on the Bulldogs’ season to the Florida Gators..

After all, Georgia is 6-0, and has a top five defense in the country. In contrast, the Tigers are a lowly 1-4, with their single win coming against Missouri State.

Despite this, the players insist Missouri’s offense is not to be taken lightly.

So what is there to fear from the offense of a team which appears to be one of the worst in the Southeastern Conference?

“Tempo,” senior John Atkins said. “They go fast.”

Atkins said the face-paced Tiger offense can make it difficult for opposing teams to make the substitutions they need, adding that defending Missouri is “all about getting lined up at the end of the play.”

Along with its speed, the Missouri offense also adds in a healthy dose of confusion. The team runs an arsenal of run/pass option plays, with play fakes giving wide receivers the opportunity to run open on any given snap.

“Your preparation is play the run, and you’ve gotta defend the pass on top of it,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “So it’s really hard, cause they can run the ball and throw the ball in the same play.”

And behind the whole operation is quarterback Drew Lock, a junior who is second in the SEC in passing yards and tied for first in touchdowns.

“[Lock’s] got one of the quickest releases, strongest arms I’ve seen,” Smart said. “He knows where to go with the ball. He knows who to stare down to read him. He’s very efficient at doing what he does, and it’s tough to defend.”

Senior Davin Bellamy said one of the biggest reasons not to overlook the Missouri offense is the offensive output the Tigers produced last weekend against Kentucky, racking up nearly 600 yards  against the Wildcats.

But Bellamy said he is also motivated by an older memory, and a score that still needs to be settled.

“We respect this team cause they put up a lot of points on us last year,” he said. “So we definitely are not taking this team lightly.”

Georgia’s run defense has emerged as one of the top units in the country. It helps that some of the best running backs it has to face all year might be the ones who line up on the other side of the ball during practice.

“We really have four backs that we go against every day, and they all have a different style,” nose tackle John Atkins said. “But they also, in practice, they know how to make you attack. You've got to tackle them. If you don't, you hear, 'Reload it!' You don't want to hear that.”

Reload means that the players have to rerun the play.

But Atkins said even though Georgia’s backs are difficult to tackle and have accumulated totals that near the top of national rankings, the defense has figured out how to stop them.

And it’s also figured out how to stop the run game of just about every team it has played.

“If you stop the run, you can have some fun on third down,” Atkins said. “It's a must that you stop the run. We go in on Mondays, we'll review. We put up 'musts' and it always says, 'Stop the run.' When you stop the run, you make them one-dimensional.”

Georgia has the fifth best rushing defense in the country, giving up just 86 yards per game. The Bulldogs rank second in the SEC, as Alabama is the only team that has been better at stopping the run. Alabama is the top team in the nation in this area, allowing 73.3 rushing yards per game.

Earlier this year, Georgia contained the run games of Notre Dame and Mississippi State, two teams that are ranked in the top 20 nationally in rushing offense. Notre Dame, which ranks sixth in this area, only tallied 55 yards on the ground when it faced the Bulldogs. Mississippi State managed to notch 177 rushing yards, but that’s the lowest total the team has had all year.

Georgia will face Missouri on Saturday, and on paper, the Tigers look like a pass-centric team. Quarterback Drew Lock is the SEC’s second leading passer. But in addition to that, Missouri’s offense has averaged 5.3 yards per carry, which is the fourth best in the SEC.

“Mizzou is a very 50-50 balanced team and a lot of the passes you see from Mizzou are [run-pass options], which are dictated by what the defense does, so they are a designed run with a pass attached,” Smart said. “They are a very, very good running football team when it comes to execution. … If you do not control the run game, it will be a long night because they will just do that.”

Still, in terms of record, Missouri is the worst team in the conference. But Smart said the Tigers’ “record does not indicate how good they are.”

As a whole, Georgia’s defense has dominated its opponents recently, just giving up 17 points in its last three games. Seven of the points came from Vanderbilt  by way of a Jacob Eason fumble that was recovered and ran back to the 1-yard line.

The success in stopping the run, Atkins said, is a result of the team emphasizing it. And then, once the defense can do that, everything else follows.

“Once you stop the run, that's when your linebackers make plays,” Atkins said.

Defensive end Trenton Thompson was once again absent from practice during the media viewing periods on Tuesday. Thompson has not been spotted practicing since he suffered an MCL sprain in Georgia’s game against Tennessee.

Similarly, inside linebacker Reggie Carter did not practice on Tuesday, and he has also not been seen on the practice field since sustaining an undisclosed injury, also in the Tennessee game.

Natrez Patrick, who was arrested last week on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, was practicing with the rest of the team, although as it is his second such charge since coming to Georgia, Patrick is expected to be suspended for the next three Georgia games. The Student Athlete Handbook prescribes a four-game suspension for a second marijuana charge, but Patrick already sat out last week against Vanderbilt.

Solomon Kindley has had recurring ankle issues that have forced him to leave multiple games this year, but he was again at practice working with the first-team offensive line, showing no sign of limitations.

In quarterback drills, Jake Fromm is still taking reps first, followed by Jacob Eason. Fromm has been Georgia’s starter since Eason injured his knee during Georgia’s first game of the year. However, Eason has had limited playing time in the two most recent games, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

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