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Missouri overcomes its own injury issues

By Chip Towers - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



It was well-chronicled that Georgia was playing Missouri short-handed Saturday. It also should be noted that the No. 25 Tigers knocked off the Bulldogs without their best offensive player and one of their better defenders.

Quarterback James Franklin left the game with 10:35 remaining with a separated right shoulder. The injury occurred a play earlier when Franklin was sandwiched between Jordan Jenkins and Amarlo Herrera after an incomplete pass. Early in the game, the Tigers lost one of the better defensive backs in the SEC. Senior cornerback E.J. Gaines was sidelined with a strained quadricep muscle with 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter.

In each case, the Tigers sent in a backup to finish the game. The end result was the biggest road win by Missouri in 32 years.

“Overall this was a great win,” said Missouri’s 13-year coach, Gary Pinkel. “Georgia is a great team, and they have a lot of injuries. I have been through that (and it) is difficult to deal with. We battled, and I am proud of our team for that.”

Mauk, a redshirt freshman from Kenton, Ohio, appeared only briefly in all five previous games for the Tigers, but mainly in mop-up duty. But Saturday, he was summoned to the game with the Tigers clinging to a two-point lead and facing third-and-5.

Mauk ran a keeper for 5 1/2 yards for a first down to the Georgia 39. Two plays later he threw to flanker Bud Sasser on the first throw of a double-pass for a 40-yard touchdown.

“We’re sitting there going through plays, and then they call timeout and say it’s my time to go in,” said Mauk, who was 3-for-3 passing for 23 yards and had 12 yards on three rushes. “Everybody just told me to keep calm and do your thing. So I came in and got the ball to our guys, and we executed well at the end.”

Georgia was, of course, playing without its two leading rushers (Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall), three of its top four receivers (Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley) and its starting free safety (Tray Matthews). Coach Mark Richt indicated there was “a realistic shot” the Bulldogs could get Gurley back against Vanderbilt and possibly Matthews. Receiver Jonathan Rumph, out since the preseason with a hamstring injury, is supposed to return to practice Monday.

“Everybody has injuries; their team had injuries, too,” Richt said. “Their quarterback went out when it was a two-point game, and they found a way to win. So congratulations to them.”

Missouri must now move into the meat of its schedule without Franklin. He is expected to be out at least three games and maybe more. The Tigers play host to Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee in the next three weeks.

Sackman Drew: Junior defensive end Ray Drew recorded two sacks for a total of 12 yards in losses Saturday. That gives him five in the past three games. Drew also had seven tackles.

Drew wasn’t in the mood for bragging in the postgame locker room. “We’re at a time we need to step back and see what we can do to get better,” he said. “There are a lot of areas we need to get better, not in one particular position but as a team collectively. That’s the next big step for us.”

Pressuring the passer is an area where Georgia has shown great improvement in recent weeks. The Bulldogs had four sacks Saturday, giving them 13 in the past four games and 16 for the season.

Etc.: The Bulldogs are now minus-4 in turnover margin. … Freshmen J.J. Green and Reggie Carter got their first starts at tailback and linebacker, respectively. … Punter Collin Barber was replaced for the last two punts of the game by senior walk-on Adam Erickson. Richt said the change was based on performance. Barber, who suffered a concussion against Tennessee and didn’t practice until Thursday, averaged 32 yards on two punts. … Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray moved to No. 2 in SEC history in touchdown responsibility, with 124. With 299 yards Saturday, he’s 25 shy of Tim Tebow’s SEC record (12,232) for total offense in a career.

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