Georgia coach Kirby Smart left to nitpick little things after comfortable win over Missouri
Smart was frustrated with the Bulldogs 'undisciplined' play on Saturday on the road
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Kirby Smart was literally hopping mad.
His team comfortably up by 20, the Georgia coach's reactionary defense had just been called for roughing Missouri quarterback Drew Lock in the third quarter. The sin by hulking 300-pound tackle Tyler Clark allowed the Tigers to extend a drive that ended in a touchdown.
No, really, Smart was hopping mad. When the flag came out, he dropped to the ground belly-first in frustration. When the call was announced, he proceeded down the sideline with a series of knee-to-chest crow hops, getting his anger out.
Not at the call, at the penalty and what it represented.
"Undisciplined," Smart said more than once after a 43-29 win.
"We made a big deal out of that to the players. A lot of the guys are frustrated. They want sacks, they want pressure, they want to get to the quarterback."
Within an easier-than-it-looked 14-point win over Mizzou, Georgia turned introspective after turning the Tigers inside out.
That's what you do when the defense forces three fumbles (returns one of them for a touchdown), blocks a punt for another score and holds one of the nation's hottest quarterbacks out of the end zone.
You pick off Lock -- there was one of those, too -- then you nitpick.
"No human being should [be able to] run the ball against us," linebacker D'Andre Walker said.
Missouri did somewhat effectively but it wasn't like it made a big difference. The Dawgs just didn't get the massacre it wanted. You see, Georgia operates in its own bubble. The defense that rag-dolled Austin Peay, South Carolina and Middle Tennessee, still had only one sack coming into Saturday -- tied for last in the country.
Its five forced turnovers were tied for 48th.
"It wasn't a good feeling," said quarterback Jake Fromm, forced to play four quarters for the first time this year. "We definitely faced some adversity for the first time."
The result of some of that "adversity": Two first-half turnovers and Erik Stokes' blocked punt and return for a touchdown accounted for 17 of the 20 first-half points.
Smart was asked if it was "scary" the offense hadn't contributed more.
"Scary," he said, "is going into halftime two touchdowns down."
When Fromm threw the first of his three touchdown passes early in the third quarter, Georgia was beginning to sit back and judge itself.
It's the little things that bother Smart these days. Receiver Jeremiah Holloman may or may not have dropped the ball short of the goal line before being credited with a 61-yard touchdown catch and run in the third quarter.
There was no angle for the review that showed the sophomore let go of the ball prematurely, but it was darn close.
Mizzou ran for those 172 yards, the most against the Dawgs since Alabama went for 185 in the national title game.
"You work on it," Smart said. "It's not like you can reinvent a defense. We had everybody in the box you can have in the box. We didn't play physical enough. They outmanned us."
Yeah, well don't tell Missouri. The Tigers are nothing without Lock. For the first time in more than a year, the senior NFL prospect was held without a touchdown pass.
If it's possible to become an All-American in September, Walker has done it. On Saturday he had four tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry.
Through four games, he has all three of the team's sacks.
"We'll be better," Walker said.
That is scary.
After an expected 4-0 start, the nation's No. 2 team is rounding into shape. Just don't ask them about it.
"I don't know what it says," Smart said. "It says we can handle some adversity on the road. When we're challenged, we respond well."
It says the coach is a perfectionist who hasn't fallen too far from the Nick Saban tree.
"He laid on the ground," Walker recalled when asked about the roughing-the-passer play. "That was probably him talking [to] the guys saying 'don't let me explode on these guys.'"
There are plenty of explosions left -- the good kind. In case you missed it, Georgia has already gone on the road twice in the SEC East twice in the season's first four weeks. It has won by a cumulative 178-53. On Sept. 22, the Dawgs have only two true road games left. (The Florida game is a neutral-site meeting Jacksonville, Florida on Oct. 22.)
September may be for nitpicking. You got the feeling excellence is on the horizon.
"We have some tough people," Stokes said, "tough physical people. Tough physical and fast."
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