The relief was obvious on Kirby Smart’s face, the Georgia head coach finally able to exhale after escaping Missouri with the victory.
“Absolutely there’s a lot of emotions,” Smart said. “It’s hard in the SEC. There’s nothing easy about the SEC and when you go on the road you better be prepared.”
The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs beat the upset-minded Tigers 26-22, entering their first night game of the season as a 28-point favorite.
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Georgia had to rally from 22-12 down in the fourth quarter to improve to 5-0 with the victory, scoring on its final six drives including touchdowns on each of its final two possessions.
The pregame started with extracurricular emotions in the pregame warmups and ended with Smart having to keep his players in check as teams exited the field.
On the field, the Bulldogs’ defense held Missouri to just 294 total yards and one touchdown scored early in the second quarter when the Tigers took a 10-0 lead.
“Defense played their hearts out,” Smart said in his postgame television interview.
“We have a lot of things to figure out … we have to be more efficient running the ball.”
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Kenny McIntosh led UGA rushers with 65 yards on 10 carries, including powerful 6 and 22-yard bursts that sparked the game-winning touchdown drive.
Kendall Milton had 8 carries for 61 yards and a clutch 1-yard touchdown that pulled the Bulldogs within 22-19 in the fourth quarter.
Daijun Edwards had 10 carries for 51 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
Smat was also critical of Stetson Bennett, who was 24-of-44 passing for 312 yards.
“He didn’t play his best game, he’ll be the first to tell you that,” Smart said. “But Missouri deserves credit for that.
“These kids came out here and tough today and when you play on the road in the SEC, I say it all the time, it’s one of the toughest places to play.”
Indeed, the only other time in Smart’s tenure at Georgia that he trailed by double digits to an unranked team was in 2016, at Missouri.