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ATHENS, Ga.— Once Kelly Bryant’s questionable status turned into “out,” it was extremely unlikely Missouri was going to emerge from Sanford Stadium with a win Saturday night.

Georgia defeated Missouri 27-0. Comfortably.

It was a tough ask for back-up quarterback Taylor Powell to lead a Missouri offense — which had been struggling coming into the game — against the No. 6 team in the country. He and the rest of the offense did not respond well.

On the other hand, Missouri’s defense put together a commendable performance, a true tale of two units.

In the first quarter with Missouri down seven, cornerback DeMarkus Acy made an impressive play to break up a pass from Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm on third down to force a punt.

How did Missouri’s offense respond?

Three-and-out.

After Georgia reached the 3-yard-line early in the second quarter, Missouri’s defense forced an incompletion on third down, forcing Georgia to settle for a field goal.

How did Missouri’s offense respond?

Three-and-out.

Nick Bolton sacked Fromm, breaking through one of the best offensive lines in the country on first down. Two plays later, Kobie Whiteside nearly did the same on third down, forcing Fromm to dump it off well short of the first down. The ensuing punt took a Missouri bounce and the Tigers began at their own 45.

How did Missouri’s offense respond?

It got its first two first downs of the game ... and then Powell threw an interception into double coverage. It was returned to the 18-yard-line.

After the return, Georgia went backward and had to settle for another field goal.

How did Missouri’s offense respond?

Three-and-out.

You get the gist.

For most of Saturday night in Athens, Missouri’s defense did a good job of neutralizing a talented and multi-faceted Georgia offense. But the Tigers’ Bryant-less offense was not able to answer the call, putting up an unimpressive display that resulted in zero points.

Cornerback Jarvis Ware was diplomatic about the offense-defense disparity after the game.

“We’re a team,” Ware said. “When the offense is down, the defense has to lift them up ... We’re all in this together, no pointing fingers.”

But if there is a finger to point, it’s at the offense. This was the first time Missouri has been shut out in five years, or since Oct. 11, 2014, when Georgia won a 34-0 game in Columbia.

Even had Bryant played, it was unlikely Missouri was going to topple the Bulldogs, and the moment Powell stepped on the field it seemed a near-impossible task. But the Tigers’ defense gave its team a chance to win, begging the question: What would’ve happened if Bryant had played?

After Missouri went three-and-out on its first possession, Georgia put together an impressive drive to open the scoring. Facing a third-and-6, Fromm made a perfect throw to receiver Lawrence Cager for 32 yards. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-11, Fromm found George Pickens over the middle for a 25-yard-touchdown to make it 7-0.

From then on, Missouri’s defense tightened up, and started putting pressure on Fromm. Bolton’s sack was the team’s first since the Vanderbilt game.

“We just had to confuse them a little bit,” Bolton said after acknowledging the talent on Georgia’s o-line. “Just send more people than they can block.”

Georgia did not score another TD until the third quarter. It entered halftime up 16-0 after three field goals from star kicker Rodrigo Blankenship. The Bulldogs’ elite running back, D’Andre Swift, was held to just 19 yards before the break. The game was by no means a blowout.

In fact, the first half included a brief moment of hope for the Bryant-less offense. Down 10-0 and with great field position in the second quarter, Powell got into a rhythm and Mizzou converted two straight first downs. Powell targeted tight end Albert Okwuegbunam four times on the drive, finding him twice. The fourth attempt, however, saw Powell try to do too much. Nearly in field goal range, the quarterback threw into double coverage over Okwuegbunam’s head, right into the hands of Georgia cornerback Richard LeCounte, who returned the interception to the Missouri 18. Just like that, momentum was gone.

The second half was not much different, but — although Missouri was never close to mounting a comeback — a silver lining might have emerged for a team in desperate need of one. In the fourth quarter, Powell was replaced under center by true freshman Connor Bazelak. Bazelak led the Tigers downfield and into a goal-to-go situation. Down 27-0, head coach Barry Odom decided to go for it on fourth down and the Tigers were unable to convert. But Bazelak made a nice throw on third down that bounced off the hands of receiver Jonathan Nance. It would have been a touchdown.

Bazelak finished eight-of-12 passing for 64 yards, a potential sign of a bright future.

{span id=”docs-internal-guid-a56169dd-7fff-c918-1850-d32797472599”}{span id=”docs-internal-guid-a56169dd-7fff-c918-1850-d32797472599”}“I thought I did pretty well, but still didn’t get points on the board. So, not satisfied with that,” Bazelak said.

As a whole, Missouri’s 198 yards of total offense on Saturday was its fewest since a 9-6 loss to Georgia on Oct. 11, 2015.

Any loss is a bad loss, but this one was expected beforehand. Still, Missouri was unable to break out of its rut, losing its third game in a row. The rest of the season is now shrouded in mystery. Bryant’s health is still a major point of concern and the offense is still going nowhere. And after a five-game winning streak, the ability of the Tigers to get a sixth victory and bowl eligibility — assuming the NCAA lifts that part of its sanctions — is in jeopardy.

“You can tell it’s kind of shaky (in the locker room),” safety Tyree Gillespie said. “But we’re not going to fall apart and we’re going to come together.”

Odom has been in this position before. The theme of his tenure at Missouri has been getting his team to rebound after difficult stretches.

“I know the buttons that I’ve got to push,” Odom said after the game. “I’m ready to get back home and let’s get back to work. We’re going to be OK.”

Up next is No. 10 Florida at home next Saturday, and one big question lingers:

What exactly is this Missouri team?

Supervising editor is Michael Knisley.

This article originally ran on columbiamissourian.com.

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