COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Short-handed and outnumbered, Georgia received a tough early exam to its new season Saturday night.
(Photo by Evan Stichler/UGA Sports Communications)
And the Bulldogs passed.
While far from flawless on offense, defense and special teams, seventh-ranked Georgia did enough right in all three areas to spoil Missouri's SEC long-awaited introduction with a 41-20 victory.
"There were times when I was just starting to wonder what was going to happen," UGA coach Mark Richt said, "and our guys started to come through with some big plays on both sides of the ball."
Aaron Murray threw three touchdowns and Jarvis Jones forced two fourth-quarter turnovers deep in Missouri territory to help Georgia (2-0, 1-0 SEC) break free in a game it trailed 17-9 midway through the third quarter.
Within two minutes, Jones intercepted a pass and returned it roughly 20 yards to Missouri's 1-yard line and then forced a fumble recovered at Missouri's 5.
"Jarvis is a great football player, obviously," Richt said. "He may be the best defensive player in America."
Richt said Jones played Saturday despite straining his groin in practice this past week.
"It was bothering him the whole game," Richt said. "It's hard to believe that, but he sucked it up and played the whole time."
Of Murray's two TD tosses, Marlon Brown caught two of them, including an 11-yard grab in traffic to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 24-20 late in the third quarter. Missouri (1-1, 0-1) wouldn't crack the scoreboard again, as Georgia tallied the game's final 24 points.
Brown finished with a game-high 106 receiving yards on eight catches, while Murray totaled 242 yards on 22-of-35 passing.
Missouri rushed for 102 yards, while quarterback James Franklin was 25-of-41 for 269 yards, but 110 of that came on two plays -- touchdowns of 41 and 69 yards, the second of which made it 17-9 with 11:48 remaining in the third quarter.
Each of the turnovers Jones forced late resulted in touchdowns, allowing Georgia to turn a 7-point lead into 41-20 and send gold-clad fans scurring out of Memorial Stadium.
"You win never, ever win a game like that. You can't make mistakes like that," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "They did things necessary to win, and they are a very good football team."
UGA fans in attendance chanted "Old Man Football," a reminder of comments from Missouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson earlier in the week.
"It was a big win," Jones said. "A lot of people thought we were going to come out here and get upset, but the guys stayed confident. ... Mizzou had some big plays. They threw their punches, but you have to play the whole game."
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