By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Sony Michel ran for two touchdowns as No. 4 Georgia found its running game after a slow start and took control with 26 unanswered points to beat Missouri 53-28 on Saturday night.
Georgia (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) recovered from an early scare by gaining 696 total yards, the second-most in school history. The total included 370 on the ground.
Missouri (1-5, 0-4) suffered its fifth straight loss as it faded following a 21-all tie in the second quarter.
Georgia’s Mecole Hardman scored on a 35-yard run in the first quarter and a 59-yard catch from Jake Fromm in the fourth quarter.
“That’s what I want Mizzou to be,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “From a game-day atmosphere to the roster. All the above.”
Missouri showed the big-play potential in its passing game on Emanuel Hall’s two 63-yard touchdown catches in the first half. Drew Lock also threw a 4-yard scoring pass to tight end Albert Okwuegbunam.
“That’s not the way we’re accustomed to playing defense,” said Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith.
Lock threw for 253 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
The Tigers stacked their defense against the run and gave up only 45 yards on the ground in the first quarter. The strategy put pressure on Fromm, the freshman.
Missouri linebacker Cale Garrett’s interception in the first quarter set up Lock’s scoring pass to Okwuegbunam.
D’Andre Swift ran for 94 yards, including a 71-yarder, Michel had 86 yards and Nick Chubb added 70 yards to lead Georgia’s deep ground attack. Fromm threw for 326 yards with two touchdowns and added a 4-yard scoring run.
Georgia allowed a combined 17 points in its first three SEC wins, a total topped by the Tigers in the first half.
Following the last tie at 21-all, Georgia scored the final 13 points of the half and the first 13 points of the second half.
“I thought we showed some grit tonight,” said coach Kirby Smart, who said the Bulldogs took Missouri’s “best punch.”
The first half was a painful reality check for Georgia’s defense, which ranked second in the nation with its average of 10 points allowed per game and led the SEC with its average of 118.3 yards passing allowed in conference games.
Missouri linebacker Tavon Ross was ejected after his head-first hit on Hardman, who was returning a kickoff, in the fourth quarter. The targeting call followed a video review.
Missouri: An abysmal defense allowing 40 points per game couldn’t slow the Bulldogs. Missouri gave up 407 yards in the first half.
Georgia: The test against the best passing game Georgia has faced uncovered problems in the Bulldogs’ defense. Georgia’s secondary was torched by on the two long scoring catches by Hall. The Bulldogs’ pass rush also had difficult putting pressure on Lock at times. Ultimately, Georgia turned to its strength — the running game — to put the game away.
Georgia’s total offense was the second-most in school history. Georgia gained a record 712 yards against Florida Atlantic in 2012. The 53 points were the most for Georgia in a conference since a 63-31 win over Kentucky in 2014.
Georgia wide receiver Terry Godwin left the game in the first half with injured left ribs. He was escorted to the locker room and did not return for the second half. Offensive guard Pat Allen suffered an apparent left leg injury in the fourth quarter. Missouri running back Damarea Crockett suffered a right shoulder injury.
Missouri: The Tigers will take a break from their SEC schedule when they host Idaho on Saturday.
Georgia: Following an off week, Georgia will play Florida on Oct. 28 in Jacksonville, Florida.