ATHENS, Ga. — After a bye week and two disappointing road losses, Missouri sought a reversal of fortunes in its toughest atmosphere yet.
Playing in front of 92,476 at Sanford Stadium against No. 6 Georgia on Saturday night, the Tigers never found the spark they desperately needed.
They never scored, either.
The Bulldogs shut out the Tigers 27-0 to maintain a clear path to the Southeastern Conference championship game in December.
Missouri falls to 5-4 overall and 2-3 in SEC play as its losing streak reaches three games. Georgia (8-1, 5-1) will likely climb in the College Football Playoff rankings following Alabama’s loss to LSU earlier Saturday.
The loss breaks the Tigers' streak of nine consecutive victories in the month of November under head coach Barry Odom dating back to 2016.
Saturday was only the third time Missouri has been shut out since 2000.
“They’re a solid, really good football team in really every area,” Odom said of Georgia. “Looking and game planning going into it, we knew we would have some struggles moving the ball in certain situations. They're better up close and in person. I knew they were good, I think they are a little bit better than they get credit for nationally. They're as good and as solid as a team as I've gone against in a long time.”
Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant, a game-time decision due to a hamstring injury suffered two weeks ago at Kentucky, didn't take a single snap against Georgia. Odom added that he had a good idea Friday night that Bryant wouldn’t suit up.
Instead, usual backup quarterback Taylor Powell was behind center most of the game for the Tigers. Third-string quarterback Connor Bazelak warmed up second-team within an hour of kickoff and relieved Powell in the fourth quarter.
“He wanted to play and felt like he could,” Odom said of Bryant. “I don’t know that it would have been wise to put him out there. ... He's frustrated but working with our doctors and sports medicine. (If he) gets out and third play he re-injures it somewhat, it could be that he’s out for the rest of the year, and that’s not something that I think is smart as you make decisions on looking at your team.”
Odom said he’s “certain that they’ll get Kelly back and ready to go” for next week and that wide receiver Johnathon Johnson, who didn’t make the trip to Athens, is likely to return next Saturday when the Tigers host No. 10 Florida.
In Powell’s first collegiate start for the Tigers, he completed 10 of 22 passes for 84 yards and an interception.
Bazelak, playing in his second game of the season, drove MU down the field late to the doorstep of the end zone, but the Tigers couldn’t score after incomplete passes on third and fourth downs. On two drives, Bazelak completed eight passes on 12 attempts for 64 yards.
“I think the last two plays, I could’ve made better throws and guys could’ve made plays, but it’s a team effort, it’s not on one person,” Bazelak said about the end of Missouri’s most successful drive of the game.
Missouri held Georgia out of the end zone for a 41-minute stretch of the game, with the Bulldogs scoring a touchdown on their opening drive but not again until the first minute of the final period.
Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship put four of his five field-goal attempts through the uprights to create distance between the two teams.
“If we would have given up touchdowns instead of field goals in those situations, it never would’ve been a game,” Odom said of his defense. “Defensively, they hung in there and they fought and they competed. I was proud of the way that they played at times.”
Missouri entered the red zone for the first time with less than seven minutes remaining. The Tigers finished the night with 197 total yards compared to the Bulldogs’ 339.
After an 11-game streak of scoring 30 points or more was snapped three weeks ago against Vanderbilt, the Tigers have scored a combined 21 points in their past three games.
Falling to the Gators would put the Tigers at a .500 record just over a month after their five-game win streak concluded.
Yet plenty of Tigers remain confident about what’s ahead for their team.
“No doubt about it,” Missouri safety Tyree Gillespie said about whether MU can rebound. “We feed off our offense, our offense feeds off us. Nobody’s left behind on this team.”
Odom said he is ready to get right back to work with three games remaining in the regular season.
"We’re going to be OK," Odom said. "It is a reason of question and concern I think for everyone, but we’re going to be all right. I know what we've got and what I’ve got to do and I know what our staff’s got to do, and it's not easy because you’ve got to control the noise between your ears.
“I’m going to push them with everything I’ve got in every area."