COLUMBIA, Mo. — After a closer-than-expected win over a MAC opponent, the Georgia Bulldogs return to SEC play today and will hit the road to do so.
No. 1 Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC) is set for a 7:30 p.m. ET showdown with Missouri (2-2, 0-1 SEC) in Faurot Field in Memorial Stadium. The Bulldogs are coming off a 39-22 victory over Kent State; Missouri, meanwhile, is fresh off a tough 17-14 overtime loss on the road against Auburn.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart had plenty of positive things to say about Missouri in the lead-up to the Saturday matchup.
“A team I have a lot of respect for,” Smart said Monday when discussing Missouri. “Any time you go on the road in the SEC, we talk about it all the time, it’s tough to win on the road in the SEC and I have a lot of respect for Eliah [Drinkwitz], the job he’s done, what he does offensively and defensively. They do a good job. I’ve always thought a lot about the job he does offensively and the issues they create defensively, as well. This year, they have big personnel upfront. They play physical.
“They just played a really tough game against Auburn. A tough way to lose a game. But we’re looking forward to getting ready for these guys and going on the road in the SEC.”
Georgia is looking for success against Missouri much like it has found since the Tigers joined the SEC. The Bulldogs have won nine of the last 10 meetings against the Tigers, including a 43-6 victory in Sanford Stadium last November.
The Bulldogs enter Saturday’s action with multiple players dealing with a wide array of injuries. Here’s the latest on each of those players as the Bulldogs prepare to take on the Tigers.
Note: Please be sure to revisit this story pre-game, as we will update as various Bulldogs warm-up for the game.
Freshman running back Andrew Paul impressed during his first fall camp as a Bulldog, but he wound up tearing his ACL during the team’s second scrimmage of the fall. Paul was scheduled to have surgery earlier this week as he turns his attention to his rehab.
Georgia run-game coordinator Dell McGee spoke about Paul in August and convincing him to come to Georgia.
“He’s a great kid from a great family. Very quiet, hard worker, so he fits all the character of things we’re looking for in our football players. We also needed another running back. We always like to keep five in our roster. Our lineup number is six, but we’ve been kind of shorting that number because of the talent that we’ve had in the room,” McGee said. “He has family from Georgia, so there was a connection there. The running back tradition here speaks for itself. That tradition was developed way before I got here.
“Just getting in there late in the month of December and January allowed me an opportunity of getting to know him and his family and him getting to know me — and just what he wanted in goals and aspirations — it just fit coming to Georgia.”
The Bulldogs had a real scare last Saturday when it appeared running back Kenny McIntosh had taken a shot to his knee in the fourth quarter of Georgia’s victory over Kent State. Luckily, the injury was not as serious as it looked as McIntosh was helped on the sideline.
McIntosh was among his teammates during pregame warm-ups and appears all set to play tonight. How much he plays will be the question.
McIntosh spoke to media members on Monday and described the injury as a quad contusion. McIntosh’s availability is crucial for Georgia given he stands third among the team’s non-quarterbacks in total yardage this season (97 yards).
“I’m going to be fine. You know, a lot of ice baths ahead of me, that’s all. I’ll be straight,” McIntosh said. “It’s been nagging me a little bit, but [the defender] just kind of took a shot on it. That’s all it was. Just a little bruise. I’ll be straight.”
McIntosh has been a weapon as a ball carrier and as a receiver through four games this season. In total, he’s taken 25 carries for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns and also caught 21 passes for 227 yards. McIntosh was the team’s leading receiver through two weeks this fall.
Smart explained on Monday that McIntosh is expected to be available on Saturday.
“[Kenny] had the same thigh bruise that he had already had. He got kind of hit on that same spot. But he feels like he’ll be fine,” Smart said. “He was fine after the game. He was fine [Sunday]. We may limit him some today, but we feel good about Kenny being able to go.”
Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey had a noticeably off game against Kent State last week, and after the game Smart explained McConkey’s reps have been limited a bit as the sophomore deals with a toe injury. Based on what Smart had to say Wednesday, McConkey hasn’t been quite as limited in the preparation for Missouri.
Smart explained McConkey had been limited at practice as a means to limit his volume and added that the sophomore wide receiver has been “much better” this week.
“We shut him down last week for two days, and then he practiced two days. It hasn’t bothered him much, so he was able to do everything Monday and Tuesday,” Smart said. “The week before he did everything later in the week but not earlier in the week. So, he’s been pretty good this week getting lots of treatment on it and just trying to communicate with us in terms of GPS yardage and volume to make sure that he stays under certain numbers.”
Arian Smith was on the field among the other wide receivers during preliminary warm-ups for Missouri and was part of the regular warm-ups as well.
Smith was dressed out and went through warm-ups prior to last week’s game against Kent State, although he never saw the field. Smart offered an update on Smith’s status Tuesday, saying he had practiced more than fellow wide receiver AD Mitchell (ankle) this week before noting the team is “still hopeful on both” being able to play.
Smart gave a more detailed update on Smith during the lead-up to the Kent State game, although the Bulldogs head coach made it clear at that time that there was not a timeline for his return.
“Yeah, Arian is coming back. He’s been able to do some weight-bearing running. He’s been hitting some good speeds. Hopefully he’ll be able to get back — we don’t know when he’s going to be back,” Smart said. “It’s doubtful he’s back this week. But he is back running and he’s not 100 percent. But excited for what he’s been able to do. He’s not cutting and breaking. He’s on the AlteredG [treadmill]. He’s getting better and you can see it in his eyes. He’s getting healthier. We just got no idea when he’s going to be back.”
Smart told reporters following the Bulldogs’ second scrimmage in August that Smith had a high-ankle sprain. Smart did not offer a timetable for Smith’s return, though he made sure to note Smith’s ankle was not broken.
“The poor kid can’t catch a break, man. He’s had an injury like right when he first got here jumping in a long jump pit. Then he had another injury his sophomore year. He’s worked so hard to get back. You know, he gave up track this year, and he’s an elite track runner — elite — and he gave that up so that he could have a successful season,” Smart said in August. “We’re hoping to get him back, and he’s overcome so much and he’s such a great kid.”
After playing in four games as a true freshman in 2020, Smith had a catch in the first two games last fall — including a 61-yard touchdown against UAB — before injuries forced him out of the five games. He played but did not record a catch against Florida before coming down with a 35-yard touchdown pass the next week against Missouri.
Unfortunately for Smith, he broke his leg in practice the following week, effectively ending his season and putting him on the comeback trail.
Wide receiver AD Mitchell went through preliminary warm-ups for Saturday’s game against Missouri as well as the regular warm-ups. We will see how much he plays tonight.
Mitchell warmed up during last week’s game against Kent State, but he was not dressed out. Ultimately, the sophomore did not warm up with the rest of the wide receivers as the opening kickoff drew closer.
Mitchell has missed the past two games for Georgia after suffering an ankle injury against Samford on Sept. 10.
Mitchell caught 5 passes for 69 yards and 1 touchdown in the Bulldogs’ season opener before sustaining an ankle injury on the first play from scrimmage against Samford.
Mitchell caught his first two passes as a Bulldog in the second game of the 2021 season against UAB then earned starting status by the third game, which he maintained in 11 of the Bulldogs’ next 13 games.
Mitchell caught at least two passes in six of Georgia’s next eight games after the UAB win before posting a single catch in three straight games: the Bulldogs’ blowout victories over Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech and the team’s loss to Alabama in the SEC title game.
Mitchell came back with a vengeance in the CFP semifinals by making an 18-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter of Georgia’s victory over Michigan. He one-upped himself with everything on the line in the national title game, as he made an outstanding grab on a 40-yard pass from Stetson Bennett that gave Georgia a one-point lead with a little over eight minutes to go in the contest.
Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter only played one snap — at fullback, no less — in the Bulldogs’ win over Kent State. It’s the second straight week Carter was limited in game action after only playing 11 snaps against South Carolina.
Carter was among his teammates during warm-ups, so we’ll see how much he plays.
When asked about Carter on Wednesday, Smart said Carter has looked “much better this week” and has been taking on more volume at practice.
Carter, who is considered one of the most talented defensive linemen in the country and a potential first-round draft pick in 2023, is coming off a College Football Playoff in which the sophomore made six tackles in the two wins, along with eight quarterback hurries and a blocked kick. The Coaches’ All-SEC 2nd team selection played in all 15 games in 2021, making two starts, and finishing with 37 tackles and 27 quarterback pressures, good for second-best on the team. He made three quarterback sacks, was third on the team with 8.5 tackles for loss, blocked two kicks, and had a pass break-up.
Carter entered his third season having played in 25 games, with four starts, totaling 51 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, a pass breakup, three blocked kicks, and a 1-yard touchdown catch.
Darris Smith was with the team for pre-game warm-ups and did not appear to have any limitations in the lead-up to the Missouri game.
Smart described the injury that forced true freshman Darris Smith out of special teams work last week — and opened the door for fellow true freshman Jalon Walker to block a punt — was “undisclosed.” Regarding Smith’s status, Smart said Smith has practiced and “done some things and continues to work multiple positions for us” after coming out of the game against the Golden Flashes.
Smith has played in all four games for Georgia so far this season but has yet to record a tackle.
Georgia inside linebacker Xavian Sorey joined the team for warm-ups Saturday and did not appear limited in his pre-game work.
Sorey did not see the field against Kent State, but Smart told reporters Wednesday that Sorey’s outlook was positive. When asked about Sorey as well as defensive back Tykee Smith, Smart said both are “fine” as the Bulldogs reached the midway point of Missouri week.
Sorey played on special teams against Kent State but did not see a snap on defense per Pro Football Focus. He has played in all four games for Georgia so far this season but has yet to record a tackle.
Georgia defensive back Tykee Smith went through preliminary pre-game warm-ups and regular warm-ups with no discernible limitations for Saturday’s game against Missouri.
Smith did not see the field against Kent State, but Smart told reporters Wednesday that Smith’s outlook was positive. When asked about Smith as well as Sorey, Smart said both are “fine” as the Bulldogs reached the midway point of Missouri week.
Smith did not play on defense or special teams against Kent State per Georgia’s official participation list. He played in the Bulldogs’ first three games and has recorded 5 total tackles.
Georgia defensive back Javon Bullard was not with the team during pre-game warm-ups Saturday.
Bullard’s status going into Saturday is in question, but it’s not due to his health.
Smart did not have a lot to say Monday when asked about Bullard, who was arrested on seven misdemeanor charges early Sunday morning. Smart emphasized his situation would be handled internally but did not elaborate on whether or not the sophomore would be available against Missouri.
“I’m disappointed in Javon,” Smart said. “I hate it for him. He’s got a wonderful family but made poor decisions, and it’ll be dealt with internally.”
Smart further explained Bullard will go in front of a committee that includes athletic director Josh Brooks to determine what happens next.
Bullard was booked at 4:57 a.m. Sunday morning on seven charges: DUI (alcohol) under 21 years of age with a concentration of 0.02 grams; license to be carried and exhibited on demand; improper turning; furnishing, purchasing, and possession of alcoholic beverages as a person under 21 years old; failure to maintain lane/improper driving on road; not using lighted headlights and other lights when required; and physically holding or supporting — with any part of his body — a wireless device. All seven charges are considered misdemeanors.
Bullard was released at 8:30 a.m. on $4,250 worth of bonds, per the jail log.
Bullard was fresh off another start as Georgia’s nickel and ended Saturday’s victory over Kent State with 3 tackles. Bullard played 37 snaps in last week’s win over the Golden Flashes, per PFF.
Through four games this season, Bullard has 7 tackles and 1 pass break-up.
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