Injuries? Don't blame Georgia's 41-26 loss to Missouri on injuries, because there were plenty to go around on both sides.
Sure, having running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett would have helped the Bulldogs avoid the upset, but Georgia's national title hopes weren't dashed due to injuries.
They were dashed due to its porous defense.
And much of the blame can be pinned on defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, in particular.
Mizzou jumped on Georgia with 28 points in the first half to take a 28-10 lead into halftime and then held on to escape a late Georgia charge to escape Athens with a big road win and bowl eligibility in hand.
The Tigers did a great job in the first half exploiting the weak point of Georgia's defense, a secondary that ranked 12th in the SEC in pass defense at 264.6 yards per game. Missouri didn't eclipse that mark—the Tigers only passed for 233 yards—but it picked on that Georgia secondary to grab the big lead.
Quarterback James Franklin burned junior Damian Swann on a 16-yard second-quarter touchdown pass to L'Damian Washington that broke a 7-7 tie. Later in the second quarter, Franklin targeted Swann several times on a touchdown drive that culminated in a 36-yard Marcus Murphy touchdown.
On that run, it looked like Georgia's defense was standing still.
These are the same execution errors that Georgia head coach Mark Richt has seen for the last year-plus from Grantham's defense, and he clearly wasn't happy with it heading into halftime.
When asked by ESPN's Tom Luginbill what was wrong and what adjustments need to be made, Richt took a thinly veiled shot at Grantham before heading into the locker room.
"It's the usual," Richt said. "Cover your man and put pressure on the passer."
"The usual" is a defense that lacks fundamentals, can't tackle and at times even struggles to get lined up properly. Those are coaching issues, not player issues. These are the same defensive issues that Georgia dealt with last year when John Jenkins, Kwame Geathers, Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams—all of whom are now on NFL rosters—played between the hedges.
Here's your reminder that Todd Grantham makes nearly $1 million a year— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 12, 2013
The stats lied in this game.
Missouri only gained 375 yards of total offense, but Georgia's lack of fundamentals dug the Bulldogs a hole that they were simply unable to dig out of. That's inexcusable in a game in which everyone on the planet knew it was going to be tough to dig out of holes with so many new contributors on offense.
Besides, it's not like Missouri lacked injuries itself.
Cornerback E.J. Gaines—Missouri's best player on defense—was lost for the game with a quad strain late in the first half. Gaines came in tied for the SEC lead in interceptions with three and provides a veteran presence for the Tiger defense that would have been beneficial in the second half.
Quarterback James Franklin went out with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter due to a separated shoulder with the Tigers only up two. The Tigers found a way to hold on thanks to a wide receiver pass for a touchdown and a big interception by Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray on a poorly thrown ball.
It wasn't injuries that cost Georgia on Saturday. Sure, having its full complement of starters would have helped the offense. But the combination of Missouri's high-octane offense and Georgia's poorly coached defense was bound to make this a high-scoring affair, and that's exactly what happened between the hedges.
As a result, Georgia's dream of hoisting the crystal football at the end of the season disappeared.
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