ATHENS, Ga. • Receiver Bud Sasser threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to L’Damian Washington in the fourth quarter after quarterback James Franklin left with a shoulder injury and No. 25 Missouri held off No. 7 Georgia’s comeback attempt to upset the Bulldogs 41-26 on Saturday.
Missouri (6-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) led by 18 points in the first half before Georgia (4-2, 3-1) cut the lead to 28-26 in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers answered the challenge with two late touchdowns despite losing Franklin to a shoulder injury.
After Franklin was taken to the locker room, freshman backup Maty Mauk threw a lateral to Sasser, who stopped and tossed a deep to the end zone for Washington. Washington, who outfought cornerback Damian Swann for the catch, had 115 yards and two touchdowns.
James Ponder’s interception of Aaron Murray’s pass with 4:25 remaining set up Henry Josey’s 7-yard touchdown run to end Georgia’s hopes.
The Bulldogs had won four straight on the strength of a powerful offense, but couldn’t overcome a wave of injuries at tailback and wide receiver which left Murray with inexperienced backups at the skill positions.
Georgia almost filled a bench on its sideline with injured players who wore their red game jerseys over black warm-up pants. Among them was star tailback Todd Gurley (ankle).
After the game, Missouri players ran to edge of the Sanford Stadium hedges and celebrated their biggest SEC win yet with fans in the corner of an end zone.
Murray threw another interception in the final minute. He completed 25 of 45 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns.
Franklin scored on a 5-yard run in the first quarter and threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Washington in the second quarter.
After the game, coach Gary Pinkel said Franklin’s shoulder was separated and the senior would likely be out for a while. Missouri, now squarely in the thick of the SEC East race, plays South Carolina next week and Florida the week after, both at home.
Franklin He completed 18 of 27 passes for 170 yards. Marcus Murphy had a 36-yard touchdown run for the Tigers.
Defensive end Michael Sam returned a fumble recovery 21 yards for a touchdown to give Missouri a 28-10 lead late in the second quarter. Murray fumbled when he was sacked by defensive end Shane Ray.
Georgia rallied as Murray threw touchdown passes of 7 yards to Rantavious Wooten in the third quarter and 10 yards to Chris Conley early in the fourth quarter. Conley couldn’t catch Murray’s pass on the 2-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game, leaving Missouri with a 28-26 lead.
Georgia was also without running back Keith Marshall (right knee) and three of its best receivers. Freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas filled in at tailback.
Georgia starting safety Tray Matthews, who hurt his hamstring in practice Tuesday, also did not play.
The loss of so many top threats on offense was the big news of the week for Georgia, but season-long problems on defense were just as glaring against Missouri. The Bulldogs began the day 12th in the SEC in pass defense and last in the league with its average of 32.2 points allowed.
Missouri almost matched that total in the first half.
Georgia needed help from three Missouri penalties, including two offside calls, for its only touchdown drive of the first half which ended with Murray’s 7-yard scoring pass to Douglas late in the first quarter.
Missouri outscored Georgia 28-3 the remainder of the half.
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