ATLANTA — When Georgia trailed Missouri 17-9 in the third quarter Saturday night, it looked like the kind of early season test the Bulldogs have often failed in recent seasons.
Georgia fans don’t have to be reminded of back-to-back losses to South Carolina, a September road loss to Mississippi State in 2010 or season-opening losses at Oklahoma State in 2010 and to Boise State last season.
Those losses left Georgia in early season ruts.
This time, the No. 7 Bulldogs passed their September test with an impressive finish to beat Missouri 41-20.
The win left Georgia with its first 2-0 start in four years and in position to build on that momentum with a stretch of threeconsecutive home games that begins with Saturday’s visit from Florida Atlantic.
At this time last year, Georgia was 0-2 after losses to Boise State and South Carolina.
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo on Sunday compared the game at Missouri to last year’s 45-42 loss to the Gamecocks.
“The South Carolina game was a little bit like that game last night where we were kind of up and down and there were some turnovers in the game and some wild plays,” Bobo said. “We didn’t finish in the fourth quarter but last night we did finish in the fourth quarter and on the road in a very hostile environment.”
Bobo said Missouri, playing its first Southeastern Conference game, “was very ready to play.”
“For our guys to go there and finish like they did and win it hopefully shows the character of this football team,” Bobo said.
Last season, Georgia won 10 consecutive games after the 0-2 start and finished 10-4 with losses to Louisiana State University in the SEC championship game and to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl.
This year’s team, led by such established players as quarterback Aaron Murray and All-American outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, is expected to contend again for the SEC championship.
Murray passed for 242 yards and three touchdowns.
Jones delivered two decisive plays to help Georgia put the game away. He returned an interception to the 1 midway through the fourth quarter to set up a touchdown by freshman tailback Todd Gurley. Jones then had a sack and forced fumble to set up Ken Malcome’s 6-yard scoring run.
Georgia has won its first two games despite having four top defensive players suspended. All-America safety Bacarri Rambo, linebacker Alec Ogletree, cornerback Sanders Commings, a former Westside standout, and linebacker Chase Vasser, a part-time starter, were not with the team Saturday night.
Commings and Vasser return this week. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham on Sunday said Rambo and Ogletree are on the depth chart “and we’ll just have to see what happens moving forward.”
Bobo and Grantham filled in for coach Mark Richt, who normally holds Sunday teleconferences to review games but had a family commitment.
Richt refused to update the status of the suspended players until after the first two games.
The suspensions for Rambo and Ogletree could continue two more games.
Rambo’s high school coach said in the spring that he expected the safety would receive a four-game suspension after a second positive test for marijuana, per school policy. Ogletree is reportedly being punished for violating team rules.
With the return of Commings, Malcolm Mitchell could begin playing at cornerback and wide receiver. Mitchell was one of Georgia’s top receivers as a freshman last season, but he moved to cornerback in spring practice following Commings’ two-game suspension following a January arrest on a domestic violence charge.
Mitchell, who missed Georgia’s opening win over Buffalo with a sprained left ankle, had six tackles and broke up two passes Saturday night.
Bobo and Grantham each will try to convince Richt that Mitchell is needed on his side of the ball.
“I promise you I’m going to go in there and politic hard for him offensively,” Bobo said, adding he’s confident Mitchell is “going to start playing some offense this week.”
Grantham won’t relinquish Mitchell without a fight.
“I think he’s a guy that will still continue to play on defense because there is a need for him and what he brings on defense,” Grantham said. “I thought for the first time out he did a good job.
“I think he’s only going to get better as a corner and I think he’s a guy who can be very valuable to us on the corner.”
Grantham had no update on the status of nose guard John Jenkins, who had to be helped off the field late in the game with an apparent leg injury. Richt said after the game that Jenkins was “in good spirits” and added “I think he’s gonna be fine.”