ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia entered Saturday’s game against Missouri having committed five turnovers total in its first five games.
It came close to reaching that total Saturday when it had four in a 41-26 loss to No. 25 Missouri.
Georgia’s four interceptions came on fumbles by Aaron Murray on a sack that Missouri turned into a touchdown and by freshman Brendan Douglas on a fumble at the 7 when the Bulldogs were close to scoring their own touchdown.
Murray also threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter.
“You can’t win ballgames when you turn the ball over four times,” said Murray, who had two interceptions before Saturday. “I don’t care who you’re playing. That’s just a recipe for disaster.”
Murray fumbled on a blindside sack in the second quarter on a play tight end Arthur Lynch said he was solely responsible for on the protection.
“That was completely my fault, 100 percent,” Lynch said. “I was expecting to be on him head up and he was wide and my kickstep was too deep.”
Murray fumbled as he was sacked by Shane Ray.
Defensive end Michael Sam picked it up and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-10 with 5:46 left in the second quarter.
Lynch said he apologized to Murray for the play.
“You hate it when it happens that way,” coach Mark Richt said, “It’s not like their offense had to drive the field to go get it.”
Bobo said Murray may have forced the interceptions when Georgia was behind.
“No matter what the score is you’ve got to keep trusting your protection and keep taking what the defense gives you,” Bobo said. “We might have pressed a little bit but I’ve got to look at the tape.”
Murray said his interception with 4:15 to play when Georgia trailed 34-26 was a poor decision.
“I tried to force a flag route to a dropping corner,” Murray said. “Should have probably checked it down or thrown it away. That’s just me being greedy. Not a smart play by me.”
Third-down defense woes continue: Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s answer to what’s most ailing the Georgia defense remains a common refrain: not stopping opponents enough on third down.
Missouri converted five of 12 third-down chances Saturday.
That 41.7 rate is actually a tad better than Georgia’s 44.0 season average entering the day, which ranked last in the SEC.
“When you get them to third down, you’ve got to get off the field because third down extends drives, it extends their chances to be on the field,” Grantham said. “That’s the main thing. That’s a big issue, obviously. … You’ve got to be able to get on them and cover them and break the ball up and challenge the throws.”
On one first half scoring drive that ended with Marcus Murphy scoring on a 36-yard touchdown run, Missouri converted three third downs.
Missouri completed a 13-yard pass on a third-and-10 on a diving catch by L’Damian Washington on Damian Swann. Swann was then called for a pass interference on a third-and-8 for another first down. Then Murphy took it the house on a third-and-5.
“There were some untimely ones they got,” Richt said.
Wiggins has big day: Freshman cornerback Shaq Wiggins had four tackles – all solo – a tackle for loss, and a pass breakup, but was on coverage on a pivotal 40-yard touchdown catch by Washington from receiver Bud Sasser.
Richt singled out Wiggins after the game as one of the standouts on defense.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Wiggins made plays on the outside with his tackling.
“I think I’m playing pretty well,” the Sandy Creek product said. “My job is to play the ball and get interceptions and make tackles as well because it’s football. I’m getting paid to get pass deflections and make interceptions, so I just have to work on playing the ball better and getting my hands on the ball more.”
Wiggins was in coverage on Missouri’s 40-yard trick-play touchdown to Washington.
“Shaq competes,” Grantham said. “He’s going to keep getting better. I was proud of his effort. He’s going to be a good player.”
Wiggins has used his quickness making tackles on the quick screen, which he showed on Saturday.
“He’s been tackling very well,” Richt said. “He’s very quick. He breaks on the ball extremely fast. He’s what we thought he was as a field corner.”
Quick hits: After punts of 34 and 30 yards, Georgia replaced Collin Barber with Adam Erickson at punter. Barber sustained a concussion last week against Tennessee. Richt said the change was more about performance, but there’s a “really good chance” Barber will resume his punting role next week.
“Considering that he had the concussion and he came back, he didn’t really punt until I think it was Thursday,” Richt said. “It was hard to tell and Thursday he struggled a little bit, too. I just didn’t want to wait forever on it.” Erickson averaged 40.5 on two punts. … Murray now has 112 career touchdown passes, three away from breaking former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel’s career record. Murray set a career-high with 45 pass attempts. … Richt said he’s “hopeful” safety Tray Matthews will be available against Vanderbilt after missing the last two games with a pulled hamstring. Receiver Jonathon Rumph (hamstring) is expected to return to practice on Monday. … Inside linebacker Reggie Carter became the seventh true freshman to start a game for the Georgia defense this season. Tailback J.J. Green (87 rushing yards) also got his first career start. … Several Georgia players, including Murray, Rantavious Wooten, Kenarious Gates and Josh Harvey-Clemons, wore pink wristbands for breast cancer awareness month. There were pink ribbons painted on the 25 yard lines.