ATHENS, Ga. — Brendan Douglas doesn’t fear contact.
At Aquinas, he was a tackling machine as well as a physical runner and blocker with deceptive speed. At Georgia, he’s doing his best to truck defenders.
But that’s what made Saturday’s fumble late in the second quarter all the more frustrating. A play that was going to be another tough run ended as a turnover inside the Missouri 10.
Though the freshman had 113 total yards and scored Georgia’s first touchdown in the No. 7 Bulldogs’ 41-26 loss to No. 25 Missouri, Douglas, seeing a large workload due to team injuries, was left focusing on the fumble that happened with less than two minutes to go in the half and Georgia down 28-10.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Douglas said. “I was just trying to battle for some more yards and it popped out. I kind of thought I was down, but I guess I wasn’t. It was all my fault. I shouldn’t have done that.”
The Bulldogs would fight back to get within 28-26, but injury-riddled Georgia turned it over twice late to get its first conference loss of the season.
Douglas and fellow freshman J.J. Green were thrust into important roles due to injuries to top running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. While Gurley may be back this upcoming game against Vanderbilt, Marshall is out for the season.
Aquinas graduate Douglas said both he and Green were ready for the challenge and the opportunity after the injuries.
Douglas gained 70 rushing yards and Green led with his 87 — Green’s 57-yard run in the third quarter was the longest play of the day. As for the former Irish star, Douglas was not only the team’s busiest rusher with 14 carries, but his six receptions led the team. Douglas’ 43 receiving yards ranked third.
“We got to step up and play like we’re juniors and seniors,” Green said. “We got to play grown man football.”
Early on, on game’s first touchdown drive, Douglas was a main target. He rushed for 11 yards on his one attempt and had 22 receiving yards on short passes, including a seven-yard pass from Aaron Murray for the score with 3:44 to go in the first quarter.
“I thought those guys played well,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We thought we had to spread it out to run the ball against these guys. They hit some runs and ran hard and ran physical. They were where they were supposed to be on the checkdowns all game. We knew it was going to be a big game for them because they were going to make you be patient against their defense. We were patient most times and sometimes we weren’t.”
At the half, Douglas had Georgia’s lone touchdown.
But that turnover stung.
“There’s a chance we could have scored a touchdown,” Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. “The ball would have been down close.”
The running back was still busy after the turnover, however, as he had 46 yards in Georgia’s touchdown drive that made it 28-26 after a failed two-point conversion.
But Georgia wouldn’t get closer or grab the lead again in a defeat that muddied the SEC East division picture. With the division thrown into a state flux, Douglas did his best to look the future.
“You never know what could happen — it’s the SEC,” Douglas said. “There are some great teams Missouri’s got to play. We just got to take it one game at a time now.”