ATHENS, Ga. — The magic that Georgia produced with equal parts guts and guile ran out Saturday.
Four backbreaking turnovers and a defense that couldn’t make needed stops late contributed as No. 25 Missouri pulled away with a 41-26 upset over No. 7 Georgia in Sanford Stadium.
The Bulldogs rallied from down 18 at the half to pull within two, but Missouri responded with a trick play touchdown and Aaron Murray couldn’t carry Georgia to another win this time.
“Just a tough, tough day for Georgia,” coach Mark Richt said.
With top tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and receivers Justin Scott-Wesley, Michael Bennett and Malcolm Mitchell also missing, the Bulldogs saw their national titles hopes all but extinguished.
“That’s not in my mind at all,” Richt said. “What’s in my mind is making corrections and getting ready for Vanderbilt (Saturday). … In the really big picture, the national picture, I’d be foolish to sit here and think of trying to think of a scenario where we can get there.”
The main focus for Georgia (4-2, 3-1) since the off-season was to get to Pasadena for the BCS Championship Game.
Now it will need to focus on simply reaching the Southeastern Conference Championship Game for the third season in a row.
“It’s got to be about Atlanta,” tight end Arthur Lynch said.
Only one team – Louisiana State in 2007– has reached the BCS title game with two losses.
“If we keep banging away and playing good football, good things will happen for us,” Richt said.
The Bulldogs’ 15-game home winning streak was snapped.
Missouri (6-0, 2-0 SEC) is alone for now atop the SEC East after winning its first true road game against a top-10 team since beating Mississippi State in 1981.
A depleted offense and a defense that can’t seem to force turnovers couldn’t pull out the win this time.
An opposing team left Athens after scoring 41 points on Georgia for the second consecutive game.
“I thought we did some good things all day, but they created the turnovers,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
Murray threw two interceptions, including when the Bulldogs were needing another late-game drive to score.
Trailing 34-26 with 4:25 to play, Georgia needed 76 yards to get a chance to tie the game.
The Bulldogs had rallied to beat LSU and Tennessee the past two weeks.
“We were absolutely thinking, here we go again,” Richt said
Georgia never got the drive started.
Murray’s pass intended for Chris Conley was picked off by cornerback Randy Ponder on the first play.
“That was just me being greedy and making a bad decision,” said Murray, 25 of 45 for 290 yards with three touchdowns.
Henry Josey leaped into end zone for a 7-yard touchdown to seal it.
Missouri ran out to a 28-10 halftime lead, scoring on drives of 79, 52 and 75 yards and then added insult to Georgia’s injuries when Murray was sacked and fumbled.
Michael Sam scooped and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown.
Looking close to buried, Georgia found new life in the second half.
Georgia’s offense found its groove, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal.
Georgia pulled within two when Murrray hit Conley for a 13-yard touchdown with 12:15 to play.
The Bulldogs two-point conversion try was incomplete when Murray’s pass to Conley hit off him and the Tigers clung to a 28-26 lead.
“We couldn’t quite finish,” Richt said.
Missouri backup quarterback Maty Mauk, playing after James Franklin went to the locker room with a separated shoulder, helped put a dagger in Georgia.
Mauk threw a pass behind the line to receiver Bud Sasser, who lofted a 40-yard scoring strike to 6-4 L’Damian Washington, who made the catch over 5-10 freshman cornerback Shaq Wiggins with 9:22 left. The extra point was wide.
“I should have just played the ball better, but we were looking for the trick play,” Wiggins said.
Georgia didn’t use the injuries as a crutch, but have a “realistic shot,” Richt said of getting Gurley back from his sprained ankle for Vanderbilt.
“There’s a lot more season to play,” Richt said.