COLUMBIA, Mo.- Going into its win over Missouri on Saturday in Columbia, Missouri, Georgia had recorded just one sack all season, by senior outside linebacker D’Andre Walker.
In the Bulldogs win over Missouri alone, Walker registered two sacks, doubling the team total for the season and remaining the only Georgia player with a sack to his name. Walker accumulated four total tackles in the game, and his two sacks combined for 14 yards lost. He also forced two fumbles, both on Missouri quarterback Drew Lock.
“They said he had [no sacks], so I said why not just sack him?” Walker said after the win. “We might as well get the ball off him too.”
Plenty of attention was focused on the Georgia pass rush prior to the matchup with Missouri. Lock, a senior, came into Saturday’s game having completed 69 percent of his passes for a total of 1,062 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Last season, he threw for 3,964 yards and 44 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Missouri offense as a whole came in with 1,167 yards of total offense on the season. The Georgia defense, on the other hand, had recorded just 11 tackles for loss on the season before Saturday.
However, thanks in large part to Walker, the pass rush put pressure on Lock and made it a difficult day for the Missouri passing game. The Tigers accumulated a season-low 221 receiving yards. Lock finished the day 23-for-48 with an interception.
“It's hard for me to talk about [Walker] specifically, because I don't know that I watched one guy,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “But I thought as a whole, our pass rush was able to at least affect [Lock], get him out of the pocket, batting balls, causing fumbles.”
According to Smart, Georgia didn't have as much of an opportunity to put pressure on a quarterback prior to Saturday. Whereas Georgia’s other opponents were prone to getting rid of the ball quickly, Lock, on the other hand, prefers to throw from the pocket, which gave the pass rush more of an opportunity to show its potential.
“There was a lot of disruption there, which is what we needed to do,” Smart said. “You gotta try to affect the pocket passer, and I thought we were able to affect him today.”
The presence of a solid pass rush was especially important on Saturday, as Georgia’s run defense faltered for the first time this season. Georgia allowed four touchdowns on the ground to Missouri and 181 rushing yards.
However, Walker’s success in pressuring Lock helped keep the Missouri offense in check, at least enough to keep the Tigers at bay in the first half until the Georgia offense came to life in the second half. Then, the Bulldogs could pull away, tallying three offensive touchdowns while the defense prevented Missouri from scoring any passing touchdowns in the game.
This solid performance by the pass rush could instill more confidence in the Georgia defense from here on out, Walker said.
"I feel like everybody has confidence every time we step out there on the football field, and it was just a lot of momentum," Walker said. "It builds momentum from here on out."