COLUMBIA — The Missouri Tigers breathed a sigh of relief.
In the middle of the second quarter of Missouri's first Southeastern Conference game, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones came free around the right edge of the Missouri offensive line. Missouri quarterback James Franklin slowly moved to the left, still looking for an open receiver down field.
Franklin began his throwing motion, bringing the ball back before releasing it forward. Just as the quarterback started his forward motion, Jones' hand came down and knocked the ball forward.
The play was originally ruled a fumble, recovered by Georgia. But after review, it was ruled an incomplete pass.
The Tigers thought they had dodged a bullet. The 71,004 people packed the stands at Memorial Stadium remained hopeful that Missouri would win.
Unfortunately for Missouri, Jones had more ammo.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, a pass interference play gave Missouri a first down. Franklin had just returned to the field after sitting out a play.
The Tigers had a first and 10 at their own 19 with almost eight minutes left in the fourth. They could tie the game with a touchdown.
Then Jones, lurking in the middle of the field, intercepted Franklin's pass and ran it back to the Missouri 1-yard line.
"I actually think that was a touchdown. They didn't give it to me. But you know, you got to take what you can get," Jones said.
The Bulldogs quickly scored, forging a 34-20 lead.
On Missouri's next drive, Jones blew past the offensive line and came around the left at Franklin. Jones hit him, knocking the ball loose. The ball rolled back for what seemed like minutes, before Georgia recovered.
"My teammates look at me as a leader. I'm the one that get the boys going," Jones said. "I had to step it up. I got off the ball good. I learned the snap count."
Soon enough, the scoreboard read Georgia 41, Missouri 20.
“Great player," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "We knew going in it’s hard to contain him because he’s all over the field. He’s just a great, great football player.”
People in the Georgia fan section of the stadium pridefully chanted "Old-man football," embracing a title that was earlier taken as an insult from Sheldon Richardson, while Missouri fans filed out of the stadium.
Quarterback Aaron Murray praised his teammate for his great game.
"Our leaders stepped up today, making plays, and like I said, making sure our guys are staying focused," Murray said.