No. 1 Georgia keeps rolling on offense even after losing standout Bowers

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Top-ranked Georgia has renewed reason to have confidence in its offense as it prepares for a challenge against SEC East rival No. 14 Missouri on Saturday.

Georgia played without its top receiver, tight end Brock Bowers, and still rolled to a 43-20 victory over Florida last week. Bowers leads Georgia with 41 receptions for 567 yards and four touchdowns and has rushed six times for 28 yards and another score. The junior is expected to miss at least a month following ankle surgery.

Georgia (8-0, 5-0 SEC) is No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the 20th consecutive week, the longest in SEC history. It extended its school-record winning streak to 25 games and 24 straight SEC games.

There was reason for the Bulldogs to worry how their offense would fare without Bowers in one of their biggest Southeastern Conference rivalry games against Florida. Instead, quarterback Carson Beck threw two touchdown passes, Daijun Edwards ran for two scores and the offense compiled 486 yards while scoring 36 unanswered points after trailing 7-0.

“I think ultimately we were very grateful for what we were able to do last week,” center Sedrick Van Pran said Monday. “I think Florida has a great defense. They presented a lot of challenges.”

Georgia's fill-in starter at tight end, Oscar Delp, even made a Brock-like play with a one-handed grab for one of his two receptions.

Perhaps the biggest key to the offense's continued success was the play of wide receiver Ladd McConkey, who set career highs with six receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown. After missing the first four games with a back injury, McConkey showed his quickness and speed while filling the void left by Brock as Beck's go-to target.

The Bulldogs hope Bowers returns next month. While Bowers boasts an unusual combination of size (6-4, 240) and speed, McConkey (6-0, 185) offered a reminder he can separate himself from defensive backs by using his unusual quickness.

“Separation is one of the No. 1 qualities,” coach Kirby Smart said Monday when asked about McConkey, who was named the SEC's offensive player of the week.

“We talk about body quicks,” Smart said. "You know, a guy can be straight-line fast, but he doesn’t separate. Can you come in and out of breaks? And that was the first thing that we saw in Ladd when we looked at him was he’s quicker than he is fast, but he’s fast. So when you’re quick and fast is when you’re good.”

The visit from Missouri (7-1, 3-1) provides a reminder of one of Georgia's biggest threats while winning its second straight national championship in 2022. The Bulldogs had to rally from a 10-point deficit to win at Missouri 26-22 last season.

A win Saturday would give the Tigers the advantage in an SEC East tie-breaker with Georgia.

“We thought they were really good last year when we went to play them, and that proved to be true, and they’ve gotten better,” Smart said of Missouri.

Memories of the 2022 scare should help Georgia move past the win in the rivalry game against Florida.

“We have to get back to work,” Van Pran said. "We can’t bring any of those points with us to Missouri. That won’t help us this week, what we’ve done in the past. I think it’s being humble enough to understand that you may have had a relatively good game but it’s time to get back to work.”

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