Everybody knows the recent history of the Florida/Georgia series.
I don't have to tell you that coming into this weekend's Cocktail Party Georgia had only won three of the last twenty-one games. Florida is Georgia's boogeyman and that much we knew coming into this match-up. The stakes were high for both teams. Georgia didn't control it's own destiny but if it won out (and South Carolina won at least once) it had a shot to go to the SEC Title Game. Florida was coming into the game having dropped three games in a row and dropping a fourth to rival Georgia would be too much to stomach for the prideful Gators.
This game started with that eerie feeling for Georgia fans. Florida went 72 yards in just 4 plays but ended up missing a Field Goal. On the next drive Florida went 80 yards in 11 plays and took a 7-0 lead. Florida was seemingly having it's way with a Georgia defense that got Alec Ogletree back this week but was missing starting Safety Shawn Williams and one of their big bodies up front, Kwame Geathers (both sat out first half for suspension from Vandy game). Georgia got a Blair Walsh field goal to pull within four but then Jeff Demps took the kick off 99 yards to put the Gators up 11 points and everything was looking all too familiar. Murphy's Law was taking hold in Jacksonville for the Bulldogs.
The momentum turned at the end of the second quarter when Butkus Award Semi-Finalist Jarvis Jones caused a fumble and Georgia took advantage when Redshirt Freshman Michael Bennett made a fantastic TD catch to pull Georgia to within a TD (17-10) at half-time. Not only was it a big catch but it was on a fourth down that took a lot of guts for Georgia and Mark Richt to call. Down 14 points it might have been a backbreaker if it had fallen incomplete.
In the second half Georgia stalled in their first drive but the defense came up big when Sophomore Alec Ogletree came up with a big strip and caused another fumble. Georgia took advantage and went just 18 yards and ended the drive on another great TD catch, this one by Tavarres King as Georgia tied the game. The pass from Aaron Murray to King was the second time in the game that Mark Richt went for it on 4th down and came up with a touchdown. Gutsy calls that resulted in big dividends for a coach on the Hot Seat. Mark Richt has had a very good career at Georgia but these were two of the biggest calls he's made in his tenure.
Florida then did it again with a huge kick return which set up a FG to give the Gators a lead again. Momentum is a tricky thing in college football and just when you think you have it, it can turn on you. Every time it felt like Georgia was getting back into the game that mysterious Florida/Georgia mojo seemed to be hovering over the Bulldogs heads. Fighting the mojo, Georgia drove the ball 60 yards on an 11 play drive. Then the mojo reared it's ugly head and Blair Walsh missed his second FG of the game. Georgia was down 20-17 and looked in rough shape but Florida would not score again.
On their first drive after Walsh's second missed FG, Georgia took the ball 45 yards behind the running of RB turned LB turned RB Richard Samuel as he rumbled into the end zone on a 4 yard run to give Georgia the lead for good with 13 minutes to go in the game. From there it was the defense that took over and would not allow Florida back in the game despite them starting drives on the Georgia side of the fifty twice in the 4th quarter.
The two biggest players for Georgia on this night were Jarvis Jones and Richard Samuel. Jones was a key throughout the game. He had 3 sacks in the first half alone and finished the game with 4 sacks and a forced fumble. He was a tour de force and proved his worth to Georgia on this night. Richard Samuel ran with heart and ran with bad intentions in the second half. He finished with only 58 yards on 17 carries but it was a hard fought 58 yards and it was one of the keys to Georgia's victory.
In terms of the team it was the defense that came up huge in the second half. I don't know if Florida ran out of gas but Georgia just looked like a much better team when Shawn Williams re-took his starting Safety position and Sanders Commings moved back down to corner opposite Brandon Boykin. Georgia has a lot of work to do in many areas (Special Teams comes to mind) but they won this one with defense and a little bit of heart and intestinal fortitude.
Is the Florida hex finally off Georgia? It's hard to say but what we can say is that Georgia has won two of the last five meetings. It's not that impressive but it sounds better than three of the last twenty-one, right? Georgia now looks forward to Auburn in two weeks (they actually have out of conference foe New Mexico State next week) as the Dawgs have won six straight games and are now 5-1 in the SEC and are in heavy contention to play LSU/Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
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