Georgia’s defense collapses in loss to Florida

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Georgia’s defense collapses in loss to Florida

Georgia inside linebacker Monty Rice (32) during the Bulldogs’ game with Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. (Photo by Matt Stamey)

It was a tough night for the Georgia defense in its 44-28 loss to the No. 8 Florida Gators. The Bulldogs could not contain Florida’s passing attack, which was led by senior quarterback Kyle Trask. Georgia’s defense gave up a season-high total in points and total yards on Saturday, which is extremely uncharacteristic of them.

Trask was able to beat them with a ton of chunk plays, especially over the top of defenders and on wheel routes. Trask finished the game by completing 30 of 43 passes for 474 yards with four touchdowns and one interception, which was most by any quarterback in the history of the rivalry. All four of his passing touchdowns came on plays that had a minimum of 14 yards.

The Gators were led in receiving by Malik Davis who hauled in five receptions for 100 yards followed by Kadarius Toney and Nay’Quan Wright with three catches for 71 yards. Florida’s tight end, Kyle Pitts, caught two passes for 59 yards and a score before leaving the game in the second quarter due to an injury.

“It was a lot of eye candy and motions that we didn’t handle well,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “When you let people score with nobody around or there, that’s not good. We had too many of those today, where they didn’t beat us, we gave it to them.”

Although Florida seemed to have dominated through the entire game, that was wasn’t the case.

The Bulldogs got off to a hot start on the first play from scrimmage when running back Zamir White took a handoff 75 yards for a touchdown. Georgia was able to hold Florida on the ensuing possession and scored again on its next drive. Georgia’s Stetson Bennett connected with freshman receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint for a 32-yard completion, which was the first touchdown of his career. Rosemy-Jacksaint then left the game after that with a leg injury and Bennett was also shaken up on the play.

“Stetson did some good things early in the game when he had his starting X receiver, Marcus Rosemy and he had Jermaine Burton out there,” Smart said.

Although down 14 points early, that was when Florida responded.

Trask went to work helping Florida score 14 unanswered points to tie the game. It all started with Florida marching down the field on a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive with it being topped off by a touchdown pass to Justin Shorter.

Florida’s defense held Georgia to -3 yards on offense on the next drive and got the ball back on their own 20-yard line. The bad field position didn’t stop Florida as Trask completed several short passes before finding Pitts on a 34-yard gain that set up Daemon Pierce’s short touchdown scamper, which happened a few plays later.

Trask’s biggest mistake in the game came early in the second quarter as one of his passes was picked off and returned for a touchdown by Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes. That put the Bulldogs up 21-14 with 12:17 left to go in the first half. Following that, Florida scored 24 points to end the first half as they led 38-21 heading into halftime. Those 59 combined points in the first half were the most ever by the two teams in the rivalry that dates back to 1915.

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The Gators put 411 yards of total offense in the first half with Trask having 341 of them through the air. Florida was able to convert six of nine third-down conversations in the first half as well as average 8.9 yards per play. In the first quarter, Florida was able to pick up 46 yards on the ground, which proved to be big as they opened up the passing game in the second quarter.

Georgia only totaled 166 yards of total offense in the opening half with 75 of them coming on White’s run on the first play of the game. The Bulldogs were one of six on third downs in the first half. They only ran 25 plays in the first half (compared to Florida’s 46) and only had the ball for 10:04.

Georgia’s defense only held Florida to just six points in the second half, but the difference was that the Gators were able to find ways to move the football downfield.

Florida head coach Dan Mullen dialed up a game plan that made Trask get rid of the ball fast as it kept the pressure off him all day. Georgia was giving up passes out of the backfield on wheel routes, especially in the second half.

“It was just a great game plan,” Stokes said about Florida. “They already knew some of our checks we were going to so kudos to them.”

Smart would agree with Stokes.

“What I can’t live with is leaving a guy wide open on a wheel route” Smart said. “Those were the breakdowns we had.”

Coming into the game, Georgia allowed an average of 16.2 points per game over its first five contests, which included 41 points in their loss to Alabama. That number will significantly rise after Georgia gave up a season-high 44 points to Florida. The Gators were able to finish with 571 yards of total offense, which is the highest the Bulldogs have given up all season. That number eclipsed Alabama’s 564 yards from three weeks ago.

Trask torched Georgia’s secondary all night as he completed five passes for 30-plus yards. He also completed passes to 10 different receivers, which is something that the Bulldogs aren’t accustomed to. Five of those 10 pass catchers for Florida had at least one reception of over 20 yards. Prior to Saturday, Georgia only allowed opponents to gain 220.6 passing yards per game.

Georgia’s defense was banged up coming into the game as junior nose tackle Jordan Davis, senior defensive tackle Julian Rochester and senior safety Richard LeCounte all were missing in action. The Bulldogs’ other starting safety, Lewis Cine, was ejected for targeting in a collision with Kyle Pitts. Georgia also saw freshman Major Burns go down as well as defensive back Tyrique Stevenson. Ultimately Stevenson returned to the game after heading to the sideline.

Georgia led the SEC in sacks coming into this game but was only able to come up with late in the game as senior outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson finally got to Trask. Credit Florida for keeping him protected all day as they took advantage of Georgia with the loss of Davis and Rochester. That extra protection by Florida’s offensive line gave Trask all day to throw to his receivers.

“They ran the same play twice and Tyrique Stevenson, who has the best ball skills on our team, is getting ready to jump up, and I know he’s going to pick it off,” Smart said. “I’ve seen him do it, and he trips and falls over 84, (Kyle) Pitts, and he catches it for a big play. Then they come back on the next series and hit a big play for a touchdown on Mark Webb where he doesn’t see his guy.”

Smart did give credit to where its due at the end of the day.

“We made too many silly mistakes on defense,” Smart said. “It’s tough when you give those up.”

It was just a tough day for Georgia’s defense as they failed to stop another elite offense, which has happened three times in the last year.

Here’s the video from Smart’s post-game conference:

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.