JACKSONVILLE, FLA.– Having climbed to a No. 6 national ranking and seeming to have all the momentum heading into Saturday’s huge SEC East battle with arch-rival Georgia, the Florida Gators rudely had that momentum snatched away by the 8th-ranked Bulldogs at TIAA Bank Field.
Dominating the lines of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, the Bulldogs compiled right at 400 yards of offense while limiting the supposedly high-powered Gator offense to 278 yards, including a meager 21 yards net rushing en route to a 24-17 win that wasn’t quite as close as that final tally might indicate.
Now at 7-1 and 4-1 in the SEC, Kirby Smart’s team sets its sights on the SEC East title and a third consecutive December trip to Atlanta. But first, there are the likes of Missouri (coming to Athens Saturday night), Auburn and Texas A&M to deal with before the Bulldogs can lay claim to the division crown.
Georgia never trailed against Dan Mullen’s Gators, surging into a 13-3 halftime lead and then boosting their advantage to 24-10 before Florida tallied a final touchdown with just over three minutes remaining.
These weekly Stats That Matter readily reflect how both the Bulldog offense and defense controlled this football game:
PLAYS OF 20 PLUS YARDS , OFFENSE AND DEFENSE
The Bulldogs managed five of these … a 30-yard run by D’Andre Swift, a 30-yard strike from Jake Fromm to Lawrence Cager, a Fromm-to-Swift pass for 24 yards, a 52-yard touchdown pass to Cager (career-high 7 catches for 132 yards) in the final quarter after the Gators had pulled within 16-10 and, finally, a clutch third-down 22-yard pass from Fromm to tight end Eli Wolf that enabled the Bulldogs to run out the clock in the final minute. The Gators’ Kyle Trask completed passes of 24, 29, 23 and 27 yards in the loss to Georgia.
Had not the Bulldogs committed eight penalties for 46 yards, this win would have come much easier.
There were false start penalties by George Pickens, Trey Hill, and Solomon Kindley, pass interference calls on Eric Stokes, Richard LeCounte and Mark Webb (two of those being refused due to completions), an off-sides infraction on Azeez Ojulari, illegal substitution and delay of game penalties and, most costly, a holding call on Matt Landers that nullified a 37-yard touchdown run by Swift (86 yards on 25 carries) that would have put the Bulldogs up 23-3 in the third quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS WINS VS. MISCUES
Rodrigo Blankenship was perfect on field goals of 31, 37 and 27 yards and booted five of his kickoffs out of the end zone. Jake Camarda punted only twice with one of his kicks going dead at the Gators’ 9-yard line. And Brian Herrien returned two kickoffs for a total of 51 yards.
Once again, when the Georgia defenders made initial contact, they brought the Florida ball carriers down. That’s evident by the Gators having a measly 21 net rushing yards.
Neither team turned the ball over in this game …. no fumbles and both Fromm (20-of-30, 279 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Florida’s Trask (21-of-33, 257 yards, 2 touchdowns) were not intercepted.
RED ZONE (OFFENSE, DEFENSE)
The Bulldogs were a perfect 4-of-4 scoring inside the red zone, though that consisted of the three field goals and just one touchdown. The Gators got their late touchdown on their only march inside the Georgia 20.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
A big, big reason why the Bulldogs whipped the Gators for a third straight time as Georgia converted first downs 12 times in 18 third-down opportunities. Conversely, Florida was just 2-of-9 on third-down conversions.
RUN, PASS ATTEMPTS (TOTAL PLAYS)
The Bulldogs ran the ball 37 times for 119 yards and Fromm passed it those 30 times for 279 yards. That’s 67 total offensive plays for 398 yards as Georgia controlled the ball 35.48 minutes to the Gators’ 24.12 minutes. Florida totaled 278 yards on 52 plays with all but 21 of those yards coming via Trask’s passing.