No. 1 Georgia and defense dominate Florida at cocktail party | Sports News
By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Raise a drink in Georgia’s defense. Or three, in fact – one for every second quarter sales that turned the rivalry known as âThe World’s Greatest Outdoor Cocktailâ into another lopsided affair.
The nation’s top-ranked Bulldogs and No. 1 defense dominated Florida, scoring three error touchdowns in a 12-game streak that led them to a 34-7 victory on Saturday, their fourth in five years in the match in neutral site.
Georgia (8-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) won their 12th straight game since crashing in Jacksonville a year ago. The Bulldogs’ injury-ridden defense allowed 571 yards in this one, the most of coach Kirby Smart’s six seasons.
Georgia vowed not to let this happen again and responded with another demoralizing effort that could be their most impressive of the entire season.
“It was really personal,” said linebacker Nolan Smith.
Florida (4-4, 2-4) had no runs, 11 first downs and 214 yards in three quarters and looked like their decades-old NCAA record-breaking streak could be threatened down the stretch. But the Gators eventually made it to the scoreboard with 2:49 left, extending the streak to 418 games. They have scored in every outing since their shutout by Auburn in 1988.
Emory Jones’ late touchdown run, however, did little to undo Georgia’s mastery for more than three hours on a cool, sunny afternoon. All the empty seats on the Florida side of TIAA Bank Field told the real story.
It was over at half-time.
And the Georgian defense deserved a toast to get there.
âIt was quite a boost,â said Smart. “You get momentum like that, it can be excessive swell.”
Smith began the assault by snatching the ball from Anthony Richardson’s arms at the end of an 8-yard run. James Cook pushed his way through the Florida defense for a 10-yard touchdown in the play that followed.
Richardson was making his first career debut, getting the nod on rollover Jones. But it wasn’t the difference Florida fans expected.
âThe talent is there,â said Gators coach Dan Mullen. “We just need to train him on intangibles.”
Two plays later, Travon Walker tipped Richardson’s pass to the center and Smith intercepted it. Stetson Bennett, who started his fourth straight game for JT Daniels, found Kearis Jackson for 36 yards on the first down.
Trailing 17-0, Richardson had Florida on the move before throwing a pass that Nakobe Dean caught and returned 50 yards for a touchdown.
âIt was just swings of momentum,â Smith said. âAnyone could have done it. “
Getting turnovers has been Georgia’s only weakness all season. Smart said an assistant coach went through the stats in the locker room and showed the unit they were in the top three in each category, expect turnovers; the Dawgs were 68th.
âIt offends our guys,â Smart said. âI can’t say that’s why we have turnovers. But it challenged their pride.
The Bulldogs have scored three times in 2:09. The last team to score three touchdowns in a short time at the end of half-time was Utah State, which did so in a 52-26 win over Boise State in 2015.
Florida have never recovered, losing for the seventh time in their last nine games against opponents from the Power Five.
“In the last third of the season, it’s up to me to sort this out,” said Mullen. “And I definitely plan to do that, to change where we are right now.”
Georgia: Smart’s defense seems quite capable of leading the Bulldogs to their first National Championship since 1980. The unit is tough to run, harder to block, and has enough depth to overcome injuries.
Florida: The Gators opened the season thinking they had two quarterbacks. It seems more and more that they don’t even have one. Richardson struggled all day. He completed 12 of 20 passes for 82 yards and added 26 rushing before coming away with a head and neck injury which Mullen said “we’ll get him evaluated.” “
Jones was better late, finishing 10 of 14 for 112 yards. He also ran for 22 and the team’s only score.
Georgia will surely retain their place atop the AP college football poll and likely start the first college football playoff standings of the season at No.1 on Tuesday night.
Florida went 0 for 2 on trick plays, throwing incomplete passes every time.
The first one came with Richardson and Jones on the pitch together. Jones moved away from Richardson, who threw a double cover. Jacob Copeland failed to catch up.
The second was a half-back pass from Malik Davis, who pitched incomplete to Xzavier Henderson.
Walker rushed both games.
Georgia hosts Missouri next Saturday. The Bulldogs have won seven straight series victories.
Florida will play in South Carolina next Saturday. The Gators have won three in a row and five of the last six.
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