For the first time in my three years at the University of Florida, I actually went to Jacksonville for the Florida/Georgia game. I did not physically go to the game, but I did watch it from outside the stadium in a viewing area with my roommate and some of my fraternity brothers. It was an absolutely incredible experience as I just took in all the wackiness from the "World's Largest Cocktail Party".
As for the game itself, all I have to say is go Gators! The #11 Florida Gators put a whipping on the Bulldogs yesterday with an impressive 27-3 win. After winning this critical game, Florida has essentially wrapped up the SEC East division title.
From the get-go, I knew this would be a defensive game, Florida's offense was doing nothing early as Treon Harris at one point missed eight consecutive throws. Luckily for the Gators, their defense came to play and took advantage of the ineptness of Georgia QB Faton Bauta. He was sacked once and threw FOUR interceptions.
Florida held Georgia to just 223 total yards of offense and kept the Bulldogs out of the end zone the entire game. Bauta could not do anything as he finished with 154 yards and a 46% (15-33) completion percentage. Backup running back Sony Michel had just 45 rushing yards on 13 attempts and go-to receiver Malcolm Mitchell was held to just 60 yards on four receptions.
The Gators ran a no-fly zone yesterday on defense as linebacker Jarrad Davis, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, and safeties Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye all recorded an interception off Bauta. Davis was the Gators' leading tackler on the day with six tackles and 0.5 of a sack. Fellow linebacker Antonio Morrison joined him with six tackles as well.
Florida broke up five passes and hurried Bauta three times. They stuffed Georgia on two fourth down attempts (one being a disaster of a fake punt) and capitalized for 20 points off of turnovers. The only thing the defense did wrong was that they allowed Georgia to score.
The momentum was all Florida's for a majority of the game and it all started after the Gators punted in the waning moments of the first quarter. Watching this on TV from outside, I began to hear the crowd roar. I immediately thought, "Oh great, UGA blocked the punt". However, when I saw Johnny Townsend (the G.O.A.T.) punt the ball away, I knew that could only mean one thing: a muff.
I was right, Georgia punt returner Reggie Davis (who could not catch anything thrown his way in the game) dropped the ball and it skirted into the end zone. Immediately, blue jerseys were all around the ball and Jacksonville's very own Nick Washington jumped on it to secure the first score of the game for the Florida Gators! Coincidentally enough, the Gators this year were able to capitalize off a wacky special teams play to score a touchdown just like last year with the Michael McNeely trick play.
Apart from the muffed punt, special teams was the same old song and dance for Florida as Austin Hardin missed a 45-yard attempt and had his first PAT blocked. However, punter Johnny Townsend continued to ball as the first Gator touchdown came off of HIS punt. He was able to send off five punts for 189 yards and pin Georgia inside their own 20-yard line twice.
On offense, the Gators looked anemic early before finding spurts of life here and there. Treon was way more effective in this year's Georgia game compared to last year when he only threw six passes. This time around, he completed 8 of 19 passes for 155 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. He used his legs to run 10 times for 39 yards.
I have to admit there are times when I get really frustrated with Treon, but he got the job done at the end of the day. He beat Georgia for the second time in his career now and I can assume this is only going to boost his confidence as Florida moves deeper into the season.
Florida had some good support from the ground game as Kelvin Taylor ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns on 25 attempts. Complementing him, Jordan Scarlett had a nice day as well as he ran for 96 yards on nine attempts.
Florida's ability to establish the run game early was huge as I am not a proponent (yet at least) of putting the entire offense in Treon's hands. Taylor and Scarlett made it much easier on Treon by combining for over 200 rushing yards and fighting their way through Georgia's run defense.
In the receiving core, Antonio Callaway continues to make things happen as he caught three passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. After Callaway, it drops off as tight end Jake McGee caught three balls as well for just 23 yards. Callaway continues to be a touchdown threat and McGee simply does his job as a red zone threat and safety valve for his quarterback.
The Florida Gators are for real. They tossed Georgia around and forced Bulldog fans out of Everbank Field before the game was even over. The defense had one of its best games of the year as this is the first time since 1984 that Georgia did not score a touchdown against Florida.
Even in the fourth quarter with Georgia knocking on the door in a 20-3 game that was pretty much decided, the Gator defense still stood strong and was able to pick off Bauta to keep the Dawgs out of the end zone.
As great as the Florida defense was, Georgia's receivers helped out with some drops in big spots on third down. If the receivers simply did their job, it would have been a much closer contest. Also, the Gators ability to win the turnover battle 4-1 was also important as Florida gave Georgia no free opportunities to spring back to life.
Now on to my final thought. In the third quarter, Jordan Cronkrite was ejected due to a targeting call on a block he threw on a Georgia player. I personally believe it was a bad call but the refs thought otherwise. For Florida, this was not much of a loss compared to if it would have been Kelvin Taylor or VH3 who had been tossed. He is due to miss the first half of the Vanderbilt game, which honestly is not going to hurt Florida too much as he is sparingly used to begin with.
At 7-1 (5-1 in SEC play), #11 Florida prepares to come back to The Swamp for a Homecoming game against the struggling Vanderbilt Commodores (3-5, 1-3 in SEC play). With a win over Vandy, the Gators will most likely clinch the SEC East for the first time since 2009. Kickoff is set for noon and it can be seen on ESPN.
As for Georgia (5-3, 3-3 in SEC play), their SEC title game hopes have been dashed yet again by the Florida Gators. All they can do now is focus on bowl eligibility as they head home to play the Kentucky Wildcats (4-4, 2-4 in SEC play). Kickoff for this game is all set at noon and it can be seen on the SEC Network.
*All stats accredited to Gatorzone.com