JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Georgia's defense was far from soft against rival Florida.
And now the Gators are no longer undefeated and no longer in charge in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern division.
The 12th-ranked Bulldogs stuffed No. 3 Florida from every angle, forcing six turnovers in a 17-9 victory Saturday that left them on the cusp of the SEC championship game.
Call it the World's Largest Outdoor Turnover Party, and it gave Georgia consecutive wins in the series for the first time since 1989. These have to be two of the most significant victories of Coach Mark Richt's tenure.
The Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1 SEC) can clinch the East and a spot in the conference title game with wins against Mississippi and Auburn the next two weeks.
If they play defense as they did against Florida, getting to Atlanta should be a mere formality.
The Bulldogs did little on offense until Aaron Murray found Malcolm Mitchell for a 45-yard touchdown with 7:11 remaining that put them ahead, 17-9. Mitchell spun out of Loucheiz Purifoy's tackle attempt and went mostly untouched the rest of the way. Florida kept the drive alive with Dominique Easley's holding penalty on third down.
Georgia sealed its fifth victory in the last 23 games in the rivalry with — what else? — a defensive play.
Jarvis Jones knocked the ball out of Jordan Reed's hands near the goal line, and teammate Sanders Commings recovered in the end zone with 2:05 left.
Jones had another huge game against Florida (7-1, 6-1). The senior, who had four sacks in last year's 24-20 victory, finished with 13 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
He helped the Bulldogs respond as well as possible to safety Shawn Williams' criticism of "playing too soft" earlier in the week. Williams had a point after Georgia allowed at least 20 points in six of its first seven games and gave up 206 yards rushing last week at Kentucky.
Jones missed that game with a sprained ankle. With him back, Georgia looked like a different defense, and it surely helped that Florida self-destructed at every turn.
The Gators got behind early in a game that will be remembered for turnovers, countless flags, chippy play and stout defense. Quarterback Jeff Driskel fumbled twice on Florida's first three plays. Georgia recovered the second one, which set up Todd Gurley's 10-yard touchdown run.
Gurley finished with 118 yards on the ground, but most of it came early.
The Gators settled down defensively and intercepted three passes from Murray, who completed 12 of 24 passes for 150 yards. But they managed just two field goals off those turnovers.
Florida made it 10-9 on Caleb Sturgis' 50-yard field goal in the fourth, but Driskel's mistakes proved to be too much to overcome.
The Gators, who turned the ball over just four times in their first seven games, had four in the first 36 minutes Saturday.
Driskel fumbled twice, was intercepted twice and was sacked five times. He completed 14 of 26 passes for 185 yards. Mike Gillislee finished with 77 yards rushing.
Florida Coach Will Muschamp said all season how small his team's margin for error was. It really showed Saturday as the Gators got behind early and failed to make a comeback. The Gators had been 3-0 when trailing at halftime, but they didn't make the same successful halftime adjustments that carried them in wins against Texas A&M, Tennessee and Louisiana State.
Florida was held under 200 yards passing for the fourth consecutive game.
The Gators finished with 266 yards of offense and 95 yards in penalties.
Georgia had 273 yards of offense and was flagged 14 times for 132 yards.
Copyright 2012 by News4Jax.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.