JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – I was at the game and I'm still trying to figure out how Florida was even in it at the end. Georgia did everything right while the sun was shining, getting Todd Gurley back and having Aaron Murray play well, leading them to a 17-0 and 23-3 lead at halftime. Then a strange sequence of events started with a backwards pass that Georgia thought was an incompletion and stopped and watched as the Gators scooped the ball up and returned it to the 17.
Somewhere, Florida found life on offense and scored a TD to make it 23-10. The ‘Dogs still seemed to be in command until a series of field position possessions left Georgia with the ball at their own 2. Aaron Murray's play-action fooled nobody and he was sacked in the end zone for a safety, 23-12 Bulldogs. That's when the momentum really turned and the Gator offense found some holes in Georgia's defensive scheme, especially when it came to covering the quarterback, Tyler Murphy. A couple of Murphy scrambles and Florida was suddenly back in it 23-20 after a two point conversion.
And that's when it really got strange.
Georgia started to move the ball but at their own 40, Mark Richt decided to go for it on 4th and 1 with a couple of timeouts and trick plays and formations, only to fall short and give the Gators the ball back. By the way, I don't think I've ever seen 5 unsportsmanlike penalties called on the same play, but I can't say that anymore.
Because of the nature of the fans in the stadium, that's when things really started to get loud with both sides trying to support their defenses and heckling the other side. It spilled over onto the field as well, the emotion of the game, in essence an elimination contest for the SEC, getting the better of some of the players.
For a long time, the Florida/Georgia game was fairly uninteresting. Vince Dooley had the Gators number and Georgia rolled through Jacksonville for most of the 70's and 80's as the Dogs contended for SEC and National Titles. Steve Spurrier was determined to change that and he did as the Gators took control in the 90's and beyond while Florida owned the conference and emerged as a national power. Urban Meyer continued that, but Mark Richt eventually figured it out and that leaves us where we are right now: Two teams, pretty evenly matched with a lot to play for when the come to Jacksonville around Halloween.
I was pretty impressed when Murray announced after last season that he was coming back for his senior year at Georgia. It made sense, but so many guys (see Blaine Gabbert) come out before they should I figured Murray was looking for the NFL riches he would have commanded. By coming back, he's probably enhanced his draft stock but also showed what he's learned in his 5 years in Athens. So leading by 3 with over 8 minutes on the clock, Georgia got the ball with Murray at the controls deep in their own territory. With some strong runs, a couple of key pass completions and a key hands to the face penalty (the officials had a tough time controlling the game all day), the ‘Dogs ran out the clock and came away victorious for the third year in a row. Murray becomes the first Georgia QB since Buck Belue in '79, '80 and '81 to win three straight against the Gators and the Bulldogs stay in the SEC race. Barely.
For Florida, any hope of an SEC title is now gone and at 4-4 with three straight losses they're reeling with four games remaining. With games at South Carolina and home against FSU among those four, Gator fans are hoping the team finishes above .500.