There are no bad wins in this series, which is not the same thing as saying there aren’t ugly ones. This one definitely qualified as such. If you had told me before the game that Georgia’s special teams would turn in not merely their worst showing of the season, but perhaps the worst of Richt’s tenure, that Aaron Murray would miss on nine passes in a row, some in ways that describing them as bizarre hardly does justice, and that Georgia would spot Florida an early 17-3 lead, I would have predicted another lopsided loss and the death knell of Mark Richt’s career in Athens.
That everything is in a very different place right now is a tribute to how tenacious this year’s Georgia team is, as well as how unbelievably ordinary this year’s winless-in-October Florida team is. Make no mistake; a good team would have taken that early two touchdown-lead and made it stand up. But it’s also just as fair to say that there are any number of Georgia teams over the past two decades that would have allowed themselves to be crushed by such a crappy star, regardless of the quality of the Gators. That this bunch didn’t is something that every Georgia fan should celebrate.
Here’s what I saw:
- I didn’t realize Brantley’s bum ankle prevented him from taking many snaps under center, so I thought Weis elected to come out with five-receiver sets as a matter of strategy. In any event, it worked well early, as the Gator offense must have racked up 150 yards of offense with five minutes to go in the first quarter. But Grantham started making adjustments quickly and Weis evidently had little in the way of options to counter those. Once Williams made it back on the field, allowing Commings to shift back to corner, that was it for Florida.
- Hard to believe, but Florida’s offensive line is worse than Georgia’s. So is their receiving corps (and that’s with Georgia’s being so depleted that a walk-on snagged a catch in the game).
- From an emotional standpoint, it’s hard to underestimate how big the Bennett TD catch and the reversed call on the fumble were. The former may go down as the play that saved Richt’s career. The latter was the kind of call that Georgia never seems to get in this series. In both cases, the momentum changes were palpable.
- The other remarkable moment, emotionally speaking, was delivered by none other than the oft-maligned Richard Samuel IV on what turned out to be the last scoring drive of the day. He electrified his teammates and the crowd, and took something out of the Florida defensive line. What’s the opposite of an energy vampire?
- As awful as Murray was in stretches – and that was pretty damned awful, to be honest – he still had his moments. He ran tough and made some good throws, like the TD pass to King. But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Georgia quarterback and his receivers not on the same page so many times in one game.
- And blowing that perfectly designed, perfectly executed pass off the fake reverse by overthrowing a wide open Orson Charles was gut wrenching. So was Figgins not catching the ball on 344-Fullback.
- Bobo wasn’t perfect, but he had more good moments than bad. Given that he was missing his best receiver, his best running back missed a good part of the game injured and he lost a starting offensive lineman midway through the game, he did okay. He made a good adjustment with the running game by ditching the I-formation and running out of three-receiver sets that forced Florida out of stacking the middle of the field.
- More importantly, he made the gutsiest call of the game, with the pass play to Conley as Georgia was trying to put the game away. You could hear the collective holding of breath as Murray set up to throw, but it was a well designed play that took advantage of how Florida’s corners had played those passes earlier.
- I can’t really add anything more about Jarvis Jones, except that his performance was even more impressive because he was held more than any other player on Georgia’s defense.
- This just in: when Jeff Demps is healthy, he’s really, really fast.
- I’m guessing most are blaming the breakdowns in kickoff coverage on coaching, but I’m not sure they’ve got the best personnel deployed for the job. I get Demps being able to run away from people, but Andre Dubose? He’s fast, but he’s not that fast.
- Two touchdown passes on fourth downs. You saw that coming, right?
- Walsh just seems to be falling apart. The two field goal misses were bad, but not being able to kick a single touchback, even when he had a stiff wind at his back, was puzzling. When Georgia took the lead, I joked to a friend that Georgia ought to try an onside kick.
- Worse, whatever he’s got may be catching, based on Drew Butler’s performance in crunch time.
- Ogletree looked like the foot wasn’t bothering him at all. Loved the way he closed on Rainey from the backside on Rainey’s short gain in a third quarter series.
Two bigger picture points worth mentioning. First, anyone who doesn’t think this game is special should have witnessed in person the last minute of the game and the fifteen minutes after it ended. No doubt the stakes were huge in terms of Richt’s career and the SEC East race, but there’s always something wonderful about watching the orange-and-blue half of the stadium empty and Georgia’s players and coaches celebrate with the fan base. There simply isn’t any thing else like it on the schedule. And there never will be.
Second, and I don’t want to too much out of this point, the biggest shock of all to me was that it was Georgia which that played like the team with the mental edge. They got down by two touchdowns because of bad special teams play, a defensive let down and an offense that couldn’t get out of its own way early, yet the Dawgs never lost their quit. It was Florida that was the team with the stupid and costly penalties and that couldn’t find any answers as the lopsided time of possession caught up with the Gators as the second half progressed. I’m not making any bold predictions here, but if you want to start changing the tone of this game, it has to start somewhere. From an attitude standpoint, yesterday may wind up providing the spark that lets some equilibrium come back into the series.
But that’ll wait. Right now, there’s plenty to savor, which is a helluva lot more than we could say this time last year. Georgia’s in the thick of what is now a two-team race to win the SEC East. Florida’s been eliminated from the conference race, in a nice reversal from the 2008 season. This year’s Dawgs don’t approach greatness, true, but all we should care about is whether they’re special enough to get to Atlanta in a few weeks.