It was the most exhilarating opening seven and a half minutes I’ve ever witnessed in a Georgia-Florida game. Ever. I don’t know if I can call it perfect, but if not, it’ll do until perfect comes along.
A shut down opening series by the defense, a turnover mixed in and three scoring drives that were lightning-fast — only the first took two minutes — and in what seemed like the blink of an eye, Georgia was up 21-0. (In case you need a reminder, Georgia scored a combined thirteen points in its two previous games against the Gators.)
At the 7:31 mark in the first quarter, the first Florida fans left our section for the day.
It came so fast and so brutally one-sided that it felt as if everyone in the stadium collectively exhaled at that point and said, “what just happened?”. The sense of the surreal even seemed to extend to both teams, as the pace slowed and the game retreated into a lull for the next quarter and a half. The Gators forced punts on Georgia’s next two possessions and their running game seemed to gain a little traction behind Perine. Even so, the three-touchdown lead held up as Georgia stopped Florida’s only real scoring threat on downs at the two-yard line.
Any residual doubts about the game came to an end in the third quarter, which has been a consistent feature of this season. Fromm threw an ill-advised pass, his one true freshman moment of the day, and was intercepted. From there (1) the Gators turned the ball over on downs; (2) Michel turned in his second long touchdown run of the game; and (3) J.R. Reed notched Georgia’s first defensive score of the season.
That made it 35-0 and there were still more than five minutes left in the third quarter. By then, there were more empty seats on the Florida side of the stadium than there were Florida fans. The rout was on. All that was left was to see if the defense could break Florida’s scoring streak; that didn’t happen, but it’s not like I’m going to complain (unlike Kirby and the defensive starters, but, hey, they’re entitled).
Smart said after the game that the fan base was starved for success against Florida. That’s a slight overstatement in one sense, in that with the win the series is tied at 4-4 over the last eight games. In another sense, though, it’s spot on. What we’ve been hungry for is for Georgia to dominate a game the way it had been dominated by some of the Spurrier and Meyer teams over the past quarter century. That was delivered in spades, and for that, I thank you profusely, Kirby.
I almost feel like bullet points are unnecessary, but what the hell, let’s throw a few in here.
- There’s so much revenge factor in the win, it’s almost hard to believe. Georgia’s running game was shut down last season; this game saw the Dawgs almost run for 300 yards. I imagine if Sony and Nick go to see Jim Chaney today, it won’t be to urge a change in the game plan.
- In 2014, Treon Harris completed a whopping three passes. Okay, Fromm completed four, but one of those was for a touchdown.
- Of course, the greatest satisfaction was shutting down Florida’s pre-game yapping. Georgia went about its business and Florida never had an answer.
- Fromm’s interception was the result of bad judgment, but had no impact on the result. Beyond that, he did what he’s been asked to do all season and did it well, by and large. The touchdown throw to Wims was a beauty and, even better, came as the result of making a solid read on the defensive alignment and realizing he had single coverage on both outside receivers.
- Maybe I’m being a little picky here, but back-to-back delay of game penalties? Really, Dawgs? I don’t know if that was on Fromm or on the coaches, but I did notice that Eason came in right after that.
- There were a lot of weird statistics from the game. Wims was the only Georgia receiver who had a catch, and he only had one. (Swift had the other three.) Florida dominated time of possession, largely because Georgia had only one scoring drive I can think of that lasted three minutes. The Gators (I think) also had more first downs, again because most of Georgia’s scoring drives were so short.
- Obviously, if the running game is dominant, the offensive line was doing its job. Yes, the Gator defense did slow things down in the second quarter by overloading the box. Chaney didn’t take the bait and remained committed to the run, even with the diminished returns, because of the obvious expectation that the Gator defense would eventually wear down and that is what happened in the second half.
- This is why Nick Chubb and Sony Michel came back.
- D’Andre Swift is something to watch. That is all.
- Aside from disappearing a little in the second quarter, when it appeared that they didn’t stay sound in their games, it was another great day for the defensive line. Thompson’s return made a difference, but Atkins and Marshall turned in great efforts, too.
- Hello, sacks.
- You may not have noticed, but the defender on the incomplete fourth-and-two pass into the end zone was D’Andre Walker. Yeah, Tucker was a little creative Saturday.
- You really had the feeling after a while — okay, maybe not that long — that Georgia wasn’t concerned at all about Florida’s passing game. With good reason.
- Reggie Carter announced his return to the game with a bang, didn’t he?
- You knew sooner or later Florida was going to test Malkom Parrish on the deep ball. He passed.
- I think Florida’s offensive line just had another motion penalty called.
- Roquan Smith.
- Lorenzo Carter was all over the place and generally had a kick ass day.
- I love watching teams throw at Deandre Baker. Florida went after him on a bubble screen where the defender did get his block down; Baker still managed to play off the block and make the tackle. That’s about the only passing yardage I can recall the Gators gaining on Baker.
- Special teams didn’t do anything particularly memorable. That’s a compliment. And a relief.
- There really isn’t much to say about the coaching after a dominant win like that. Chaney and Tucker both had a game plan and their kids ready to execute it. Ain’t really much else to add. And Kirby made sure there was no complacency. Georgia called an early time out after jumping out to a lead and Smart was out on the field as his team came to the sideline, chewing some serious ass.
- It looks like Steve Shaw needs to hold a meeting about the meaning of in the grasp. Either Franks should have been called down the first time it happened, or Aaron Davis should have been credited with a pick-six on the second occasion. That was just the worst part of what was a bad day for the officiating crew.
The season keeps putting up tests for Smart and this team. So far, they’ve managed to handle every one. Let’s see if the focus stays on track against South Carolina.