The Bulldogs Danced, the Gators Won
The Gators came into the game on somewhat of a down note. Playing with the target on their backs all year as the No. 1 ranked team in the land, Florida has tried to live up to last year's national championship team and offensively have struggled to do so.
Georgia came in unranked and 4-3 on the season. The Bulldogs needed some help to get motivated.
The Bulldogs came out against the Gators in black helmets and black pants, believed to be the first time in program history that Georgia has worn black helmets. No doubt it was to motivate the team and the fans and the fans did notice with a huge roar when they ran on the field the first time.
But, it wasn't enough.
Florida, in front of the announced crowd of 84,604, extended its nation's-best and school-record win streak to 18 games, while remaining undefeated and on course to contend for the SEC and national championships.
Georgia deferred the opening kick to the Gators and Florida wasted little time in making them pay for giving the ball up. It took the Gators all of two minutes and 39 seconds to go 80 yards for the game's first points.
The Gators have struggled to resemble the offense of the last two years, and on this possession they used quick passes to the outside and quick sweeps to get the ball rolling. Then on 2nd-and-5 from the Georgia 22-yard line, Tebow threw the ball to the left back corner of the end zone when Tebow moved out of the pocket to make the throw.
The Dawgs came out on the next series and got one first down compliments of a personal foul call part of a nine-penalty for 87-yards night for the Dawgs.
Florida took the next possession from their own 8-yard line after a 52-yard punt from Georgia's nation-leading punter Drew Butler. Butler punted four times for a 52.5 yard average on the night.
The Gators went the 92 yards in 11 plays capped by a highlight reel catch from Cooper in the back right corner of the end zone. The drive could have stalled with a sure dropped touchdown pass from Tim Tebow to Brandon James, but Tebow was able to convert on 3rd-and-5 with a patented run. Three plays later Cooper and the Gators were celebrating.
The Bulldogs finally got on the scoreboard with an 11-play, 49-yard drive that ended in a field goal. Making the score 14-3.
Aided by a drop on the next possession, the Florida offense stalled and punted slowing their momentum from the first two drives to a halt and giving the Bulldogs the ball on their own 34 yard line.
A Gator personal foul on first down saw the Bulldogs with the ball at Florida's 4-yard line. Two plays later, tight end Aron White caught a Joe Cox touchdown making the score 14-10.
Sensing a monumental swing, the Bulldogs decided to dance on their sideline. The whole team jumped up and down and whooped it up in between the score and kickoff. Reminiscent of the penalty the Bulldogs received two years ago for running onto the field to celebrate their first score, the fans were in a frenzy.
The excitement seemed to get to the Georgia players and a personal foul penalty on the ensuing kickoff helped the Gators in regaining some momentum as they moved down the field and watched kicker Caleb Sturgis kick the longest field goal of his career of 56 yards. It was the second longest field goal in SEC history and the longest in the SEC this season.
Urban Meyer wasn't surprised at Sturgis' kick.
"He does it in practice all of the time, "Meyer said. "I almost put Jonathan Phillips in but I know Sturgis has a great leg and I know he can do it. It was great momentum for the team in the second quarter."
The Gator defense responded to the Georgia dance and forced 13 yards in losses on the next drive including an 11 yard sack from junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap on 3rd-and-12.
Tebow and company led off the next drive with a 20-yard pass to Riley Cooper and culminated in a 23-yard quarterback draw from Tebow for a touchdown allowing him to set a record that hasn't been broken in 27 years.
Tebow broke Georgia's Herschel Walker's (1980-82) SEC record, scoring his 50th rushing touchdown with 1:32 left in the first half on a 23-yard run. Tebow would later run for another score. He surpassed Alabama's Shaun Alexander (1996-99) and LSU's Dalton Hilliard (1982-85) to move into third for most touchdowns in SEC history.
"To break Herschel Walker's record in the SEC is great, and I get to coach Tim for four more games," Urban Meyer said after the game for Tim's achievement. "This is a special record for him and it means the world to his team. We gave him a game ball and we're all in awe."
It was a 10-0 swing for the Gators after the Georgia dance and clearly the game momentum had switched for the last time. The half ended with the score 24-10 when any semblance of trying to score on the Bulldogs last possession ended with a nine yard sack by junior Gator and Georgia native Jermaine Cunningham. The Gators recorded three sacks on the night and have had 16 in the past four games.
Georgia received the opening kick off and went one play and out when Florida junior linebacker A.J. Jones intercepted the ball after getting his own deflection of a Joe Cox pass. Jones had two interceptions on the night, the first time he has done that in his career. Jones has gotten three that were tipped high in the air in the last two games and Meyer says that the junior has come a long way since last season.
"We really need to teach A.J. to jump and catch as opposed to sit there and wait on it," Meyer said jokingly. "You know last year he didn't play much and two years ago he played because he had to. He's a grown man now, taking care of business and is a program guy. It's a result of the coaching staff, his great family, and he's a different player now. I am really proud of him; he is doing well in school and has great character."
The Gators scored three plays later on a five yard option keeper from Tebow who finished with two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns on the night.
Georgia answered back with a touchdown of their own, as Joe Cox hit Michael Moore in the back of the end zone on a four yard pass play culminating a 14-play, 79-yard drive. Georgia moved the ball well on the Gators when they weren't turning it over.
Turnovers came in bunches as three Bulldog interceptions in a row brought on another 10 points for the Gators. It was a great night for Gator linebackers as the three starters accounted for all four interceptions including one from senior Ryan Stamper and a late fourth quarter five yard interception return for a touchdown by senior defensive leader Brandon Spikes.
Meyer was extremely happy for his team after the game and was ready to reward his seniors.
"It's a very emotional locker room, it's senior day and we are going to make sure that every senior gets a game ball for their effort," Meyer said. "Ryan Stamper had a career day and the seniors had a career day against Georgia."
Meyer wouldn't comment on what Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan said to his team this week, but the two time national champion coach delivered a special message late in the week.
"Billy Donovan is one of my best friends and he did a phenomenal job and that was our whole deal with this message," Meyer said. "His message was to stick together and to have a resource like that is real cool. What he did for our team is real stuff, he's the best."
Since Urban Meyer became the head coach in 2005, the Gators are now 14-1 against tradition rivals (Florida State, Georgia, Miami and Tennessee), including a 4-1 record against the Bulldogs.
The Gator defense recorded six tackles for loss against Georgia, marking the seventh game in a row the defense tallied five or more tackles for loss.
Special teams continue to stop opponents from returning punts as they did not allow any punt return yardage for the eighth straight game. The Gators have recorded zero punt-return yardage this season.
Gators have allowed only 88 points this season, including only eight touchdowns through eight games as the defense allowed two today for the fifth and sixth allowed of the season.
With the two passing touchdowns in the first half, Tebow tied Rex Grossman (2000-02) for third in UF history with 77 passing touchdowns.
Tebow recorded 85 net rushing yards in the game tonight, amassing 2,588 in his career, surpassing Arkansas's Matt Jones (2001-04/2,535) for most career rushing yards by a quarterback in the SEC.
With 78 receiving yards in the first half, Cooper surpassed the 1,000-yard career mark as he has collected 1,009 yards as a Gator.
Senior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham recorded his fifth sack of the season and second forced fumble, which the Bulldogs recovered, with 1:12 left in the first half.
Tebow connected on his first six passes before throwing an incomplete pass intended for senior athlete Brandon James (that was dropped) at the 5:34 mark in the first quarter.
Senior linebacker Brandon Spikes returned his first interception of the season five yards for a Gator score with 6:24 left in the game. It marked the third interception return for a touchdown in his career and the fifth career interception.
Freshman running back Mike Gillislee recorded a 49-yard run with 2:28 left in the game, the longest run of his young career.
Temperature at game time was 84 degrees, which is the hottest it has been at kickoff for a Bulldogs' game this year. The previous high was the season opener at Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla. The temperature was 81 degrees.
The Bulldogs had their fifth different starting lineup on the offensive line with junior Clint Boling (LT), sophomore Cordy Glenn (LG), sophomore Ben Jones (C), junior Chris Davis (RG), and junior Josh Davis (RT). Also of note, junior LB Akeem Dent returned to action after missing the last five games with a hamstring injury.
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