BIRMINGHAM - Dean Legge's look at the Florida Gators.
Dawg Post's Ten-Year History vs. Florida
Knowshon Moreno gets the party started in 2007. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)
2001 – Florida figured out how to win even though the Gators turned the ball over four times have committed 12 penalties. Even with the mistakes #6 Florida topped #16 Georgia 24-10. Down 17-10, Georgia had the chance to tie the ballgame on the first drive of the second half, but on fourth and two from at the Florida six-yard line Verron Haynes dropped a pass.
2002 – Georgia entered the 2002 game with momentum and the program's first realistic chance to win the national title since 1982. But #20 Florida stunned #5 Georgia 20-13 in one of the most painful losses of the Mark Richt Era. David Greene struggled going 11 for 29 with 129 yards, but still managed to get the Dawgs a 13-12 lead in the fourth quarter. That's when Rex Grossman, who ended the night 36 for 46, drove the Gators down the field 89 yards. He found Augusta native Ben Troupe on a ten-yard touchdown pass to give the Gators a 20-13 lead. Georgia still had a shot to send the game into overtime, but star receiver Terrence Edwards dropped a wide-open pass from David Greene at the Florida 30-yard line with 2:23 remaining in the contest. Georgia went on to win the 2002 SEC Championship and the 2003 Sugar Bowl, but the Florida loss still stings some to this day.
2003 – Georgia limped home after another painful close loss to Florida – this time on Matt Leach's 33-yard field goal in #23 Florida's 16-13 win over #4 Georgia. The Dawgs outran Florida 202-89, but Georgia's defense could not stop another long Florida drive in the fourth quarter. After Georgia rallied to tie the game at 13, Chris Leak drove the Gators 66 yards to set up Leach's game winner.
2004 – Georgia defeated Florida for the second time in 15 years as the #10 Bulldogs beat Florida 31-24. Georgia's win came six days after Florida fired its coach Ron Zook. The Bulldogs raced out to a 21-7 lead and would have been up 28-7 at the half if quarterback David Greene had not fumbled on the Florida one-yard line. Halfway through the third quarter Andy Bailey's field goal gave Georgia a 24-7 lead. That's when Florida rallied to make the game tight – 24-21 in the fourth quarter. Georgia then turned to three players trying to get their first win against the Gators in their last chance to do so. Greene found Reggie Brown on a 51-yard pass on the fist play of the drive. He followed that up with a 14-yard reception, which set up Fred Gibson's 15-yard touchdown catch.
2005 – D.J. Shockley watched from the sideline as his #4-ranked Dawgs fell to #16 Florida 14-10. Neither team played well offensively, but the Gators scored on their first two drives of the game to get a quick 14-0 lead. Joe Tereshinski, who replaced Shockley at quarterback, struggled on the day – he ended up going 8 for 21 with only 100 yards. Down 14-3, it seemed the Bulldogs might make a furious comeback after running back Thomas Brown threw a touchdown pass to Tereshinski on a trick play in the third quarter. But Georgia failed to score yet again.
2006 – Florida forced five turnovers, and Georgia lost its third game in the month of October as the Gators held on for a 21-14 win. Florida came out of the locker room with a 14-0 lead in the third quarter. Kregg Lumpkin was stripped by Derrick Harvey and Ray McDonald picked up the fumble and took it nine yards to put the Gators up 21-0. It seemed the game was out of reach for the Dawgs at that moment, but they rallied. Matthew Stafford scored on a 13-yard run to cut the deficit to 21-7. The Dawgs got within a score when Tim Tebow's fumble lead to Lumpkin scoring on an eight-yard run. But the Dawgs never got a chance to score again. Florida used the win to propel themselves to their first SEC East championship since 2000. They went on to win the SEC title as well as their first BCS championship since 1996.
2007 – Georgia stormed the field and went on to slam Florida 42-30 in the Bulldogs' first win over the Gators since 2004. 70 Bulldogs rushed the field after Knowshon Moreno's one-yard touchdown on the #20 Dawgs' first touchdown of the game. Mark Richt challenged his team: "I told them if they didn't get a celebration penalty after our first score, all of them would be doing early morning runs." Celebrate they did. #9 Florida's bench looked on, stunned. The Gators scored on their following possession, but couldn't keep up with the Dawgs, who scored their most points since routing the Gators 44-0 in 1982. Moreno slashed the Gators on the ground with 188 yards and three touchdowns. The loss was a difficult one for the Gators. Tim Tebow struggled to hold back tears in his post-game press conference.
2008 – Perhaps the most anticipated game between the Gators and Dawgs in decades went to Florida in a big way. Tim Tebow scored five touchdowns and Urban Meyer called two of his second-half timeouts in the final minute of the game to rub #5 Florida's 49-10 win over #8 Georgia. The loss was the worst in Mark Richt's career at Georgia and helped the Gators capture their second SEC title in three years. They would go on to win the 2008 BCS National title – also their second in three years. But the game was as much about Georgia miscues as anything else. Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions, the Dawgs missed two field goals and failed to recover an onside kick early in the second quarter. Florida took the great field position and scored a few plays later to grab a 14-3 lead. They never looked back after that.
2009 – There was a trick, but no treat for Georgia as the Bulldogs fell to undefeated and top-ranked Florida 41-17. The game, coupled with the 2008 blowout, was the worst back-to-back beating in the rivalry in more than a decade. Tim Tebow scored four touchdowns, and the Gators snagged four interceptions as Florida rolled to their 17th win over Georgia in 20 years. Mark Richt had the Bulldogs play in black pants and helmets, but the wardrobe change didn't help Georgia any as the Bulldogs fell to 4-4 on the season.
2010 – Both Florida and Georgia entered the 2010 game unranked for the first time since 1979, but Georgia felt the pain of a loss in the first overtime in this series' history. Chas Henry hit a 37-yard field goal to give the Gators the win, but not after a furious fourth quarter that saw Georgia outscore Florida 21-10. The Gators used the turnover edge (Florida 1, Georgia 4) to power their way to a 21-7 lead. The final turnover, which happened in Georgia's first frame of overtime, cost Georgia the game. Aaron Murray's third-down pass was tipped and picked off and Florida's Will Hill returned the ball to the Georgia four-yard line. The Gator bench thought Hill scored and stormed the field. But the game was not over, and without a penalty flag being thrown from an official, Florida took over their portion of the overtime at the 25-yard line. Florida moved the ball six yards in three plays before Henry kicked the game winner.
October 29, 2011
Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
Overall Record: 47-40-2
Last 10 Meetings: 2-8
Richt vs. Florida: 2-8
The Gators are at a crossroads of sorts, but Georgia has proven time again that they are unwilling to take advantages of coaching changes and bad times in Gainesville. Steve Spurrier was replaced by Ron Zook and Georgia lost. Zook was replaced by Urban Meyer and Georgia lost. Urban Meyer's final Florida team was reeling – losers of their previous three contests – and they still managed to beat Georgia.
In 2003, Matt Leach kicked a 33-yard field goal to knock off #4 Georgia with only 33 seconds remaining. In 2005, an injured D.J. Shockley stood helplessly on the sidelines as #4 Georgia watched their national title hopes end in Jacksonville yet again. In 2010, the Bulldogs and the Gators both came into the game unranked, and yet still the Gators figured out how to win – this time on another game-winning field goal.
Georgia has figured out every possible way to lose to Florida since Mark Richt has taken over. Better Florida teams always beat the Dawgs – witness 2001, 2006 and 2009. Better Georgia teams have often been upset by the Gators – witness 2002, 2003 and 2005. Games seen by most as even matchups are also won by the Gators – witness 2008 and 2010. That leaves Georgia with two wins – in 2004 and 2007. In those seasons Georgia managed to beat non-championship Florida teams.
So what does all that mean for newly-hired Florida coach Will Muschamp, who also never defeated Florida while in Silver Britches from 1991-1994? It means he's going to be pretty hated in Gainesville if he doesn't keep Florida's domination of the Dawgs up over the next few years.
In a lot of ways Muschamp is entering Florida at a time of great unknown, but that's common during coaching transitions.
Talent certainly doesn't seem where it once was when Urban Meyer was in his heyday. The Diva didn't do Muschamp any favors in recruiting over the last two years – the Gators have signed only six five-star players in the last two years (one of them is no longer with the program). Meyer signed ten five-star players in 2007 alone.
Muschamp has certainly surrounded himself with a very capable coaching staff, but with former Notre Dame head man Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator, some have wondered if there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians on the coaching staff.
As a result of Weis, the Gators' offense has changed from the spread to a traditional I-formation offense. We all heard about how great John Brantley was coming in to replace Tim Tebow… apparently he was so good that Florida wasn't shy about using three different quarterbacks in a game.
But the biggest concern for Florida these days has to be Florida State - something that hasn't really been the case since the 1990s. Jimbo Fisher and his Seminoles are the new hot thing in the Sunshine State, and that's a bad thing for Florida. The Gators have been dominant over the last ten years as a result of Miami and Florida State being down (actually, being down in a very big way). Florida State is down no more – that means trouble for the Gators over the long haul.
Florida player to watch:
Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis' arrival in Gainesville should mean good things for Jeff Demps and fellow running back Chris Rainey. Weis plans to install a pro-style offense at Florida, which means the Gators should be more balanced – equating more carries for Demps. The speedster should benefit from getting the ball more often in Florida's new offense. If Weis is successful in installing his version of the offense, Demps could have a big year in 2011.
What the Dawgs must do:
Win (we are impatiently waiting).
Inside the numbers:
18 of 21
Does that need explaining?
Going to change. Urban Meyer's recruiting scorecard over the last two years of his tenure (2010 and 2011) was not overwhelmingly impressive. Sure, the 2011 class will go down as Muschamp's, but Meyer didn't seem to help the Gators in recruiting with another late-December departure. Kids in the Sunshine State had grown tired of Meyer's diva act… suddenly Florida State was the cool new place for kids to go. It remains to be seen if Muschamp will be able to yank prospects' attention back towards Gainesville in the coming months. It sure seems like Florida State is going to be the team to beat for a while down south. That means Georgia will have to deal with Florida even more within the state of Georgia. Good thing for the Dawgs that the coaching staff has focused more on recruiting in the last two cycles. Florida may get a kid or two in Georgia, but Georgia will do the same in Florida. I think almost anyone on Georgia's staff would gladly trade John Theus for anyone in Florida, and that appears to be on the way to happening. Florida needs to pick up the recruiting game or 8-5 is going to be rather common for the Orange and Blue.
Last year's prediction:
Attitudes need to change; performance needs to drastically improve for Georgia in this annual contest.
Another winless trip to Jacksonville – at least this time Georgia didn't roll over and die.