Fourth Down Gambles Pay Off

JACKSONVILLE – Trailing 17-3 late in the first half, Georgia coach Mark Richt and his Georgia Bulldogs badly needed a touchdown to create some positivity heading into halftime.

On fourth-and-five from the Florida 20-yard line, Richt elected not to kick a field goal.

"I didn't think 3's were going to get it," he said.

Instead, the offense remained on the field, with quarterback Aaron Murray converting a pass play to redshirt freshman receiver Michael Bennett for a touchdown.

"It became pretty obvious to me that we needed to go for it on fourth down," Richt said.

Murray initially pump faked, hitting Bennett as he leaped in front of a Gators' defender in the end zone.

"It was just a burst to the corner of the end zone and Aaron put the ball on my back shoulder," Bennett said. "I was fortunate to come down with the ball."

The touchdown gave Georgia a jolt heading into halftime.

"We felt like it was a must," junior receiver Tavarres King said. "We had to go get it. That was huge."

Later in the third quarter, Richt found success with another gamble on fourth down.

Facing fourth-and-six from the Florida 14, the offense ran a similar play to the opposite side of the field and with King as the target.

"The cornerback didn't bite on the fake," King said. "Aaron put it in the only place he could, and I was able to deliver on the big play."

King's touchdown tied the game at 17. The Bulldogs took the lead in the fourth quarter, winning 24-20 at Everbank Field. Richt's decision to go for it on fourth down gave the offense confidence, Murray said.

"We've dealt with people doubting us all year and we've just had to keep fighting," Murray, who finished 15 of 34 for 159 yards and two touchdowns, said. "We battled through it."

‘Scary' special teams

Georgia's woes on kickoff continued Saturday against Florida, despite two weeks to improve a unit that entered the game ranked eighth in the conference.

Florida finished with 200 kick return yards – averaging 40 yards per return.

"Our special teams were mostly average to scary," Richt said.

Florida senior running back Chris Rainey took the opening kick 70 yards, but a holding penalty negated the return.

Early in the second quarter, Gators senior running back Jeff Demps returned a kick 99-yards for a touchdown – the second game in a row the Bulldogs allowed a kickoff go for a score.

Midway through the third quarter, kicker Blair Walsh began kicking high and short, but even that strategy didn't work. A short kick to wide receiver Andre Debose resulted in a 63-yard return, setting up a Florida field goal.

By the fourth, Walsh was squibbing the ball downfield.

"The way we were covering it was pretty poor at first," said Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree. "We tried to change things up with putting different guys in to cover the kick."

The unit has struggled most of the season and entered the contest giving up an average of 21.2 yards per return.

Word from the booth

A third quarter fumble by Florida receiver Frankie Hammond was initially ruled as a catch by referees.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones jarred the ball loose on the tackle and safety Shawn Williams recovered the ball.

"I knew it was a fumble the whole time," Williams said.

Georgia coaches in the press box agreed with Williams' opinion. Before Florida could run another play, the Georgia sideline was making enough noise about the call to get the officials to take a second look with instant replay.

"On the review you saw it come out and we knew we had the ball right then," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "It was a good job of our guys getting on it and coming out of the pile with it."

Georgia scored the game-tying touchdown four plays after the recovery.

Thin receiving corps comes through

Freshman wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell did not travel with the team after re-injuring his hamstring in practice earlier this week.

The team was also without receivers Rantavious Wooten (concussion) and Israel Troupe (knee).

Five receivers made a catch in the game, led by King's three catches for 44 yards.

"We all played and played well," Bennett said. "We knew we had some guys out. We just had to step up and prove to the Florida defensive backs that they couldn't stop us. They thought they could stop us, but we proved to them otherwise."

Bennett started in Mitchell's place, finishing with two catches for 25 yards.

Junior Marlon Brown had two catches for 20 yards. Freshman Chris Conley added three catches for 38 yards and walk-on Rhett McGowan added the first catch of his career.

"I thought our receiver's fundamentals were outstanding," Richt said. "Florida was playing tight coverage all game."

Despite missing the past two games, Mitchell is still the team leader with 435 receiving yards on 25 receptions and three touchdowns.

This and that

Redshirt sophomore offensive guard Dallas Leetold reporters he broke his leg in the game. His parents were seen looking at X-rays following the game. "It didn't look good" Richt said. … Sophomore inside linebacker Alec Ogletree started for the first time since injuring his foot in the season opener against Boise State. … Three Florida quarterbacks – John Brantley, Trey Burton and Jacoby Brissett – took snaps in the game. … Former Georgia players John Brantley (1984-87) and Bill Saye (1953-55) were inducted into the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame. … The attendance for the game, 84,524, was up 80 people from a year ago.


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