Money Down Winners

ATHENS – Three plays on money downs defined the annual Cocktail Party in Jacksonville – good thing for Georgia the Bulldogs came out on top on two of them.

Ramik Wilson and Corey Moore celebrate after a late-game sack (Wes Muilenburg/Dawg Post)
But even the one the Bulldogs failed on, Todd Gurley's run in the fourth quarter, was the right call. (Now I understand that I'm not a football coach – hardly an offensive coordinator). There are times in games where you have to put your foot down. Sometimes it works – sometimes it doesn't.

It worked for Georgia on that play even though it actually didn't "work".

Let me explain.

11:27 remained in the game. Mark Richt and Company decided to go for it on the Georgia 39-yard line. The snap from David Andrews was a thing of beauty – Gurley just didn't get the yard needed to gain the first down in the three-on-two situation that developed on the perimeter.

But the message was set. Richt to his team: We are going to win this now one way or the other. I have confidence in my defense. It will stop the Gators. I have the luxury of going for it right here… we will win.

Seven plays later it was 3rd and 12 – Richt was all or nothing again. Out of the Jacksonville night sprung Corey Moore from about 15 yards out and through the middle of the right side of the Florida offensive line. It was a full-on blitz – seven players in silver britches sprinted towards Tyler Murphy. Georgia was either going to win it there or Florida was going to find a player and probably score a touchdown.

But Murphy stood no shot. If Moore didn't get there so fast Ray Drew or Ramik Wilson would have cleaned him up soon thereafter. It was Georgia's fourth sack, and it was the last one of the night.

The Gators, confronted with a fourth down of their own – this time fourth and 36 – punted the game away. Georgia's offensive line took over from there.

The Bulldogs, however, wouldn't have had a three-point lead had Will Muschamp not gone for it on fourth and ten from the Georgia 40-yard line with a little over a minute to go in the first half. He said his team needed to stay aggressive, but a punt would have likely resulted in Richt taking a knee and a 17-point lead into the locker room.

Instead Georgia dropped the Gators for a three-yard loss, and Aaron Murray started salivating at a chance to put more points on the board.

Georgia beat Florida for a slew of reasons – the return of Todd Gurley, Florida's constant struggles on offense and Georgia's ability to wear out the Gators for the third game in a row in the fourth quarter.

But what won Georgia the game was the aggressive play calling on money downs in the fourth quarter. Richt sent his message with the call to run Gurley on fourth down. Corey Moore took his queue and went from there.

The pressure was on Florida – and Richt knew it. His fourth-down call may have seemed gutsy at the time, but he probably knew what was about to happen. Georgia was going to wear the Gators down in the fourth quarter… it was just a matter of time. Richt just wanted to get it over with sooner rather than later.

Mark Richt after his third win in a row over the Gators (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

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