2014 Media Days: Legge's Look at Florida

HOOVER, Ala. - Dean Legge's look at the 2014 Florida Gators.

November 1, 2014
EverBank Stadium
Overall Record: 50-40-2
Last 10 Meetings: 5-5
Richt vs. Florida: 5-8

There was a time Mark Richt couldn’t beat Florida – those days are gone now. Georgia has taken firm grip of the series where it was once dominated. The Gators, who managed to finish a horrid 4-8 in 2013, have gone from 13-1 in 2009 to 4-8 in a matter of only four seasons.

Florida has won more than ten games only once (2012) since that season. The Gators have not made it to the SEC Championship Game since 2009 when Alabama made Tim Tebow cry (again) and Urban Meyer quit.

Those were the glory days for the Gators, but Florida seems far away from striking fear in opponents the way they once did. The problem, frankly, is Florida can’t score. Florida – the place with more speed than anywhere else in the country. Florida – the largest southern state. Florida – where running up the score used to be a pastime. It’s not there anymore, and that’s a recruiting problem because you can’t coach or develop speed.

Meanwhile, Georgia has steadily improved while the Gators have gone rudderless over the last few years. And that had shown in the results in Jacksonville. Georgia has comeback to win (2011), won a winner-take-all top ten matchup (2012) and built a lead and held on to win (2013). Georgia is doing what Florida once did – figuring out how to win the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The only thing that hasn’t happened yet is Georgia winning in blowout fashion. It doesn’t seem like Will Muschamp could survive that in 2014.

The biggest key has been Georgia’s running game. Florida has always had a difficult time beating Georgia teams that have a legitimate running back or running game. And Georgia has pretty well controlled the line of scrimmage here lately in the rivalry. Frankly, Georgia has been better than Florida, and we’ve not seen that a ton in the last two-plus decades.

Also, Georgia’s defense has shut the Gators down. Again, this isn’t an explosive Florida offense like the ones we have seen in the past, but Florida has struggled to score against Georgia. It is a real problem for the Gators.

And then there is Mark Richt, who went years getting beaten up by everyone for his failures against Florida. Richt suffered some humiliating defeats at the hands of the Gators – certainly in 2008. But Urban Meyer’s child-like end-of-game timeouts were a reaction to the end zone storming that happened in 2007 as a result of Richt’s orders to his players that day.

In 2008 it seemed everything had backfired on Richt – he wanted his team to have fun in Jacksonville the year before, but in 2008 Meyer was going to embarrass Georgia because he had been embarrassed the year before.

As it turns out Richt was right to order the team to celebrate in 2007. It took guts to order that. Leading up to that game Mark Richt was 1-5 against the Gators; he’s 4-3 since. Richt’s message was clear – we are doing something wrong down here, and I don’t know what it is, but I am taking action.

There are times when that’s all you can do. Richt did that, and the series has turned around since. Something had to change, and Richt knew it.

13-Year History vs. Florida

2001 – #6 Florida turned the ball over four times and committed 12 penalties, but still 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. Still, 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.

2005 – D.J. Shockley watched from the sideline as his #4-ranked Dawgs fell to #16 Florida 14-10. 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 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. Moreno slashed the Gators on the ground with 188 yards and three touchdowns. 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.

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.

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.

2011 – Two fourth down touchdowns powered Georgia past Florida 24-20, giving the Bulldogs their first win over Florida since 2007. The Bulldogs used backup running back Richard Samuel as a battering ram – eventually scoring on a four-yard touchdown to give Georgia a 24-20 win.

2012 – Days after safety Shawn Williams called out his teammates for being "soft", #12 Georgia took out undefeated #3 Florida 17-9 – giving Georgia back-to-back wins over the Gators for the first time since 1989. Aaron Murray shook off a horrible first half performance to find Malcolm Mitchell for a 45-yard touchdown run to give the Dawgs an eight-point lead. Jarvis Jones forced a decisive fumble from Jordan Reed on the Bulldog five-yard line with only 2:05 left in the game.

2013 – Georgia was in total control against Florida (up 23-3 at the half), and it looked like the first Georgia blowout since 1997 was about to start. Todd Gurley finished the day with 187 total yards and two touchdowns. But the Gators came to life and rallied to score 17 points in just over seven minutes to make it 23-20 Georgia with 14:20 to go in the game. But the Gators couldn’t move the ball after that, as Georgia ran the clock out to win its third game in a row in the series.

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