Florida Downs Georgia 24-10

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Expecting to see a full game of man-to-man defenses, Georgia instead was contained by zones.<br><br>

Expecting to see a pass-oriented offense, Georgia instead was pounded by the run.

Expecting to win if its defense created four turnovers and if it also won the battle of penalties, Georgia instead lost.


Amassing 584 yards in a 24-10 win over the Bulldogs Saturday at Alltel Stadium, Florida spoiled Mark Richt's debut in this rivalry by continually keeping the Bulldogs from taking advantage of great opportunities.

Sixth-ranked Florida (6-1 overall and 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference) lost four turnovers and was penalized 12 times, but for the 11th time in 12 years, it beat No. 15 Georgia (5-2, 4-2) because it delivered the biggest plays of the game.

"We had so many opportunities, so many, but we just couldn't get anything going in the red zone,'' said Georgia freshman receiver Fred Gibson, who led the Bulldogs with seven catches for 131 yards but was kept out of the end zone.

Said Florida coach Steve Spurrier: "We had some good fortune. God smiled on the Gators today, there's no question about it.''

Added Spurrier: "We had a lot of plays that could have very easily cost us the game.''

In a third quarter that was scoreless but nevertheless pivotal, Georgia ran 25 plays, compared to five for Florida, but had nothing to show for that statistical dominance.

"The point is, they made the plays and we didn't,'' said Georgia safety Terreal Bierria, who recovered two fumbles. "They capitalized on opportunities and we didn't. That's what it came down to.''

Georgia gave up 584 yards — the most it has ever allowed Florida — and through the first half had been outgained 385-112. Even so, Florida's lead was only 17-10 at halftime.

Then Georgia's offensive frustrations began to mount:

  • Georgia opened the half with a 16-play drive, moving all the way to the Florida 6. But on a fourth-and-2 play, fullback Verron Haynes couldn't handle a screen pass that was slightly behind him and off his left hand.
  • Georgia closed the third quarter with another long drive, moving from its 4 to the Florida 11, before the drive stalled. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Billy Bennett's 31-yard field goal attempt was barely wide to the right.
  • Early in the fourth quarter, Georgia again drove into Florida territory. With Florida's lead still 17-10, Richt elected to try for a first down on a fourth-and-13 play from the 36. The options included a 53-yard field goal attempt or a pooch punt. David Greene's pass to Gibson was good for only 12 yards, giving Florida the ball. The Gators then delivered the knockout punch with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Rex Grossman to Reche Caldwell, capping a 76-yard drive.
  • On its next possession, Georgia successfully executed a fake punt and converted another fourth-down play before finally Greene fumbled when hit from behind.

"The bottom line is we can have the ball as long as we want, but if we don't score it doesn't make a difference,'' said offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb.

Linebacker Boss Bailey contributed the first two interceptions of his career, including a touchdown-saving grab late in the first quarter.

Georgia's only points came off the turnovers, but against Florida 10 points from four takeaways is not enough.

"We missed so many opportunities,'' Richt said.

"Anytime you get down in the red zone and don't score anything, it's a problem. ... If the offense played better, I think the defense played well enough to win the football game.''

Even so, Georgia gave up 131 yards rushing to Earnest Graham, including 85 yards in the first quarter.

"We just blocked a little better, ran hard, and ran straight at them,'' Spurrier said.

Florida's only rushing touchdown came on a quarterback sneak by Grossman on a fourth-and-1 call in the second quarter, but Graham's runs helped wear down the Georgia defense.

Grossman completed 27 of 35 passes for 407 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Greene was 25-for-42 passing for 258 yards with one interception. Columbus' Jasper Sanks rushed for 56 yards and one touchdown as Musa Smith was limited by a groin injury to four carries for 12 yards.

Richt expected Florida to play primarily man coverages. He believed Gibson and Georgia's other receivers could thrive against that coverage.

Instead, knowing Smith was not at full health, Florida played more zone coverages.

"I thought we should have run it a little better (against the zones) than we did,'' Richt said. "I probably should have been more patient (in calling running plays).''

Florida coaches and players complained after the game that they were called for 12 penalties for 106 yards, compared for four for 20 yards for Georgia.

Richt said he told his team after the game that "Losing stinks. I don't like the way it feels.''

Georgia is off next Saturday before playing host to Auburn on Nov. 10.

Charles Odum can be reached at CEOdum@aol.com.

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