Given the chance to clinch the Eastern Division title and improve its standing in national championship picture, No. 5 Georgia instead fell in a heap of three first-half turnovers and repeated missed opportunities in the second half.
After scoring a combined 100 points the previous two weeks against Southeastern Conference also-rans Vanderbilt and Kentucky, Georgia managed only two field goals in the final three quarters of a 20-13 loss to Florida Saturday night at AllTel Stadium.
Georgia was shut out in the second half and was 0-for-13 on third-down conversions in the game.
"If you want to win a tough rivalry game like this, you can't allow mistakes to happen,'' said offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb. Added Stinchcomb, a senior who was returning from a knee injury: "My heart hurts more than my knee.''
Instead, with the fifth straight loss to Florida, Georgia (8-1 overall, 5-1 SEC) now will have to scramble just to win its SEC East division. There is no need for further talk in Athens of the Bowl Championship Series standings.
The Bulldogs must deliver back-to-back wins over Mississippi next Saturday in Athens and at Auburn on Nov. 16 to be certain of its spot in the SEC championship game. Florida (6-3 overall, 4-2 SEC) now owns the tie-breaker if it finishes in a tie for first with Georgia in the division.
"Now we've got to take care of our business going into Vanderbilt,'' said Florida coach Ron Zook.
Florida plays at Vanderbilt Saturday and then plays host to South Carolina on Nov. 16 in its final SEC game.
Entering the game, Georgia was tied for the league's best percentage (46.3) on third-down conversions.
"We had way too many three-and-outs,'' said tailback Musa Smith. "The defense really did their job. It was the offense's fault. We just didn't get done what we had to get done on offense.''
Georgia had repeated opportunities in the second half, but the missed chance that will be the most difficult for the Bulldogs to forget was a drop by a wide-open Terrence Edwards on a deep pass from Greene with about two minutes left to play.
Edwards was all alone in the middle of the field near the Florida 35, but he couldn't make the catch when he had to jump slightly for the ball.
"We shot ourselves in the foot,'' Greene said. "We didn't make plays when they presented themselves.''
Georgia took possession at the Florida 19 and 44 in the third quarter and came away with no points.
There were times when Georgia appeared to be establishing consistency behind the running of Smith (22 carries for 100 yards) and Tony Milton (five carries for 40 yards). Georgia's only touchdown came on a 10-yard pass from David Greene to J.T. Wall in the first quarter.
The Gators have beaten the Bulldogs five straight years and 12 of the past 13 years, but Saturday night's matchup was different because it was the first time since 1992 that Georgia had been favored.
The win also disproved the theory that with the coaching change from Steve Spurrier to Zook, the Gators would be more vulnerable.
"The one thing our players did, there were a lot of things that happend this year, a lot of times they could have just shut it down and they didn't,'' Zook said.
After taking a shaky 13-12 lead at halftime, Georgia was given the ball on the Florida 19 with 9:36 left in the third quarter. A big hit by Bruce Thornton forced Florida tailback Earnest Graham to fumble, and Georgia defensive lineman Darrius Swain recovered at the 19.
Georgia moved from its 27 to the Florida 17 later in the third quarter, but this time Bennett was wide right on a 36-yard field goal try.
Again, the Georgia defense handed the offense an opportunity, this time after Johnathan Sullivan dropped Ron Carthon for a loss of four yards on a fourth-down play.
Georgia had receiver Fred Gibson in uniform, but the sophomore was only an observer, leaving the Bulldogs without two of their three best play-makers at the position. The offense lost Damien Gary with a leg injury last week.
Meanwhile, Florida lost its top receiver, Taylor Jacobs, to an injured right knee early in the game. The early prognosis was that Jacobs suffered a sprain that will not require surgery.
Carlos Perez and Kelvin Kight stepped up as Florida's go-to receivers. Kight set a career high with seven receptions for 91 yards in just the first half and finished with nine catches for 115 yards. Perez caught 12 passes for 76 yards.
Georgia had more difficulty replacing its lost offense. Edwards was held without a catch in the first half.
In an ugly first half, the teams combined for six turnovers. Georgia quarterbacks Greene (fumble) and D.J. Shockley (interception) each lost a turnover. Also, Georgia receiver Reggie Brown lost a fumble after a catch.
Shockley's turnover was the most costly. Guss Scott read a pass play intended for Edwards, stepping in front of Edwards for the interception and then having open field for a 47-yard touchdown return that gave the Gators a 12-7 lead in the second quarter.