Georgia beats Florida after holding off the Gators’ second-half comeback attempt
Even though both teams entered this game unranked, the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is still the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. True to form, a matchup that initially seemed destined to be a blowout turned into one of the most compelling games of the Week 10 midday slate. The Bulldogs ultimately edged the Gators 23-20.
Georgia raced out to a 23-3 halftime lead, but Florida’s defense stepped up after the break. Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley was playing in his first game since he injured his ankle on Sept. 28 during Georgia’s win over LSU. Though he had 100 rushing yards, 87 receiving yards and two total touchdowns, he looked gassed in the second half. With Gurley at less than full strength, the Gators sacked quarterback Aaron Murray for a third-quarter safety that cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 23-12. Florida fans had to be happy to see the way the Gators’ defense rattled Georgia’s offense with their physicality. For a team that has looked listless in recent weeks, the feisty play was a refreshing change.
A third-quarter fight (or perhaps a scrum) seemed to re-energize Florida, and the Gators cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 23-20 following quarterback Tyler Murphy’s 14-yard touchdown run in the opening minute of the final quarter. But after Florida punted the ball away with just over eight minutes remaining, Georgia held the ball for the remainder of the game.
The Bulldogs used a 15-play, 69-yard march to eat up the final 8:17 and clinch the win. The drive was the epitome of SEC “old-man football,” and it was an impressive feat for a Georgia team that had been held in check for much of the second half.
While it’s an important result for the Bulldogs, it’s potentially even more significant for Missouri. Had the Gators won, the Tigers would have likely needed to win out in order to win the SEC East.
Georgia has a lot of Missouri fans in its corner right now. If the Tigers can’t win out (and with those Ole Miss and A&M games lingering at the end of the season, winning out will certainly be rough) and end up finishing tied with South Carolina, they need Georgia tied with them. … But if the Gators win? Things change.
Both the Bulldogs and Florida needed this game for similar reasons. Both teams have been ravaged by injuries, and lofty preseason hopes have faded with each lost player. Georgia’s remaining schedule includes Appalachian State, Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech. While the Bulldogs won’t finish in the top 10 as they once envisioned, they are still in position to qualify for a relatively high-profile bowl. The Gators, meanwhile, sit at 4-4 and need two more victories to go bowling at all.