Angry and pumped Dogs' defense shows stunned Gators it's anything but soft in UGA upset that keeps title hopes alive
Posted on Oct 27, 2012 by Murray Poole |
JACKSONVILLE-It’s too bad Shawn Williams didn’t call his fellow defensive players soft earlier in the season.
For the maligned Georgia defense came out on a wind-swept day at EverBank field and staged its finest performance in a number of years, limiting the mighty, undefeated, 2nd-ranked Florida Gators to three measly field goals as the 10th-ranked Bulldogs took a huge stride toward going back to the SEC championship game with a 17-9 win over the Gators.
The last time the Bulldogs defeated the Gators without Florida tallying a touchdown was way back in 1988 when Georgia prevailed 26-3. The victory erased the memories of Georgia’s last two lackluster games against South Carolina and Kentucky and boosted the Bulldogs to 7-1 on the SEC and to 5-1 in the SEC. Now, Georgia needs to win out against Ole Miss and Auburn to capture the SEC East crown for a second consecutive season. The Gators now stand 8-1 and 6-1 and have to bank on the Bulldogs being upset the next two weeks.
And the ringleader of this stupendous defensive performance was, guess who? … none other than junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who topped his previous greatest showing against Missouri by playing the game of his life. All Jones did was record 13 total tackles, three sacks for a minus 22 yards, 4.5 tackles for loss for a minus 24 yards and two forced fumbles.
“This was just a great game for us. Shawn (Williams) gave us a challenge this week and everyone stepped up,” said Jones, who fronted a defensive effort that not only held the Gators without a touchdown but limited the Florida offense to just 81 net yards rushing on 41 attempts and 185 passing. The Georgia defense forced the Gators into six turnovers, four lost fumbles and two interceptions. “This makes me feel better,” added Jones. “We played every snap like it was our last and executed the game plan. I had a great game but it’s about what we did as a defense. All of us did what we came here to do. We beat the No. 2 team in the nation and it’s a great feeling. I’m proud – this was a great Georgia win.”
“I’d say we were not soft,” said an elated Georgia head coach, Mark Richt. “The defense rose to the occasion, and everyone fought their tails off. There was a lot of emotion and two really good football teams getting after it. We came out on top. I’m really proud of our players and coaches, and our fans were tremendous. Our seniors played well, and I know it’s a game they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
“All games with two really good football teams come down to making big plays,” added Richt. “We were struggling on offense, but we kept battling. They had their struggles with our defense as well. A lot of times defenses tend to bow their necks in games like this. We held them to field goal attempts early on, and right before the half getting the pick in the red zone was huge. It killed their momentum they had created.”
Richt said nothing Jones does surprises him. “I don’t even know for sure what all he did, but I know he did some big things,” declared the coach. “It’s unfortunate he hasn’t been healthy, but he just gets right back up. He led like I’ve never seen him lead before. I’m just proud of him and the whole defense.”
The Bulldogs’ defense came out on fire, apparently aiming on showing teammate Williams they were not the team that looked so porous against the Gamecocks and Wildcats. Continually plugging up the Florida running attack, the Bulldogs twice separated Gator quarterback Jeff Driskel from the ball and the first fumble recovery, caused by Alec Ogletree and pounced on by Jarvis Jones at the Gator 20, led to a quick Georgia score on its first offensive possession. After Aaron Murray threw 10 yards to fullback Merritt Hall at the Florida 10, freshman tailback Todd Gurley rambled into the end zone. Marshall Morgan’s kick made it 7-0 with still 12:02 left in the first quarter.
But when it appeared the Bulldogs would add to that lead, Murray’s deflected pass was intercepted by Florida’s Josh Evans, after Georgia had marched behind Gurley’s running to the Gator 9-yard line. It was one of three passes – two coming after the ball bounced off his receivers’ hands – that Murray would see intercepted in the opening half.
The Gators then pulled within 7-6 at the half via a pair of Caleb Sturgis field goals, one from 38 yards, the other from 22 yards out. Only a Bacarri Rambo interception of Driskel in the Georgia end zone on the final play of the half prevented Florida from taking the lead at intermission.
There wasn’t further scoring until midway of the third quarter when, after Damian Swann picked off a Driskel pass and returned it 15 yards to the Florida 25, the Bulldogs drove to the Gator 12 before settling for a 29-yard field goal by Morgan. That made it 10-6 with 8:34 left in the third. After Jones recovered a Trey Burton fumble at the Florida 26, it appeared the Bulldogs would be able to stretch their lead but that didn’t happen as the Gators kept Georgia out of the end zone and forced the Bulldogs into a 37-yard field goal attempt, which sailed wide left into the wind.
But the Gators would then make their field goal attempt from an even longer distance, Sturgis splitting the uprights from 50 yards out to pull Florida within 10-9 with 9:41 left in the game. And the Bulldogs’ defense had to make that slim lead stand up until Georgia finally cashed its second touchdown of the game with just 7:11 remaining when Murray passed to Malcolm Mitchell on the left sidelines and the Valdosta sophomore shook off a Gator tackler, cut back to the middle of the field and sped into the end zone to complete a 45-yard scoring play. Morgan’s kick blinked the board to 17-9 and all those in Red and Black in the West stands began their celebration in earnest. Still, this one wasn’t officially over until that man Jarvis Jones again separated Florida receiver Jordan Reed from the ball at the Georgia 5-yard line and the football shot into the end zone where Sanders Commings recovered for the touchback just before the ball reached the end line.
As mentioned, just a tremendous defensive effort that came at a time when it seemed this Georgia stop-em gang was never going to live up to its lofty preseason accolades. Also, a Georgia running attack led by Todd Gurley and an offensive line that opened the holes when needed that came to life on a night when the Gator secondary and linebackers stymied the Bulldogs’ passing game. Likewise, the Bulldogs got exceptional special teams play from its kick coverage teams as well as the punting of freshman Collin Barber.
What Didn’t Work
Thank goodness the Bulldog defense showed up and showed out by shutting down the Gators without a touchdown. That’s because the Georgia offense struggled mightily scoring touchdowns itself against the quick Florida D. But get those two touchdowns the Bulldogs did and that was enough to send the Bulldogs back to Athens on a joyous occasion. Also, those 14 penalties for a total of 132 yards assessed against Georgia would be enough to cause a team to lose a lot of football games.
Defensive, not only Jones was a huge thorn in the Gators’ collective side but senior strong safety Shawn Williams backed his own words by notching six solo tackles including one-for-loss. Michael Gillard, who was stung by Williams’ remarks early in the week by being indirectly alluded to as one of the players not playing at a top level, also recorded six tackles as did Alec Ogletree and Amarlo Herrera. Bacarri Rambo totaled five tackles including his interception and a sack and fellow DB Damian Swann likewise had a sack of Driskel to couple with his interception. Offensively, Gurley bounced back from tough nights against South Carolina and Kentucky by rushing for 118 yards on 27 carries including his 10-yard scoring run. Murray, thanks to his late touchdown pass to Mitchell, was 12-for-24 for 150 yards and the three picks while Mitchell snared five balls for 74 yards including the 45-yard scoring catch. Barber had likely his best effort of the season punting. While he averaged just 37.2 on five punts, he repeatedly kept the Gator offense backed up with kicks inside the Florida 20-yard line.
Ole Miss Game Now Even Bigger
As momentous as the Florida victory was, the Bulldogs STILL have to defeat Ole Miss and Auburn on consecutive weeks to punch their ticket back to Atlanta. First up comes a Rebel team Saturday at Homecoming that got by Arkansas 30-27 on Saturday.
“I believe we’re a very good football team, “ said Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, “and a chance to be a great football team if we play together like we did tonight. We’re going to enjoy this win but we’ve got to go back on Monday and talk why we played this way this week. We played with conviction, we played with passion and we want to do that every week. If we come in here and let people pat us on the back, Ole Miss will come in and beat our butts, there’s no doubt about that.”
Tagged: georgia football, florida gators, jarvis jones, mark richt, todd gurley, aaron murray, marshall morgan, collin barber, bacarri rambo, malcolm mitchell, damian swann, shawn williams, michael gilliard, alec ogletree, amarlo herrera, sanders commings, mike bobo, ole miss rebels
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