This was a legacy win ...
by Jeff Dantzler
photo by Rob Saye
At this point, Georgia’s hard-fought, kneeknocking
17-9 victory over Florida is the program’s
biggest and most significant over the past
five years. The question now, and it starts with
a talented, high-powered, up-and-coming Ole
Miss team loaded with playmakers, is if Georgia
can maintain the physical and mental toughness
displayed in Jacksonville? If the Bulldogs can
play like they did in Jacksonville, then Georgia
can run the table, post an 11-1 record, and return
to Atlanta to play for the Southeastern Conference
If the Dogs blow one (or more) of these last
four games, starting with Ole Miss, where the
focus clearly must be, then the significance of the
Florida game will be reduced to a great rivalry
win, not the cornerstone victory of a special
This victory over the Gators was enormous.
It ended a string of ten consecutive losses against
ranked opponents, and in one day, exorcised a
second demon. For the first time since 1988-
89, Georgia has beaten Florida two straight years.
Florida winning 18 of 21 is done. Since 2011,
Georgia is now 2-0 in Jacksonville, and Will
Muschamp – a hard-nosed walk-on safety for
the Bulldogs in the 1990s, who was 0-4 against
Florida – is 0-2 as Florida’s head coach.
This one deserves a rewind.
Here were the Five Keys to Georgia Jacksonville
Jubilation in last week’s issue, and the result:
1. Competent Kicking Game – Through
the years of losses in Jacksonville, the Bulldogs
have had a devil of a time with special teams.
There have been a slew of costly missed field
goals, fake punts and ill-fated kick returns. Even
in last year’s win, the Bulldogs surrendered a 99-
yard kickoff for a touchdown. For a team as talented
as Florida, when the Gators can cash in
and score on special teams, it makes the mountain
all that much taller to climb. Georgia has
had some plusses on special teams this year, but
too many struggles as well. Caleb Sturgis is a
weapon for Florida, one of the country’s top
kickers. Georgia must make the plays and at
least play Florida even in the kicking game to
chalk up a second straight win in the series.
Georgia hung in there. Yes there was a
missed field goal, penalties and a couple of
unwise decision to run kickoffs out of the end
zone. But Georgia didn’t lose the game on
special teams. That was essential.
2. Avoid the Devastating Turnover –
Through the drought of the 1990s and 2000s,
the other constant in Georgia’s losses to the
Gators were catastrophic turnovers that the
Gators turned into touchdowns. There were
enormous pick-six’s or fumble returns for Florida
TD’s – or to set up TD’s – in 2000, 2002, 2006,
2008, 2009 and 2010. Again, as is the case with
the special teams, when a program as talented as
Florida gets those “extra scores,” they are awfully
hard to beat. On the flip side, remember back to
the turnovers Georgia created last year and how
huge they were, especially the fumble with the
Dogs trailing 17-3. The Bulldogs defense came
into the 2012 campaign praised as potentially
one of the country’s best units. This is the day,
they can truly make their mark.
Holy smokes, Georgia didn’t do this.
The Bulldogs threw three first half interceptions,
including one when Georgia could have
created some distance. But the Bulldogs
came through and forced six Florida
turnovers, including the big one when the
Gators were driving for a potential gametying
score. The entire defense was tremendous,
highlighted by Jarvis Jones. You may
have to go back to Herschel Walker’s incredible
three-year run against the Gators to find
a Georgia player who has produced better
back to back games in Jacksonville. He had
five sacks last year. This past Saturday, Jones
had three sacks, five tackles for loss, two recovered
fumbles, 13 total tackles and he
forced a pair of fumbles, including Jordan
Reed’s into the end zone inside the five which
was recovered by Sanders Commings to put
the Gators five and a half feet under.
3. Red Zone TDs – Going back to Key
Number One and the numerous missed field
goals through the years in windy Jacksonville, it
is vital for the Bulldogs to chalk up touchdowns
when knocking on the door. In 1997, Georgia
scored five touchdowns and won. In 2004, the
Bulldogs scored four touchdowns and won. In
2007, Georgia scored six touchdowns and won.
Last year, the Bulldogs scored three touchdowns
and ended the game inside the Florida five and
won. If Georgia is forced to settle for field goals,
the Dogs have gotta make ‘em. But when the
Dogs are in close, it is essential to strike for six.
Those two fourth-down touchdown passes were
game-winners for the Dogs a year ago. Simply
going for field goals in those spots would have
led to defeat.
Well Georgia didn’t knock this out of the
park either. Interceptions. But Todd Gurley,
the sensational freshman struck from ten
yards out as Georgia drew first blood. It was
a lead the Bulldogs never relinquished. That
4. Win the Rushing Battle – This is another
no-brainer. Richard Samuel ran like a man
possessed last year in the fourth quarter, and was
the Bulldogs offensive Most Valuable Player. In
1997, Robert Edwards topped the century mark
and scored four touchdowns. In 2004, Danny
Ware ran for over 100 yards. In 2007, Knowshon
Moreno ran for 188 yards and three touchdowns.
Georgia has a special back in Todd
Gurley, a big play counter-puncher in Keith Marshall
and power with Ken Malcome and Samuel.
Florida has a senior stalwart in Mike Gillislee. It’s
held pretty strong in this series, the team that
runs better wins. Georgia must stay patient. The
beauty of a strong running attack, even if it’s not
going great, if you keep pounding away, eventually
you’ll break one – like LSU did to South Carolina
two weeks ago.
Put a big check mark in Georgia’s column
here. Win the rushing game and the
turnover battle and you win in Jacksonville.
Georgia did. Todd Gurley ripped off 116
yards, highlighted by his touchdown and
clinching run on the Bulldogs final possession.
In the Bulldogs five wins over Florida
since 1997, Gurley joins Robert Edwards,
Danny Ware and Knowshon Moreno as 100-
yard rushers in victorious Jacksonville performances.
Richard Samuel didn’t quite get
there a year ago, but his performance on the
ground combined with great defense and a
trio of magic passes provided the victory.
5. Pop a Long One – Another common
denominator in Georgia’s four wins over Florida
dating back to 1997 has been hitting big plays in
the passing game. Strong running attacks lend
a great advantage in play-action passing. There
were the fourth-down TD’s and the fourth quarter
completion last year. Mohammed Massaquoi
and Mikey Henderson hauled in long scores in
’07. Reggie Brown caught a deep pass to set up
the game clincher by Fred Gibson in ’04. Hines
Ward and Corey Allen had deep grabs in ’97.
The Dogs must grind away, and take advantage
with explosive plays in a passing game that has
several weapons – most notably Malcolm
Great players must make plays in the big
games. Gurley did. Jones did. So did Malcolm
Mitchell. He had a silly penalty – one of
Georgia’s 14. But came right back to haul in
Georgia’s lone third down conversion in ten
tries (shades of 1/1/81 and that one precious
completion), and broke loose for a 45 yard
score (with a major burst at the end after a
hard fast cut inside) that – following the PAT
– put Georgia up 17-9.
This was a legacy win, and after two straight
decades of disappointment, to win twice in a row
in Jacksonville has the Bulldogs flying high.
Pretenders lose to upstarts following wins
like this. Great teams use wins like this as starting
blocks for a run to glory.