FINAL: No. 1 Georgia 43, Florida 20

FINAL: No. 1 Georgia 43, Florida 20

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FINAL: No. 1 Georgia 43, Florida 20
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THE QUICK SLANT

No. 1 GEORGIA 43, FLORIDA 20 

WHAT HAPPENED: Quarterback Carson Beck passed for 315 yards and two touchdowns, tailback Daijun Edwards rushed for 95 yards and a pair of scores and the Georgia defense brushed off a first-drive touchdown by Florida and dominated the Gators the rest of the way in 43-20 rout Saturday at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville in the 101st renewal of their storied Southeastern Conference rivalry. For the two-time reigning national champion Bulldogs, the win was their third straight in the series, the sixth in the last seven meetings, and improved their streak of consecutive overall victories to 25, a run that dates to the 2021 SEC Championship Game. They made it look easy, despite what looked like a promising start for the Gators. Florida took an early touchdown lead by taking the opening kickoff and marching 66 yards in seven plays, with fourth-year junior quarterback Graham Mertz hitting freshman wide receiver Eugene Wilson III for a 26-yard score less than four minutes in. From there, however, the Bulldogs scored 36 unanswered points, with the key, seize-momentum sequence coming on back-to-back-to-back Florida possessions that ended in disaster; the first on a failed trick-play on fourth-and-inches from the Gators’ own 34 (Edwards scored three plays later), the second on a Mertz sack/fumble recovered by the Bulldogs at the UF 11 (Edwards scored four plays later) and the third on a blocked Jeremy Crawshaw punt that sailed out of the end zone for a safety to make it 26-7 inside 10 minutes left in the second period. That’s where things stood at halftime, with the Bulldogs tagging on a 32-yard Peyton Wooding field goal midway through the third quarter and Beck hitting wideout Dillon Bell with a 17-yard score with 18 seconds to go in the period. Florida, which after the opening touchdown march had four punts, a fumble and two failed fourth downs on its next seven drives, finally got back on the scoreboard when Mertz threw a 5-yard touchdown to redshirt freshman tight end Hayden Hansen midway through the fourth, but the Bulldogs instantly went 10 plays and 75 yards to a 1-yard Kendall Milton TD run to go up by 30 points. The Gators added a touchdown on a 1-yard sneak by Mertz with just under two minutes to go. Mertz finished 25 of 34 for 230 yards and two touchdowns passing to go with the one rushing. Wilson, meanwhile, became the first UF freshman to catch at least 10 passes in a game, finishing with 11 receptions for 75 yards and his lone score. The Florida offense, though, was limited to 339 yards (147 came in the fourth quarter), with only 109 on the ground, and made far too many mistakes (1 turnover, 4 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 4-for-13 on third and fourth down) to stay in a game against a team as powerful as the Bulldogs. Beck, who engineered his team to 486 yards of total offense, completed 19 of his 28 throws, with wideout Ladd McConkey on the receiving end of six for 135 yards and a 41-yard score. 

Freshman wide receiver Eugene Wilson III (3) was one of the few bright spots for the Gators during Saturday’s loss in Jacksonville. (Photo: Ashley Ray/UAA Communications) 

WHAT IT MEANS: Make that nine consecutive losses by the Gators against opponents ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. As far as the here and now, obviously there’s no shame in losing to the two-time national champs, but the Gators were eliminated from the SEC race and now will play for a middling bowl game as it jockeys for position against East Division foes Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri — and do so against a very difficult late-season schedule. UF, as if anyone needs reminding, is worlds behind Georgia right now, with the Bulldogs’ three straight wins in the series coming by an average of 24 points. And following UGA’s 42-20 win last year, the Bulldogs have scored at least 40 points against the Gators in back-to-back games for the first time in the rivalry’s history.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0) had trailed in three of their previous four SEC games (South Carolina, Auburn and Vanderbilt) — and fell behind again Saturday — which actually prompted some national questions as to whether the team was truly as dominant as UGA versions of the past two seasons. It appears they are.  

STAGGERING STATISTIC: After the opening touchdown drive of 66 yards, the Gators gained a combined one yard on their next five drives, including consecutive possessions of two plays for minus-14 yards, three plays for minus-6 yards and three plays for two yards. Georgia, meanwhile, had consecutive possessions that went field goal, touchdown, touchdown and touchdown (23 plays, 179 yards). That’s how a game flips. 

UP NEXT: Florida (5-3, 3-2) returns to Gainesville for its final SEC home game, a date Nov. 4 against struggling Arkansas (2-6, 0-5), which will be looking for its first victory in conference play. A win for the Gators will make them bowl-eligible. The Razorbacks, who were idle Saturday, are in turmoil, what with Coach Sam Pittman last week firing his offensive coordinator, Dan Enos, after a dismal 7-3 home loss to Mississippi State that had the natives in Fayetteville restless, to say the least. Pittman, who is very much on the hot seat himself, gave Hogs fans their pound of flesh in Enos. Whatever Arkansas intends to do differently on offense will make its debut in the “Swamp.”

 


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FINAL: No. 1 Georgia 43, Florida 20

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