Florida managed to scratch and claw its way through a closely fought game to win a hard earned victory over division rival Georgia in Jacksonville this Saturday. This traditional Border War of college football lacked some of the lustre it has had in the past years due to the poor season of each team. In fact, this was the first time since 1979 that both teams were unranked going into Jacksonville. That aside, this game delivered on all accounts. There were big hits, Will Hill demolishing Kris Durham over the middle comes to mind (Durham would later be taken into the hospital for coughing up blood), big plays in the air and on the ground, turnovers and overtime to settle the matter.
The game started off well for Florida, on the first play of the game CB Janoris Jenkins picked off Aaron Murray deep in Georgia territory. Unfortunately for the Gators the offense managed to only move the ball 4 yards and punter turned kicker Chas Henry was called in for a 42 yard attempt. Henry’s kick sailed to the left and missed by an inch. This was the same distance that Henry missed 2 weeks ago and doomed Florida to a 10-7 loss in the dying seconds of the game against Mississippi State.
The ineffective offense that was talked about so much during the off week looked to be just as bad as it had been against MSU. The next two possessions resulted in negative yards and an interception. To Gator fans it must have looked like the continuation of a disappointing season. It looked like the Gators’ season was truly snake-bit. Injuries have been plaguing the team, bad bounces in critical moments (LSU fake FG), the offense hadn’t gotten into any rhythm, turnovers in the red zone killing drives, etc. Then in 1 play, the football gods turned and Florida was release from its apparent curse.
The first play of the 4th drive, on a play that was destined for failure inside the Gator redzone, QB Trey Burton ran up the gut out of the wild cat for 4 yards and fumbled the ball. The ball hit the ground without a Gator in sight and 2 Bulldogs right on it, but as luck would have it neither got a good handle on it and the ball popped out again and rolled to the feet of offensive tackle Maurice Hurt, who fell on the ball. A bullet had been dodged, a break had gone Florida’s way. The Gators would then put together an 11 play drive for 86 yards that ended with a 20 yard run by Chris Rainey up the Dogs’ gut. Rainey made his return after a 5 game suspension in fashion, accounting for 241 yards of total offense (rushing, receiving and returns) and the game’s opening score.
Georgia would only need 4 plays to draw even. A 64 yard bomb from Murray to King would tie things up with 12 minutes left in the half. Florida would then break the game open with 2 touchdowns off turnovers. The first thanks to Ahmad Black who came in on a blitz and sacked Aaron Murray near midfield. The ball was knocked out in the process and picked up by LB Jelani Jenkins, who returned in to the 34. 6 plays later RB Jeff Demps ran it in from 2 yards out, making it 14-7 Gators. On the next possession Florida would get another break when Aaron Murray’s well thrown ball would go right through his receiver’s hands and into safety Will Hill’s midsection. On the next play QB John Brantley hit RB Jeff Demps on a wheel route for 40 yards to the half inch line. Trey Burton would run it in the next play and just like that Florida would go into the locker room with a 21-7 lead.
Georgia would wake up in the second and come roaring back into the game thanks to the much improved play of freshman QB Aaron Murray and TE Orson Charles. Georgia would dominate the second half of the 3rd quarter and the 4th quarter to the tune of 24 points. Florida however, never trailed in this game and answered each Georgia score with its own. After Murray hit Charles for a 29 yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 24, Florida answered immediately when Trey Burton ripped a 51 yards run for a TD to make it 31-24, with little over 6 minutes to play. Georgia would score later to send the game into overtime thanks to A.J. Green’s only TD catch.
In overtime the Gators started off on defense and forced a third and long that would prove to be the difference. With the young Bulldog Qb under duress he lofted a soft throw dow the middle of the field, over the head of his intended target and again into the hands of Will Hill, who returned the kick 86 yards all the way to the inch yard line. It was almost a walk off INT, but Hill stepped out an inch shy of the line. Although the Gators would not capitalize on the INT, they had held Georgia scoreless and now only needed to kick a FG to win the game. Florida gained 6 yards to make the attempt more comfortable for their punter turned kicker.
Henry had missed his last 4 attempts coming into this game. But stepped up to the plate and belted home the game winner, right down the pipe, no doubt about it, 37 yards for the win.
It was an even played game, Florida barely outgained the Dogs 450 to 439. It was the 3 turnovers that won the day for Florida, two resulted in 14 points and the other allowed for the game winning field goal. Florida can finally hold its head up high after winning a close one against an arch rival.
Florida still controls its destiny in the SEC and a looming match up with Spurrier and his Gamecocks will determine their fate in the SEC.
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Written by The Gator Great