Jacksonville, Fla. — Handicapped by a stagnant offense, the Georgia Bulldogs (4-4, 2-4) were defeated 24-10 by the 14th-ranked Florida Gators (6-1, 4-1) on Saturday afternoon at EverBank Stadium
Although Georgia held the opposition to 231 total yards, its offense managed only 164 total yards, including just 67 in the second half.
“It is hard anytime when a team makes you one dimensional–it is hard to be successful” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. “It is frustrating because I thought we would really be able to run the ball in this game. I thought we could move them up front, then get a little rhythm and get the thing started.”
The Bulldogs’ running game was held to merely 21 yards on 19 carries. The running trio of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Brian Herrien, which entered the contest averaging a combined 184 rushing yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry, was absolutely absent as it only mustered 26 yards and 1.9 yards per rush.
In the opening drive of the game, Georgia safety Dominick Sanders intercepted Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio, returning the errant pass 31 yards to the Gator 25-yard line. The Bulldogs converted the turnover into a 25-yard field goal by redshirt freshman kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, the first score Florida has allowed in the first quarter this season.
For Sanders, it was his 11th career interception, and he now has 300 yards on interception returns as a Bulldog–the third-most in UGA history. For Blankenship, it was his fifth successful field goal in a row after the team struggled to make just three of its first eight attempts on the season.
The Gators responded to Georgia’s three-pointer with a 19-yard touchdown reception by tight end C’yontai Lewis in the last minute of the first quarter to go up 7-3.
In the subsequent drive, freshman Jacob Eason passed to fellow newcomer Riley Ridley for a 14-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-four to retake the lead, 10-7, at the 12:02 mark in the second quarter, capping a six-play, 75-yard drive.
For the game, Eason completed just 15-of-33 passes for 143 yards with one touchdown, but was not intercepted. The Bulldogs’ leading receiver was sophomore Terry Godwin, who totaled 57 yards on five receptions.
Florida headed into halftime with a 14-10 lead after tailback Jordan Scarlett punched it into the end zone from two yards out with less than two minutes left in the second quarter.
Florida extended its lead to 21-10 with a four-yard rush by sophomore receiver Antonio Callaway at the 3:11 mark in the third quarter, and then added a field goal late in the fourth stanza.
Although Georgia’s defense allowed the Gators to convert 9 of 18 third-down conversions, the Bulldog defenders put forth an admirable effort, yielding merely 3.2 yards per play. Sophomore cornerback Deandre Baker led the squad with a career-high 10 tackles and his first career sack, while sophomore linebacker Roquan Smith totaled nine stops.
This afternoon’s offensive performance, which included totaling a lowly eight first downs, marked the first time in a decade the Bulldogs were limited to less than 10 first downs (nine vs. Virginia Tech in 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl), and the first time in seven years (45 vs. LSU in 2009) they were held to under 50 yards rushing.
“There were glimpses; a couple runs in there when we were running power,” Smart added regarding the offense’s sluggish ground game. “But nothing consistent, and if you can’t run the ball consistently then it makes you one dimensional.”