Florida lost an emotionally-charged football game Saturday to the Georgia Bulldogs, 42-30. I give Georgia a lot of credit for bringing tremendous spirit and passion to the football game. I thought the Gators matched it early and, for a young football team, battled their way into position to win the football game. I was at the stadium broadcasting the game for Sun Sports and could feel the energy first hand at the outset of the game. There is nothing like being in the mix on game day and although Florida lost it was a very memorable day for me personally.
Big games are usually decided by a few plays here and there. For the first time in recent history during this series it was Georgia that executed the plays and not Florida. Georgia converted big third downs and the receivers made big plays when they had to. Florida took sacks and when it needed a big conversion on fourth down or on a two-point play the Gators faltered.
Georgia dominated with a passionate run game that featured a future star in Knowshon Moreno. I was very surprised that the Gators could not hem him in. His 10-yard touchdown run before the half defined his performance and was a key drive in the football game. Florida could have been tied or in the lead at the half and that would have been huge considering the motivational tactic by Mark Richt at the beginning of the game. But Georgia banged it in (Georgia is 50-7 under Richt when leading at the half) and was able to come out and get the ball first in the second half.
KEY PLAYS: I already mentioned the first one that comes to mind in which UF had Moreno stopped for no gain but let him slip away for a 10-yard touchdown. There are some other plays that could have gone either way such as Mohammed Massaquoi’s long touchdown and the fact that Tony Joiner came over way too late.
At 28-24 UF had three possessions to take the lead in the football game. Tim Tebow over-shot Cornelius Ingram who would have taken it to the house for a touchdown in the third quarter. Louis Murphy was also open on the play. The fourth and two play had disaster written on it from the start and was poorly executed. Had UF blocked it decently Caldwell would have pitched to Harvin who also would have scored. You could argue the Gators should have kicked a field goal and at worst would have been down one score assuming the Dogs get another touchdown, but I know UF worked a lot on this play during the week and Dan Mullen had every reason to believe it would execute properly. The ensuing touchdown to Mikey Henderson was good coverage by Wondy Pierre-Louis but he just never found the football.
The Gators lost this game because they could not stop the run and they were handcuffed in their own running game. Moreno was a ball of energy who ran through tackles and made guys miss all day. UF tried bringing eight guys in the box but that did not work much either. Brandon Spikes will play on Sundays but he did not have an NFL worthy performance in my opinion. The defensive line lost some guys early but give Georgia’s improving line credit they brought the fight to the Gators.
On offense it became very evident late in the second quarter that UF was consciously not running Tim Tebow. We never knew how injured he was but by the third quarter, I think we all had an idea. By not revealing the extent of the sore shoulder, UF hoped to keep Georgia guessing, but what they really did was make life easier on the Dogs. Georgia’s defensive line teed off in the passing game with virtually an immobile Tebow and Florida became a drop back passing team. Combine that with the fact that Kestahn Moore got pulled from the game for his performance and you have no run game. The Gators came in averaging 198 yards and fell way short of that. Moore was in the game on the fourth and two but he failed to execute the block that would have sprung Harvin. No matter what happens in a game as a player you always have to stay in the game mentally and he did not.
FINAL OBSERVATIONS: I am inclined to give Georgia more credit than I am to put blame on Florida. Georgia tried a psychological move early in the game and it set the tempo for the entire day. What Georgia did was classless, but it was also a bit of genius. If you understand this series then you know it has been mental. Georgia has good players and good coaches they just get psyched out versus the Gators. Richt tried to loosen the mood by changing his persona and I think his team played that way the entire day. I give him credit for trying something different and using it to his advantage.
Florida’s defense was too young and inexperienced to react or recognize what was going on. I can assure you last year’s defense would have gotten into a shoving match in the end zone. But even though Georgia psyched themselves up for this game, Florida was in it. Florida’s offense played as if it’s hands were tied all day because of the injury to Tim Tebow. They did not get maximum efficiency due to the lack of his running and this was another Saturday they had to be perfect. Last week UF had 10 possessions and scored on seven to win a huge game while this week UF scored only four times with four possessions ending with turnovers or downs. The difference was not whether Georgia’s defense is that much better than Kentucky’s (which it is), it was the fact that Tebow could not run the full offense. I thought the bye week helped Georgia prepare and the Dogs used it to their advantage. Richt is 10-2 following a bye week and the 42 points put up against the Gators was the most by a Georgia team since 1982 when Herschel Walker led a 44-0 rout.
UF can still win the SEC East believe it or not but they better get ready for a dicey home game with Vanderbilt. If Georgia and Tennessee lose one more game each and Florida wins out they will get the tiebreaker against the Dogs and Vols. The first is head to head which each team would be 1-1 and the next is divisional record. UF would have just one divisional loss while Georgia and Tennessee would at least have two. The Vols would have to lose to Kentucky or Vandy while a loss to Kentucky or Auburn would be good enough to get the Dogs to three losses.
This week UF will look to get back on track defensively against the run while trying to get the Gator ground game dialed back in. I would be remiss if I did not mention Percy Harvin who was special on Saturday. This kid brings it every play and for a natural receiver he is the toughest runner UF has at running back. If I were UF and I knew Tebow was not going to run again I would start Harvin at tailback and get him 15 carries. As for defensive adjustments, well the Gators have to play better. UF did not get Georgia off the field on third down and missed too many tackles.