ATLANTA — The scoreboard at EverBank Field in Jacksonville reflected a Georgia football victory over Florida by a 42-7 score, the Gators avoiding the shutout in the game’s final minutes.
Florida players at the SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday, however, agreed the game was much closer than the final score indicated.
The eventual SEC champion Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead, out-gaining a Florida team that was headed for a 4-7 season finish by a margin of 393 yards to 249 yards.
But was last year’s the game actually closer than the 42-7 final indicated?
“Definitely so,” said linebacker David Reese ll.
“Most definitely,” offensive lineman Martez Ivey insisted.
“Most definitely,” defensive lineman Cece Jefferson responded.
The 21 points in the first quarter were the most against a Florida team since 1970, and the Gators were shutout in the series at the half since 1988.
Such numbers might suggest a blowout of historic proportion, but the Gators weren’t about to concede that.
Each gave his own take on what went down last Oct. 28, and what many of us apparently only thought we saw.
“That game, we let that one slip away,” Reese said.
“That game was way closer than what the scoreboard put out last year,” Ivey said.
“ … that score doesn’t determine who’s the better team,” Jefferson concluded.
It’s that sort of denial that provides proof of the intensity of the rivalry.
To the credit of the Florida players, they did not attempt to play down the importance of the annual grudge match.
“That Georgia rivalry, it’s a lot for our season, and it means a lot for us to have a journey to get to Atlanta,” Reese said. “So that’s probably our biggest rivalry, Georgia, definitely.”
Ivey agreed, explaining why the Gators are so passionate when they face the Bulldogs.
“I feel like as players, we’re into it, because it’s in East (Division),” Ivey said, “and it’s either Georgia or Florida that’s going to play for that title.”
Jefferson was even more animated.
“I grew up watching that rivalry, (and) I remember vividly when Brandon Spikes KO’d Knowshon Moreno, and was talking to him, had his facemask connected and all the Gators had to come pull him back,” Jefferson said. “It’s little things like that trigger me and make me appreciate picking the University of Florida.
“You come to schools like this because of games like that, those are the games you come to this school for, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida State and anyone else we put on the schedule.”
Jefferson took it one notch higher, paying the Bulldogs and their fans quite a compliment.
“I kind of wish we went to Georgia and played at Georgia, I wouldn’t mind it,” Jefferson said. “I ain’t going to lie, it gets lit between the hedges, at night, I’ve seen where they light the cell phones up. It gets loud in there.
“I wouldn’t mind going from our stadium to their stadium every year We don’t have to go to Jacksonville every year.”
Florida defensive lineman Cece Jefferson
Florida offensive lineman Martez Ivey