JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Georgia had what Kirby Smart referred to as the “drive of the year” at the most pivotal junction in its 42-20 win over Florida on Saturday.
Senior Kenny McIntosh, who had a career-high 16 carries for 90 yards and two touchdowns -- along with a pair of receptions -- helped set the tone for the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0 SEC).
Five of the six plays on the 78-yard touchdown drive Smart referenced came on the ground as the Bulldogs extended their lead to 35-20 after the Gators had scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter.
“That was probably the drive of the year so far, and they answered the bell, it was 28-20,” said Smart, who has now won five of the past six meetings against Florida.
“We’d lost momentum, we had what felt like three kickoff returns in a row. We weren’t getting field position and Kenny (McIntosh) had the fumble.”
The Gators turned McIntosh’s fumble and Stetson Bennett’s second interception of the game into 10 of their 17 third-quarter points.
Georgia, which built a 28-3 halftime lead with smothering defense and explosive plays to Brock Bowers (73 yards), Darnell Washington (25 yards) and Ladd McConkey (30 yards), turned to its ground game.
McIntosh fumbled on Georgia’s first play of the second half when the ball was stripped from behind on his 4-yard gain, and the Gators turned it into a field goal that made the score 28-13.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken went back to McIntosh on the next drive, and the senior captain responded by tearing off runs of 13 yards and 15 yards before Bennett was picked off on an underthrown pass.
Florida made that turnover hurt, scoring three plays later on a 78-yard TD pass after freshman safety Malaki Starks blew his coverage.
“Kenny came out after that fumble, and he had that eye of the Tiger look, and he wanted the ball and he was running the ball hard, and physical and getting yards after contact,” Smart said.
“That’s a lot of credit to the offensive line, but that’s a lot of credit to Kenny, as well.”
What Smart referred to as “the drive of the year” started with McIntosh bursting 11 yards up the middle and ended with a 22-yard touchdown run by Daijun Edwards that made it 35-20.
Ninety-one of the Bulldogs’ 110 yards in the third quarter came on the ground.
And McIntosh wasn’t done yet, powering through Florida defenders and moving the pile on a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that essentially put the game out of reach.
Smart went over to McIntosh on the sideline with a message.
“I told him he’s a bad MF’r, he’s tough, he’s physical and that’s what I talk about,” Smart said. “You have an opportunity to show resiliency, which is one of our four DNA characteristics, and I promise you every NFL scout and every Georgia fan watching will remember the way he responded.
“Kenny ran the ball with a vicious attitude, a contact-seeking running back … he ran pissed off.”