JACKSONVILE, Fla. — Georgia football got the statement win it needed Saturday at TIAA Bank Field, sending a clear message that the Bulldogs still control the SEC East Division.
Georgia beat Florida 24-17 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score, never trailing and controlling the clock against the Gators by a staggering 35:48 to 24:12.
Kirby Smart talked about his team’s toughness and ability to grind out the win, in a game the Bulldogs knew they had to win to keep season goals alive.
Smart can become the first coach win win three straight SEC East Division crowns since Steve Spurrier (1994-96).
The Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1 SEC) are in firm control of the SEC East Division and a return to the College Football Playoffs.
Here’s one viewpoint of how the positions graded out:
Jake Fromm was 20-of-30 passing for 279 yards with 2 TDs, and he showed the ability to scramble and avoid sacks the few times Florida was able to get in the backfield. Fromm was effective calling plays and executing at the line of scrimmage, and with the game on the line, he completed a 22-yard pass to Eli Wolf that enabled UGA to run out the clock.
Running backs (A)
D’Andre Swift earned every inch of his 86 yards on 25 carries, running into a stacked box throughout the night. Swift did break off an eye-popping 30-yard run on which he hurdled a would-be tackler. Swift also had a 24-yard catch. Brian Herrien had 7 carries for 13 yards but did damage with 4 catches for 46 yards including a one-handed grab. James Cook looked good on his only carry, gaining 6 yards.
Offensive line (A-)
Georgia’s original starting offensive line was back intact for the first time since the opening game of the season, and the results were mostly impressive. The Bulldogs didn’t give up a sack to Florida, which leads the SEC with 29 sacks this season. Cade Mays got beat leading to a Florida tackle-for-loss, and center Trey Hill was called for an offsides infraction.
Lawrence Cager was magnificent with 7 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Dominick Blaylock came through with a 3-yard TD catch, and tight end Eli Wolf helped seal the victory with a 22-yard third-down catch. George Pickens was surprisingly quiet, 1 catch for 4 yards, while Matt Landers had a holding penalty that wiped out what would have been a 37-yard D’Andre Swift TD run.
Defensive line (A)
Domination up front, with some special play in the trenches. Kirby Smart likes to consider his outside linebackers down linemen, so we’ll give Azeez Ojulari’s sack to the defensive line. Nose tackle Jordan Davis also recorded a sack while Florida was limited to just 21 yards rushing in 19 attempts. Travon Walker made an impact with a pass deflection at the line.
Middle linebacker Monty Rice came through with a team-high 9 tackles including a pivotal TFL that turned away Florida on a third-and-1 at the Gators’ 18. Rice also had a pass break-up. Nakobe Dean also had 2 pass break-ups for the linebackers, who appeared to be filling gaps well.
Richard LeCounte’s fourth down pass break up on Kyle Pitts was one of the best plays of the season. LeCounte and Mark Webb each had 6 tackles. Cornerback Eric Stokes chipped in with 4 tackles and Divaad Wilson also had 3. Safety J.R. Reed appeared to do a great job directing traffic, but Reed dropped another potential interception.
Special Teams (A-)
Some real step up in the area, with Rodrigo Blankenship back in form with makes from 31, 37 and 27 and five touchbacks on his six kickoffs. Punter Jake Camara dropped a punt inside the Florida 9. Brian Herrien had 2 kick returns totaling 51 yards. Dominick Blaylock had a 7-yard punt return.
Georgia can certainly play better, but the pressure was on and the Bulldogs executed. Coach Kirby Smart and quarterback Jake Fromm were both clearly relieved to see their hard work pay off with the impressive win against the Gators.