JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s defense is for real and Georgia’s offense is really bad. Those were among the validations Saturday as the Gators overpowered the Bulldogs 24-10 to win for the third consecutive year in this storied neutral-site series at EverBank Field.
Georgia, which fell to 4-4 overall and 2-4 in SEC, is off to its worst start at this point since 2010. That year, Georgia had the same record and finished 6-7. It’s the team’s worst SEC start since 1996, when it went 3-5 in the league.
The Bulldogs mustered only 164 total yards against the SEC’s leading defense. Meanwhile, when the Gators’ offense got into position to score, which wasn’t that often, the Bulldogs failed to stop them. The Gators (6-1, 4-1) are a step closer to repeating as SEC Eastern Division champions if they can win out in league play.
Here’s how it broke down:
- Star(s) of game: Florida receiver C’yontai Lewis had two big catches on the Gators’ go-ahead scoring drive, and also had the key block that sprung his position mate Antonio Callaway on a second-half scoring run. Lewis, a key player in last year’s win, finished with two catches for 36 yards.
- Turning point: Florida took the lead for good late in the second quarter. Another Bulldogs’ run-run-pass, three-and-out possession gave the Gators the ball at the Georgia 44 following a 20-yard punt. A pair of third-down conversions set up Florida at the Bulldogs’ 16, then cornerback Malkom Parrish was flagged for interference in the end zone on a pass for C’yontai Lewis. On second-and-goal from the 2, freshman Jordan Scarlett scored on a run to give the Gators a 14-10 lead with 1:37 remaining in the first half.
- Questions answered: As if it was ever in doubt, the Bulldogs have a serious problem in the kicking game. This time it was the punting that let down Georgia. It was giving up an average of 15.8 yards per punt to Florida (47.8 to 32.0), which represented a lot of hidden yardage in a field-position game domination by the Gators.
- Questions looming: Will Georgia’s run game be resurrected again this season? The Bulldogs entered their last possession of the game averaging 0.8 yards per rush attempt, there worst of the season by far. Nick Chubb had nine carries for 20 yards at that point and Georgia had 21 yards on 19 carries, its fewest yards in this game since 1960.
- Statistically speaking: Florida didn’t run the ball down Georgia’s throat, but the Gators managed to move the ball when they had to. Florida freshman Jordan Scarlett had 72 yards on 20 carries and scored on a 2-yard run. The Gators won the battle of the line of scrimmage decisively.
- Kirby Smart’s key quote: “We are 4-4. That’s a fact. That’s a reality. What can we do about it? Get our butts ready to play Kentucky. There’s some frustrated kids in that locker room, and I’m frustrated for them. But I also know they will fight.”
- What it means: Florida’s SEC championship hopes stay alive. Georgia’s focus now turns to becoming eligible for a bowl berth. That’s not a given. The Bulldogs travel to Kentucky next Saturday. The Wildcats throttled Missouri 35-21 in Columbia on Saturday to remain second in the East with a 4-2 SEC record. They’re 5-3 overall and might be favored against Georgia.