- The game: Georgia vs. Florida, in Jacksonville, Fla., Oct. 28, 2017
- The moment: Sack, strip, scoop and score by the Bulldogs.
- Key player or players: Georgia’s J.R. Reed and Tyrique McGhee; Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks.
- What it meant: The play made it clear to the Gators that Georgia wasn’t going to relax and sit on its lead in the second half, that the Bulldogs were going to continue to come after Florida and turn their victory into as big a rout as possible.
ATHENS ― By the time the game reached the midpoint of the third quarter, Georgia already had created a boatload of big moments against Florida at EverBank Field. Despite not taking the opening kickoff, the Bulldogs scored their first touchdown barely 3 minutes into the game. They led 21-0 after one quarter and 28-0 midway through the third quarter.
Time to take the foot off the gas and rest the starters, right?
Instead, head coach Kirby Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker apparently felt that was the perfect time to dial up an all-out blitz.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks and the Gators were facing a third-and-6 situation at the Florida 23 with just under six minutes remaining in the third quarter. Franks dropped back to pass, but before he could he get his feet set on a three-step drop out of the shotgun, Georgia cornerback Tyrique McGhee was bearing down on him from the left side. Simultaneously, safety J.R. Reed was coming on a blitz from that side.
McGhee reached Franks first, making contact just as Franks raised his arm to throw the football. Reed arrived a millisecond later, shoving them both and reaching with his right hand to yank at the football. It came loose and bounced perfectly toward Reed, standing in the middle of the hash marks on the 3-yard line. Reed quickly reached down and snatched the ball from knee level and high-stepped untouched into the end zone.
It was already a full-on Georgia party, but the red-and-black faithful went bonkers and the Gators’ fans headed for the exits. The Bulldogs led 35-0 with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter.
— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) October 28, 2017
“I guess you could call that a savage moment,” Reed said after the game.
Indeed, at that point in the season, Georgia had embraced the new tradition of a player who recorded a takeaway or momentous defensive play in a game to don the gold “Savage Dawg” shoulder pads, complete with spikes. Once Reed reached the UGA sideline, the set was placed on him, and he was lifted on his defensive teammates’ shoulders to the unbridled pleasure of the ravenous Georgia crowd.
The Bulldogs hadn’t recorded a sack in two games coming into that contest and hadn’t notched a defensive touchdown all season to that point. They recorded 5 sacks, 8 tackles for loss and an interception against the Gators, who managed just 249 total yards and didn’t score until the 2:42 mark of the fourth quarter against Georgia’s reserves.
Reed indicated the Bulldogs had been holding back on some of their defensive strategy until that game.
“We can’t show everyone our full hand,” the sophomore said. “So, we brought some new things in this game, just like they brought some new things on their offense this game. … It’s putting new wrinkles in.”
Reed’s score was 1 of 6 touchdowns the Bulldogs recorded on the way to a 42-7 win. It was the largest margin of victory for Georgia in the Florida series since recording a 44-0 win in 1982. The Bulldogs improved to 8-0 for the first time since 2002 and moved immediately into preparations for the home game the following week against South Carolina.