JACKSONVILLE — It wasn’t humiliating. Is that better? After two mostly miserable decades in this rivalry and consecutive dismemberings of 49-10 and 41-17, should it feel better to know Georgia walked off the field and could have won?
“No — it’s a loss,” Akeem Dent said.
“An L is an L,” A.J. Green said.
“This kind of hurt more,” Washaun Ealey said.
Georgia came close Saturday. That shouldn’t be the objective.
Maybe comebacks say something about a team’s character. Maybe the Bulldogs grew up a little in the second half. Maybe the quarterback won’t have early-game jitters next time. Maybe one year again, they’ll actually beat Florida.
But this program should not be about gauging the degree of severity of losses.
They lost in overtime 34-31. They showed remarkable resolve by rallying from a 21-7 halftime deficit to tie it twice, the last time at 31-31 with 4:36 left in regulation. That’s certainly more resiliency and substance that the past two Georgia teams showed in Jacksonville.
But here’s the reality check. This is not a great Florida team. It entered with its worst regular-season losing streak in 22 years. This is certainly the worst team Urban Meyer ever has fielded. It’s so bad that a 4-4 Georgia team on the wrong end of a lopsided rivalry was favored.
The Dogs lost anyway. That makes 18 in the past 21 years.
“I really don’t look at it like that,” said athletic director Greg McGarity. “College players have a two- or three-year window. They weren’t here the whole time.”
He is right about that. The real problem is that the one-year view is no better.
At 3-4 in the SEC, they are dead in the conference race.
At 4-5 overall, they are clinging only to mathematical possibilities for a lower-tier bowl.
The Liberty Bowl never should be the objective.
Green has been through three of these Florida games now. He probably won’t go through a fourth. The NFL calls. But it will take some time to forget this one.
“I swear I thought we were going to win this,” he said.
The comeback started with a field goal in the third quarter, making it 21-10. The Georgia scored touchdowns on its next three possessions. Murray, after completing only 5 of 14 passes with two interceptions in the first half, went 13-for-21 with two touchdowns in the second.
And we wondered: “Where did this team come from?”
“We were clicking on all cylinders,” Green said. “We had the momentum.”
Trailing 31-24, Murray drove the Dogs from midfield with under seven minutes left. On third-and-goal from the 15, he found Green in the middle of the end zone to tie the score. The teams went to overtime.
One more Murray mistake decided it. He tried to hit Green in the corner of the end zone, but the pass was tipped by linebacker Jelani Jones and intercepted at the 11 by safety Will Hill. (He nearly returned it for a touchdown but was pushed out of bounds at the 4-yard line by Tavarres King.)
Murray on the interception: “I’ve just got to learn from it. I wish I could take that throw back.”
The Gators got the ball back and ran three plays before Chas Henry’s game-winning 37-yard field goal.
Green, as a member of the field-goal block team, had a close-up view.
“I felt like I was going to block it,” he said. “It was real close.”
“I could feel the wind from the ball. Then I turned around and thought, ‘Dang.’ I was hoping a bird would fly down and knock it down.”
That just doesn’t happen in this rivalry. Things go wrong. Meyer justifiably gets torched for deciding to bring “Time To Die” guy, Chris Rainey back from suspension for this game.
What happens? Rainey scores the game’s first touchdown on a 20-yard run.
But this was less about Rainey than it was about Georgia. The Dogs are better than they were at 1-4. But not a lot. Beating Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky doesn’t prove a lot. Nor does losing close. It just makes for a little more pain and a little less humiliation.