Everybody is going to call it ugly. The quarterback was awful for most of the game. The opponent had six fumbles (four lost) and two interceptions. Two of the supposed best teams in the SEC swapped turnovers, penalties and dropped passes. If the late Sid Gillman was watching, he would’ve covered his eyes and screamed, “No! My eyes! My eyes!”
But does it matter?
Ugly is barely beating Kentucky after a bye week. Ugly is looking flawed against Buffalo and Florida Atlantic. Ugly is giving up 44 points to Tennessee. If beating the No. 2 team in the BCS — especially when it’s Florida — is considered ugly, it’s a canvas of ugly that the Bulldogs would wrap themselves in any day or night.
As Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, he of the three first-half interceptions, said Saturday night, “I know I’m going to get stressed out when I look at the film. But it’s still a great win.”
Georgia, drop-kicked at South Carolina three weeks ago, seemingly comatose in the SEC and again floundering in a season of high hopes, rode ugly back to respectability Saturday. The 17-9 win over Florida put the Bulldogs in control in the SEC East. They need only beat Ole Miss and Auburn to secure a berth in the conference championship — and in the process stomped on all those can’t-win-the-big-one claims.
The win had historical significance: It was the Dogs’ first time winning in consecutive years against Florida since 1988 and ’89. That’s long ago enough that the coach for that first game was Vince Dooley.
The game also had personal significance for Mark Richt. Battered for doing so poorly against top-10 teams (1-9 since 2008), the Georgia coach stayed on the field long after the game was over, going from one end of the stands to the other, celebrating with fans.
Winning this game last season, some believed, may have helped saved his job. Winning the game this season was even more significant because of the Gators’ stature.
Appropriately, it happened because of
defense, in general, and Jarvis Jones, in particular. Jones had three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He knocked the ball loose from tight end Jordan Reed at the Dogs’ 18 with five minutes left, as Florida was moving in for a potential touchdown.
Jones’ amusing self-analysis: “I don’t know my stats, but I think I had a good game.”
The defense, whether motivated by external criticism or the internal slap from safety Shawn Williams, who called his team “soft,” had one of its better games of the season. Florida was held without a touchdown in a Georgia win for the first time since 1988.
Jones again: “I think what Shawn Williams did, he challenged us. Obviously we needed it. … Everybody was calling us names, calling us soft. ESPN, everybody on TV. Soft, soft, soft, soft, soft. As a man, you take it personal.”
Here’s a suggestion for Richt: Have one player call everybody a name every week. Couldn’t hurt.
Georgia led only 10-9 when Murray made amends for a mostly horrible night (12-of-24, three interceptions). On a third-and-5 from the Gators’ 45, he dropped back, beat blitzing safety Josh Evans and completing an 8-yard pass to Malcolm Mitchell. The receiver spun away from cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and then cut across the field and ran to the end zone, giving the Dogs a 17-9 lead with seven minutes left.
The game’s only other touchdown — a 10-yard run by Todd Gurley — came early in the game following a Florida fumble. Of course. Florida had six fumbles (losing four) and six turnovers (Georgia three). The teams combined for six turnovers in the first half. They didn’t need marching bands — just the percussion section with the sounds of crashing cymbals with every bobble and misfire.
The Gators had only four turnovers in their first seven games. Yet quarterback Jeff Driskel fumbled on two of the first three plays of the game (Jones recovering the second). See, it doesn’t matter how ugly one team is if the other is worse.
Linebacker Jordan Jenkins said the team was inspired by a pregame speech by defensive end Cornelius Washington, who touched on all of the expected themes: no respect, big game, rival opponent.
“It was the craziest and wildest he’s ever been,” Jenkins said. “He was talking about how everybody was doubting us. He had us all pumped up and ready to go out there and knock some heads.”
Sometimes, that’s how games are won. The win is all anybody will remember.
By Jeff Schultz