I had a sinking feeling as they broke for the half in the Georgia-Florida game when Urban Meyer told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson, “You look at the history of this series, turnovers win the game. That’s gonna be the key to the second half.”
At the time, his team was leading 21-7 largely because the Dogs had turned the ball over and missed on at least one take-away. As it turned out, Georgia battled back valiantly in the second half to tie the game up twice and send it to overtime. But in the end, Meyer proved to be the seer, as a tipped ball on third down of Georgia’s first OT possession was intercepted by the Gators, giving them the ball and the chance to win it with a field goal by their backup kicker.
I guess you can say that losing a thriller by 3 points in overtime certainly marks some sort of progression over the past two years, when the Dogs were hammered by the Gators, but when you consider that Georgia was favored this year over a Tim Tebow-less Florida team on a three-game losing streak, the end result doesn’t hurt much less than the two previous losses.
The Gators got off to a slow start in the scoreless first quarter, as has been typical of them this year, but then it was all Florida in the second quarter as the game looked to be headed toward a repeat of the same old tired scenario that has plagued Georgia most of the past decade. Despite their talk this week about approaching the Jacksonville showdown as just another SEC game, it was obvious that the Dogs were playing extremely tight, and the turnover problem that had largely disappeared over the previous three games returned with a vengeance.
It wasn’t just the times Georgia turned the ball over. It was the Dogs’ inability to accept the gifts that Florida tried to give them. It wasn’t a case of the ball bouncing wrong; it was Georgia not covering. One fumble Sanders Commings tried to pick up and run with instead of just jumping on the ball, and the Gators ended up getting it back. Another time the Dogs recovered a fumble only to immediately lose it. And with 24 seconds left in regulation Bacarri Rambo had a potential interception hit him in the hands but couldn’t hold on to it.
The tendency might be to lay the blame for this loss on the fact that Aaron Murray definitely had his worst game. I remember back during the depths of the Dogs’ four-game losing streak someone noting that the play of Murray had been the lone bright spot and wondering, “Imagine how it would be if he had a bad game and played like a redshirt freshman.” Well, that happened in the first half, as Murray was frequently off in his passes (a 63-yard scoring strike to Tavarres King in the second quarter being the main exception) and coughed the ball up on a sack.
But Murray looked sharp most of the time in the second half as he led the Dogs back and Georgia outscored Florida 24-10. One thing you can say about this group of Dogs is that they don’t give up. As Mark Richt noted after the game, even on that interception in OT, they could have just let the Florida defender run it back for a score but the last two Georgia players finally managed to force him out of bounds at the 1-yard line. In the end, the Gators still prevailed, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort on the part of the Dogs.
Not much consolation, though, considering this was the year Georgia looked best positioned to come out of Jacksonville with a win. Facing Trey Burton another three or four years isn’t a very heartening prospect.
I’ll be back Sunday afternoon with more thoughts on the game. Until then, feel free to share your views of the latest loss to the Gators.
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