Fighting to the finish, Georgia overrides Florida – and history

A sight seldom seen in Jacksonville: Mark Richt victorious. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

A sight seldom seen in Jacksonville: Mark Richt victorious. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Jacksonville — At halftime Mark Richt invoked the fresh memory of the St. Louis Cardinals. “Guys that don’t quit have a chance,” he told his Georgia Bulldogs.

Much later, Richt would tell the assembled media: “We didn’t quit.”

Folks can and will argue over the worth of one victory over a Florida team that hasn’t won since September, but no one can question the weight that had fallen on the Bulldogs regarding their strange inability to win this one game. “There was some history and some demons,” Richt said, and the way this game began it was as if those demons would beat Georgia by themselves.

Florida’s first play from scrimmage netted 72 yards. Its first touchdown came on a fourth-and-19 pass 7 1/2 minutes into the game. (Who goes for it on fourth-and-19 so early in any game?) Its second touchdown came on a 99-yard kickoff return by its second-best returner. Everything that had gone wrong for Georgia in this series the past two decades was going wrong all at once, but that, in a weird way, might have been for the best.

Said cornerback Brandon Boykin: “You could say a lot of bad things happened. We had to calm down. But this team is special. After we lost to Boise, I told people, ‘Don’t worry about this team.’ We’ve bounced back.”

Said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo of his team’s 17-3 deficit: “Nobody said, ‘Hey, here we go again.’ ”

Surely a few Bulldogs thought it, but they put aside any nattering negativity to focus on the task at hand. Said Todd Grantham, the defensive coordinator: “That game was a test of our mental toughness. We kept going. We kept playing the next play.”

One play changed this game and maybe the course of Georgia’s season. The same Richt who’d ordered a field goal on fourth-and-goal against Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl last December rediscovered the nerve that had marked him as a young head coach. Ninety seconds before halftime, his team down 14 points, Richt had Aaron Murray throw into the end zone on fourth-and-five. Michael Bennett hauled it down, and from there Georgia believed.

Said Alec Ogletree, the superb linebacker: “Once the offense scored right before halftime, we fed off that.”

The Gators’ offense, overseen by the famous Charlie Weis, would manage 32 yards and one first down in the second half against Grantham’s defenders. With quarterback John Brantley unable to work under center due to an ankle injury, Florida went almost exclusively to the empty backfield, and Grantham, cogitating on the fly, trumped Weis at every turn.

Grantham: “It’s a credit to our players … From halftime on, we were playing a new game plan.”

Midway through the third quarter, Richt did it again. His team down seven points, Richt chose to have Murray throw again — to different receiver down a different sideline — on fourth-and-six, and Tarvarres King outfought Jaylen Watkins for the ball. At last, the game was tied. It would come untied due to a field goal generated by another long kickoff return, but by then Georgia had made its point: This day would not be like other days against the hated Gators.

Richt: “I just thought the best thing to do was to go for it on fourth down. I just felt like we needed a touchdown. I didn’t think threes were going to get it.”

The fourth quarter was all Bulldogs, and they celebrated in a way that far outstripped a four-point victory over a 4-4 opponent. What did this game mean? Said King: “Everything. We’re back.”

Again, that might be overstating. But when a team has failed so often in this venue, any break in the pattern is major news. “Now that it’s over,” Richt said, “I can say, ‘Yeah, it was a big deal.’ It was a big deal for me personally.”

For two years we’ve parsed Georgia results and asked, “What does this mean for Richt’s job status?” After Saturday, we can say this much for sure: Richt’s Bulldogs started 0-2 but have won six in a row; they’ve beaten Florida, which hadn’t happened since 2007, and they’ve kept themselves in position to take the SEC East if South Carolina slips. At this moment, it’s almost impossible to imagine Georgia parting ways with this coach anytime soon.

No, this isn’t the most polished bunch you’ll see. (Richt described his special team as “mostly average to scary.”) But Georgia spotted Florida 14 points and held its nerve in a way the Gators — 14 penalties for 106 yards — could not. In a game where the Bulldogs invariably invent ways to lose, they found a way to win. They might not be the smoothest-running bunch, but these ‘Dogs will hunt — and fight.

By Mark Bradley

932 comments Add your comment

Elliot Garcia

October 29th, 2011
9:39 pm

UGA is going to destroy LSU in the SEC Championship game! http://www.keepmarkricht.com

Erk

October 29th, 2011
9:40 pm

John

October 29th, 2011
9:41 pm

John

October 29th, 2011
9:41 pm

Not quite, I just had to read the article!

SatillaDawg

October 29th, 2011
9:42 pm

It just doesn’t get any better than this!

A whole year to give Gator fans grief!

Way to go DAWGS!

The Bulldog Nation is so very, very proud of you!

WOW!

BreakingNews

October 29th, 2011
9:43 pm

Jarvis Jones is a BEAST!

Sweet sweet victory

October 29th, 2011
9:43 pm

Hot damn, HOW BOUT THEM DAWGS!

Barry

October 29th, 2011
9:46 pm

The Dogs made plays like they used to. Where did Richard Samuel come from? A power running game makes Georgia so much better on offense

Rocker

October 29th, 2011
9:46 pm

Richt HAD to go for it on fourth down, Blair Walsh is finished.

The Bulldogs will continue to be mediocre at best as long as this bunch of coaches remain in charge.

UGA grad and been a fan for over 30 years now, but this is pathetic.

BG

October 29th, 2011
9:48 pm

GO DAWGS! To hell with UF.

Miss Bee

October 29th, 2011
9:48 pm

Richt gave honor to his lord and saviour jesus christ because it was a miracle that they won!

Florida beat themselves not Georgia.

Shine

October 29th, 2011
9:49 pm

Hooray! The Sheepdawgs beat (with the help of the refs) a gimped up Gator team. These Sheepdawgs I seen couldnt beat 2/3rds of the ACC!

DawgInaTruck

October 29th, 2011
9:50 pm

Huge relief. We can enjoy this for a day and get ready for next week. The great thing about bouncing back the way we have since the 0-2 start is that each game we play now has a huge, huge meaning. It also means we have to keep winning or all that work and everything we’ve accomplished means a lot less. That is the position all good teams want to be in come November and we’re in that position. Keep kickin’ butt Dawgs!!

yearofthedawg

October 29th, 2011
9:50 pm

Well said. Not the most polished bunch, but they get it done.

yearofthedawg

October 29th, 2011
9:50 pm

Well said. Not the most polished bunch, but they get it done.

Matthew

October 29th, 2011
9:51 pm

Mark Richt took chances today and outcoached Muschamp and Weis. Georgia looked to have the better players and the better plan. Murray and special teams must improve for them to win out. Completing one pass in 2nd half is not going to get it. Still, a great night for Dawgs and Richt. Maybe all of the ‘hot seat’ talk will stop now for a few weeks! On a bad note, the Techies look like the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers right now.

Chamblee Dawg

October 29th, 2011
9:51 pm

And boom goes the dynamite

BvgNeedsaHaircut

October 29th, 2011
9:51 pm

I smell sec d-bags

Will Muschamp

October 29th, 2011
9:52 pm

1eyedJack

October 29th, 2011
9:53 pm

Blair Walsh may have helped Coach Richt find his Mojo.

cattle dawg

October 29th, 2011
9:53 pm

Good column mark. This was a game the dawgs typically lose. Congrats dawgs.

Herschel Talker

October 29th, 2011
9:53 pm

MB:

All Mark Richt did today was to beat a team he is supposed to beat. Beating teams you are supposed to beat just equals mediocrity. This is the worst UF team in 20 years. The team still played undisciplined on special teams. Fans that are happy with mediocrity will be happy with todays win.

FIRE MARK RICHT!

HT

jvillebil

October 29th, 2011
9:55 pm

Just got back from the game. Most fun I’ve had since Run Lindsey Run.

1eyedJack

October 29th, 2011
9:55 pm

Stuff a sock in it Herschel.

Mr Bee

October 29th, 2011
9:56 pm

Sorry miss bee but you are way wrong. Georgia tried every way imaginable to lose this game. Georgia played one of its worse games of the year and still won. So no Florida didnt beat themselves, we beat them.

SoGaDawg

October 29th, 2011
9:56 pm

Don’t drink the koolaid my fellow Georgia fans. We let a horrible, horrible Florida team score 20 points, we barely won by 4 points. This is still the headcoach who year after year does not have one of the most talented teams in the Nation ready to play a complete season. How many years have we lost to start the season, look badly under prepared, then have average play the rest of the year, get lucky to win most of the remaining games and we somehow always seem to forget the beginning of each season. Well, I haven’t forgotten, never will. I have not forgotten that Richts 3 wins out of 11 against Florida have all come when Florida has been very bad. People say look at his over all job, well I do look and I see underachieving year after year with what he has to work with. No, I say do not forget the big picture because of this one win. I am proud the Dawgs won today, but it was in no way an vendication of Richt and his inability.

G

October 29th, 2011
9:57 pm

Hershel Taker… So are you not supposed to beat the teams you are supposed to beat? Not sure what your point is here. It’s cool if you want to be some bitter fan but at least make a better argument. You play who you play.

jvillebil

October 29th, 2011
9:57 pm

If we had of mad the early field goals, I think we would have buried Fla, but the feeling in the stadium from before half on, was this time is gonna be different.

Bama going to blow the mutts out of the dome

October 29th, 2011
9:58 pm

bank on it girls. enjoy your win over a very lousy gators team, get your why we loss excuses ready you bunch sissys.

ULUZ

October 29th, 2011
9:58 pm

Like it or not UF and all the gator nation the DAWGS are your daddy for a whole year. So put a strap on that snout and be real quite.

Tee

October 29th, 2011
9:58 pm

Great win for the Dawgs!!!! All we need to do is beat Auburn and UK and we will be in ATL for the SECCG!! USC will lose to Arkansas next week…count on it!!! IT’S GREAT TO BE A GEORGIA BULLDOG!!!!!

The Monger

October 29th, 2011
9:59 pm

I am glad for the bulldogs sixth win in a row from a very young team, but this is another typical display of poor coaching by the bulldog staff, after nearly losing the game to Vandy because of terrible special teams play including a 98 yard k.o. return, a fake punt given up, and a blocked punt nearly returned for a touchdown…Richt follows that pathetic effort against Vandy nonetheless, by an even worse effort, which is almost impossible looking at that kickoff for td, fake punt, and blocked punt ALL IN ONE GAME!!! Yet Richt tops it with the opening kickoff taken to midfield (taken back by a hold), another kickoff taken 99 yards to the house, another kickoff taken 70 yards for a field goal, two missed field goals, and three horrid punts by Butler, and you have the WORST SPECIAL TEAMS in the NATION!!! Like I said we won 24-20, and this WILL be the start of a streak against FLA , I can feel it. However, this horrid special teams play that cost us the SC game, and almost cost us the Fla and Vandy games HAS TO STOP if we hope to play up to SEC championship caliber. I am majorly concerned about Murray and Crowell as well. It should be obvious Murray is NOT THE ANSWER!!! Nowhere near the answer, he is not a big game college QB, that is a FACT!! This is his FIRST WIN against a winning college team in his whole CAREER, and he didnt even win it…the defense did, he just didnt lose it…I mean 15-34 (thats sad), I believe he missed his last 10 in a row during the fourth quarter….he’s not cutting it, time to give Mason a chance. Crowell cant take the pounding of the SEC, he is weak and is injured on every other run it seems like, he has missed at least a hundred snaps he could have taken this year because he is :”too hurt” to continue, yes i question some of his injuries and his heart not to play in some big snaps this year. Yes he is a freshman, but he is majorly a wuss!!!!

jvillebil

October 29th, 2011
9:59 pm

After 2 national championships and a great run with Tebow, Fla fans are struggling with the fact they may be in a rebuilding senerio.

The Miz

October 29th, 2011
9:59 pm

I will say this: Thank you to the NCAA for those USC sanctions that led to Jones ending up in Athens.

BECAUSE I’M THE MIZ! AND I’M….. AWWWWWWEEEEEEEEESOOOOOOOOMMMME!!!!!!

Bama going to blow the mutts out of the dome

October 29th, 2011
10:00 pm

Jvillebill “IF’” Is a big word for losers.

G

October 29th, 2011
10:00 pm

Shine… You are kidding I hope. The number one team in the ACC is losing right now to a team who lost to VA and Miami… And VT barely beat Duke.

stendek

October 29th, 2011
10:00 pm

Hi Mark. I am going to try hard not to be a Gloomy Gus right now. After all the Thrashers are now losing in Canada and the Hawks are still on the sidelines. Hooray! In addition the Georgia football Dawgs finally won in Jacksonville, Florida for what seems like the first time in 100 years. I was highly concerned when the Gators had 17 points on the scoreboard before I had the opportunity to get settled in. The Dawg defense stood tall except for that extremely painful to watch fourth and forever TD. Dawgs outscored the Floridians 21-3 down the stretch to keep slim playoff hopes alive. Aaron Murray could not complete a pass to save his life at the end except for the last one. As it turned out that was the only one that mattered. Too bad the Dawgs entered the season without a punter or FG kicker. In games such as this one unsuccessful FG kicks can be fatal. Not this time. There is absolutely nothing special about the Dawg special teams. Horrible with a capital H! I wanted the Dawgs to score on that last possession for selfish reasons. Man do I loathe those arrogant Gators! Dawg offensive play calls remain not only highly suspect but totally incomprehensible! Defense adjusted well to satop Gators. Defense can do nothing about specia; team breakdowns! Nice victory. Real test comes in two weeks. GO DAWGS!

Herschel Talker

October 29th, 2011
10:00 pm

G:

Of course you should beat the teams you are supposed to beat. The problem is that Mark Richt in the last 5 years has not beaten a team that is ranked. If you can’t ever beat a ranked team, that is mediocrity. If you are happy with mediocrity, then lets give Richt a 5 year extension and be a middle dweller in the SEC.

HT

Oh yea

October 29th, 2011
10:01 pm

Go Dawgs!!! 2012 Recruits…Come to UGA !!!

TEE count on it

October 29th, 2011
10:02 pm

your dawgs going to get beat by Bama/LSU.

JB

October 29th, 2011
10:03 pm

People who check in on the Dawgs on game day are thrilled. The people who follow this team 24/7, 365 days a year know we just beat a Florida team that was pitiful. Florida is built for the spread and they are not running it. I have no idea what is wrong with their defense, loaded with 4&5 star guys and a Former defensive guru as head coach. I’m sure the Florida folks are asking the same thing. Mark is a good OC and special teams coach away from being a lot better. Good win. Florida folks won’t acknowledge it on the books.

JoeDawg

October 29th, 2011
10:04 pm

Reading all teh comments from supposed Dawg fans.. seems liek we lost the game. Its not pretty.. but it’s another “W”. Go Dawgs. A win over teh lizzards is awesome. Now GATA the rest of the way

casdawg

October 29th, 2011
10:04 pm

HOW BOUT THEM AMAAaaaZING DAWGS…had half of our family there and THEY HAD THE TIME OF THEIR LIFE! Takes me back to the ol’ days when some of those tenacious Dooley teams just found ways to win. A win is a win is a win and this one was a big ONE. Congrats to CMR – the greatest head coach around and Coach Bobo, Grantham, etc….and those wonderful, hard-working players. You all deserve to celebrate. We are so proud of you all. Larry Munson, if you are reading, WE SURE MISSED YOU – ALWAYS MISS YOU AND SO THOUGHT OF YOU TODAY. Hope you smiled as those last seconds ticked off the Gator Bowl scoreboard. St. Simons, Jeckyl, Savannah and Athens…and all the rest…..ENJOY THIS ONE TONIGHT!

Dawg stuck in Bammer...

October 29th, 2011
10:04 pm

Still a tad baffled by Crowell and his lack of play….

I’ve never wanted a win any more than today.

Tom, Resident Georgia Fan

October 29th, 2011
10:04 pm

To hell with you bad-losing Gators, to hell with you corwardly Tech im-posters a win is a win stuff it up your piehole! More to come whiners and poor aZZ losers.

Warnell Dawg

October 29th, 2011
10:04 pm

I could talk about Blair Walsh’s struggles.
I could talk about our blown opportunities.
I could talk about Crowell’s durability (or seemingly lack thereof).
I could talk about Murray’s struggles with accuracy.
I could talk about our disatrous special teams (especially kickoff coverage).
I could talk about Bobo’s bad playcalling (luckily Conley and Bennett bailed him out).
But I won’t talk about those things, because we beat Florida and right now, that’s all that matters.

Oh Yeah

October 29th, 2011
10:05 pm

2012 recruits come to Georgia who hasn’t won nothing in 100 years.

G

October 29th, 2011
10:06 pm

Dude you are just off base. You play who you play each season. Mark Richt can’t help it that teams we play are down. And why are you looking to the past. You can’t move forward if you are always looking behind. Don’t forget Alabama has beat only 1 ranked team this year, because only one team was ranked that they played.

MEDDAWG

October 29th, 2011
10:06 pm

Don’t see how Florida beat themselves. When a team that had near 200 yards in the first half againts # 2 Alabama and comes out and can only manage 50 some odd yards and one first down againts UGA in the second half can hardley be called beating themselves. UGA offense was average at best, special teams were a level below SUCK, but anyone that watched the game saw that the UGA D was dominant.

UGA wins out, SC looses to Arkansas, UGA plays whoever wins ALA-LSU game!!!!

Go DAWGS !!!!!

JB

October 29th, 2011
10:06 pm

And someone ought ( maybe Tony Bennett) to write a song for Crowell called, ” I left my heart in Columbus”.