JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Say this for Malcolm Mitchell: He sure knows how to make good after messing up.
Georgia’s sensational sophomore wideout was called for a personal foul/unsportsmanlike penalty midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 17-9 win over Florida. That in itself was not unusual. The Bulldogs were flagged 14 times for 132 times against the Gators, several of those of the personal-foul variety.
But this one was particularly egregious. Mitchell had just caught a first-down pass at the Florida 35 with the game hanging in the balance. But Mitchell drew a flag for taunting Florida cornerback Louchiez Purifoy after the catch. So instead, the Bulldogs were backed up to the 50.
Georgia coach Mark Richt let Mitchell have it. After a few choice words, Richt pulled Mitchell out of the game.
“I wasn’t even sure what I did,” Mitchell would say later. “Coach Richt didn’t let me find out. He just threw me off the field.”
Richt claimed he couldn’t remember what he said to Mitchell on the sideline, though a mischievous grin indicated he really might.
“I said enough to make him think he might not ever get in the game again,” Richt said. “He started walking off, so I grabbed the back of his shoulder pads and said, ‘hey, Malcolm, I’m only going to take you out for one play.’”
Good decision. The Bulldogs threw an incompletion on the one play Mitchell was out. He came back in and caught a five-yard pass on second down, then shook Purifoy on what would have been a modest gain and turned it into a dynamic 45-yard touchdown.
The score put Georgia ahead 17-9 with 7:11 play and assured the Gators would need a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie.
“I’ll always remember being in the end zone and my team jumping all over me,” said Mitchell, who led the Bulldogs with 74 yards on 5 receptions. “That was the best feeling, just to know that everybody was so happy and excited off a play that, not just me, but Aaron (Murray), the O-line, the other receivers helped make. Artie Lynch came all the way across the field to make a block for me. It just felt good to getting all that love like that.”
Mitchell said he didn’t feel pressured to make a play after getting chastised by his head coach. He was quickly consoled by his teammates.
“A lot of players came up to me and said, ‘listen, you’re a good player. Just play your game and don’t get into arguments with them,’” Mitchell said. “I think I had been doing it the whole game; that’s just the first time that called me on it. The situation we were in, we really didn’t need that. Fortunately opportunity came right after that.
Gilliard responds on field
Linebacker Mike Gilliard was indirectly called out by Shawn Williams in Williams’ “soft defense” tirade on Monday night. Williams had said he thought inside linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Alec Ogletree should never come off the field because of the intensity with which they play. Gilliard said the next day he felt “disrespected” and “took it personally.”
But Saturday, Gilliard took it out on the Gators’ offense. And at the end of the night, he, Ogletree and Herrera each had six tackles. He also left without any hard feelings.
“I feel like Shawn knew what he was doing,” Gilliard said with a smile. “He definitely knows how to get under my skin. It definitely worked. Before the game, I was praying that if I have to die out here tonight, I’m going to die going 100 percent full speed. When I made my first tackle, I told Shawn, ‘it ain’t sweet out here,’ and we both had a good laugh
Gurley back in the end zone
Freshman running back Todd Gurley’s 10-yard touchdown run gave the Bulldogs an early 7-0 advantage. It was Gurley’s team-leading 11th TD of the season, including 10 rushing and one on a kickoff return.
Gurley led the Bulldogs with 118 yards on a season-high 27 carries.
“He’s a horse, and we tried to ride the horse a little bit tonight,” Richt said. “Twenty-seven carries and no fumbles, that was big. We like our other backs, but this was one of those games where we really needed a big, strong back.”
Through eight games, Gurley now has 739 rushing yards
Still work to do
Although the win over Florida put Georgia in the most advantageous position to win the SEC East, UGA players were quick to note afterward that it ensured nothing.
To clinch a berth in the SEC title game Dec. 1 in the Georgia Dome, the Bulldogs must win their next two games against Ole Miss and Auburn. If Georgia loses either of those games and Florida beats Missouri, the Gators would go to the league title game.
“We’ve just got to keep winning. This isn’t it,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “This win doesn’t mean we’re going to the SEC Championship game. We still have two SEC games to go, four games left in this regular season. We want to finish off strong and get back to Atlanta.”
“I know we have our work cut out for us,” Richt said. “We haven’t won the East yet, but we’re in control of it.”
Another Rambo pick
Senior Bacarri Rambo moved in to a tie for second in Georgia history with 14 career interceptions. He got his first of the year to end the first half, thwarting a Gators scoring attempt by picking off the pass in the end zone.
“It killed their momentum they had created,” Richt said.
“It was just my time to step up and make a play,” Rambo said.
Rambo is third in school history in interception return yards with 259. He left the game briefly in the third quarter with a leg injury but returned in the fourth.
Putting Saturday’s turnovers in context:
Zander Ogletree spotting
Starting fullback Merritt Hall suffered an ankle injury on the second offensive play of the game for Georgia and did not return to the game. His status for Ole Miss is unknown.
Hall was replaced in the game by third-strong fullback Zander Ogletree, who hadn’t played all year until a few plays last week against Kentucky. On Ogletree’s first play in, he caught a 10-yard pass for a first down at the Florida 10, setting up a scoring run for Gurley in which Olgetree was the lead blocker. Ogltree caught one other pass for three yards.
The Bulldogs were already without one fullback for Saturday’s game. Freshman Quayvon Hicks suffered a concussion in practice on Tuesday and did not travel to Jacksonville. Senior Richard Samuel was also available to play.
Referees had to separate players and coaches during a brief skirmish shortly before kickoff. In the middle of the fray was Florida strength coach Jeff Dillman.
Dillman was captured in a screen shot that made its way to Twitter.com shoving a Georgia player. The player was indistinguishable from the grainy photos that were circulating. Moments after the run-in, Georgia players and coaches had to restrain Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham from going after Dillman.
Garrison Smith steps in
Junior Garrison Smith got the start at defensive end for the Bulldogs and led all down-linemen with 5 tackles. It was his second start of the season and fifth of Smith’s career.
Smith was filling in for injured starter Abry Jones. Jones had ankle surgery Tuesday as a result of an injury suffered in the first quarter against Kentucky. He’s is expected to be out six to eight weeks.
Georgia also moved outside linebacker Cornelius Washington down onto the line and played Jordan Jenkins at outside linebacker opposite of Jarvis Jones.
Dooley in the house
Former Georgia coach and athletic director Vince Dooley was attending his 56th Georgia-Florida on Saturday. He said he missed only one since 1956, and that was the year after his retirement from UGA when he was doing TV for ESPN.Dooley, who has been retired as the Bulldogs athletic director since 2004, said he comes to watch what has always been one of his favorite games and to attend the many functions that surround it.
This week, Dooley served as co-honorary starter, “whatever that is,” for a golf tournament up on Jekyll
Island, for a couple of book signings, and to attend the annual Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame dinner. Charley Whittemore, who played wide receiver and was an assistant coach and assistant athletic director for Dooley, was inducted this year.
“I usually have a player or two that are in it and I always like to be there for them,” Dooley said.
Dooley was 17-7-1 against the Gators as Georgia’s head coach and spent 15 years as the school’s AD after retiring from coaching. So how did he end up coming here 56 times?
“For eight straight years I came here to scout Georgia for Auburn,” said Dooley, who has been to the last eight as a retiree. “It was always my favorite game to scout. I’d go to the Georgia-Florida breakfast and everything they had. It was fun.”
Dooley was understandably distracted before this year’s Georgia-Florida game. He was watching his son Derek Dooley coach Tennessee against South Carolina. Dooley was squirming and kicking his legs under the desk of his second-row, press box seat as he watched the action on a small television. The Vols lost another heart-breaker, 38-35.
“He just needs to win some games,” Dooley said.
Will Muschamp is now 0-6 in the Georgia-Florida game, 0-4 as a Georgia player and 0-2 as Florida’s coach. … Jarvis Jones’ three sacks boosted his total to 22 in less than two seasons. That ranks seventh on the UGA career list. . . . Sophomore cornerback Damian Swann had a sack, an interception and a caused fumble. . . . Marshall Morgan missed a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter. He hooked it left. It was just his second miss in seven attempts this season… . Georgia’s captains on Saturday were quarterback Aaron Murray, free safety Connor Norman, junior guard Chris Burnette and senior outside linebacker Cornelius Washington. Both Norman and Murray wear the number 11. Norman recovered Kentucky’s onsides kick attempt in the fourth quarter to earn the nod as special teams captain… . Florida sports communications’ office reported 687 credentialed media were covering Saturday’s game at Everbank Field. . . . The loss was Florida’s first of the season, marking the first time since 1966 that Georgia spoiled a perfect Gators record. … Georgia improved to 51-5 under Richt when it has a 100-yard rusher.