Gameday blog: Georgia vs. Florida

semerson@macon.comOctober 29, 2011 

4:40 left in fourth quarter: Georgia leads 24-20

Jarvis Jones now has four sacks, none bigger than the one just now: It came on fourth down, ending Florida's drive.

Georgia will now try to run some clock. Even if it doesn't, it means (barring a punt block or something bad) that the Florida offense would take over with a long ways to go.

UPDATE: On third down, Florida gets called for another big pass interference. Georgia will get another set of downs with 3:51 left. Florida only has one timeout left.

6:05 left in fourth quarter: Georgia still leads 24-20

We may or may not check back in here for an update. But in a few minutes I'll likely be heading down to the field.

As I write this Georgia is preparing to punt from deep in its own territory. The Bulldogs have gone conservative on the play-calling, partially because of field position and perhaps because they're content to put the games in the hands of their defense.

We'll see if it works.

13:18 left in fourth quarter: Georgia leads 24-20

Georgia now has its first lead against Florida since 2007. (Thanks to Gentry Estes of for that stat.)

The story: Georgia's defense has stiffened, and the offense has finally been punching it in. Richard Samuel, playing in relief of the hobbled Isaiah Crowell, scores on a 4-yard run and the Bulldogs are ahead.

The big break for Georgia was a critical third-down pass interference call. It looked like the right call, but it was a break because the Florida defender didn't need to do it. The pass, to Chris Conley, was going to be a bit short. And the defender didn't turn his head towards the ball until it was too late.

The Bulldogs are now ahead and in control, if their special teams can avoid mistakes and the defense doesn't play like it did against South Carolina.

4:54 left in third quarter: Florida leads 20-17

Georgia's special teams were supposed to be an advantage this season. Instead they're becoming the opposite, and the reason the Bulldogs trail in this game.

Another long kick return set up Florida at the Georgia 26, and led to a 40-yard field goal. Add in the kickoff return touchdown, and you could say Georgia would be leading 17-10 with better kick coverage today.

Georgia's defense has really stiffened now, with Todd Grantham making some good adjustments. But it's almost being wasted.

6:00 left in third quarter: Tie game at 17

Well, I guess you can't accuse Mark Richt of being too conservative so far today. And the result is two huge plays for Georgia.

In pretty much the exact same situation as the first half touchdown pass, Richt passed on a short field goal attempt, and Aaron Murray made the decision pay off with a touchdown pass.

And once again the receiver made a great catch in coverage, with the play being official only after the receiver emerged with the ball. This time it was Tavarres King, in the right corner of the end zone.

And after all that, Georgia has rallied to tie it.

8:33 left in third quarter: Florida leads 17-10

Georgia's offense hasn't exactly come out firing this half.

The Bulldogs started with decent field position, thanks to a face-mask penalty on the second-half kickoff. But it didn't get much and punted. And then it went three-and-out on its second series.

The good news for Georgia is it's winning the field position battle, thanks to a Drew Butler punt being downed at the 4, and a personal foul on Florida that will have the Gators starting at their 9.

But there will come a point where the clock becomes a big factor. The Bulldogs can't play the field position game and just hope for a big play.

Halftime: Florida leads 17-10

There's a couple ways you can look at that half from Georgia's perspective:

The bad way: It trails (obviously) and didn't play well in all three main areas. Its pass defense looked bad despite playing against a gimpy Florida quarterback. Its downfield passing game is nonexistent without Malcolm Mitchell, and the running game was so-so. The special teams got blistered for the kickoff return touchdown, which is the difference in the ball game.

The good way: Despite all that, it's only down seven and gets the ball to start the second half, and the defense gets Shawn Williams and Kwame Geathers back. Williams' absence was particularly glaring.

Notably, this is also the first time Georgia is playing from behind since the South Carolina game.

This next half of football is going to be pivotal to Georgia's season. And perhaps to the future of the coaching staff.

1:28 left in second quarter, Florida leads 17-10

So, not much I can say there other than ... wow.

We might have seen the game-saving catch there by Michael Bennett, hauling in a 20-yard touchdown pass by Aaron Murray, who was inches from being sacked.

Yes, Georgia is still behind. But it does get the ball to start the second half, and momentum has swung in its favor now. Shawn Williams and Kwame Geathers also return in the second half.

Fourth-and-four, with what should be a chip-shot field goal. But with Blair Walsh struggling and down two touchdowns, Georgia goes for it. Amazing risk for Mark Richt, and even more amazing catch by Bennett.

It was also set up by Alec Ogletree forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Bacarri Rambo at the Florida 25.

3:30 left in second quarter, Florida leads 17-3

This is how bad it's going for Georgia today: Blair Walsh missed a 34-yarder just now, after Florida's backup kicker managed to make a 43-yarder.

Of course it wouldn't have been an issue if the Bulldogs offense could punch it in. But a pretty solid drive stalled once again in the red zone.

Georgia may have one more chance to get some points at the end of this half. And it gets the ball to start the second half. So this one is far from over. But boy, does this look and feel bad for the Bulldogs right now.

13:16 left in second quarter, Florida leads 14-3

So, how many of you out there are shaking your heads, or throwing things at your TV, saying "Here we go again?"

Obviously there's plenty of time left in this one. But not much right is going for Georgia, whose special teams now gets gorged, this time via a 99-yard Jeff Demps kickoff return.

That's a bad momentum-turner for Georgia.

13:28 left in second quarter, Florida leads 7-3

Georgia settled for the field goal attempt, which Blair Walsh made (a good start for him) from 32 yards.

I'll be interested if we continue to see the blitzing approach by the Georgia defense, which has been met with what you'd expect: Three sacks, several big pass plays.

Is Todd Grantham trusting in his secondary and selling out his linebackers, deciding Florida won't attack the middle? Is he just going after John Brantley and his gimpy knee? Or is it both?

End of first quarter: Florida leads 7-0

It could really be a lot worse for Georgia right now, which all in all has to be happy with the way things are now. At least considering the way it started.

The Bulldogs are facing second-and-9 from the Florida 16 as the second quarter begins. A touchdown could tie it. This after it seemed on the verge of falling behind 10-0 or 14-0.

That was after an Aaron Murray pass tipped off Isaiah Crowell's helmet and was grabbed by a Florida player at the 13. But then a couple of sacks pushed the Gators back and they eventually punted.

Meanwhile, the Georgia offense has hit its stride on this drive: Isaiah Crowell started it with a 22-yard run, and followed up with a few more steady rushes. Then Murray hit Marlon Brown on a couple big plays, one on third-and-6. Michael Bennett just held onto a big third-down catch as well.

If Georgia can rebound here and tie it, or at least be leading at the half, it will have to feel like it has some momentum after what was a disastrous start.

The Bulldogs are also benefiting from the absence of Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis. The Gators could be up 13-0 now, but have elected every time to go for it instead of the field goal. (The most recent time they passed on a long field goal to go for it, then false started and punted.)

7:34 left in first quarter: Florida takes 7-0 lead

Georgia's pass defense is having a pretty bad start to this game.

On fourth-and-19 Florida elected to go for it, because it didn't have a kicker. The result was not only a first down, but a touchdown. Tight end Jordan Reed was wide open down the middle, and Brantley hit him in stride.

The Bulldogs gambled by going for the blitz there. When the play started, the safeties were closer to the original line of scrimmage, not the first-down marker. And they got burned.

Georgia's pass defense, which ranks in the top 10 nationally, suddenly looks very vulnerable. The Bulldogs only got stops via pressure there: Jarvis Jones with a sack to force third-and-long, and Alec Ogletree with a blitz that forced John Brantley to toss the ball out of bounds.

12:00 left in first quarter: No score

Not much to divine from each team's first drives.

The Georgia defense dodged a major bullet, after giving up a 72-yard catch-and-run by Jeff Demps. Florida followed up with three incompletions, then backup kicker Brad Phillilps missed a 38-yard field goal.

No word on Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis, one of the nation's top kickers.

Then Georgia's offense had to punt after opening with a nice completion by Aaron Murray to Tavares King.

Kickoff: Brantley plays

After not participating in team warm-ups, Florida QB John Brantley came out on the field for the pregame toss. And then he came out for the first play.

Let's see how he holds up. And we'll have to wait for an explanation on why he didn't participate in those drills.

3:10 p.m.: Brantley update

The intrigue is now on the Florida side: Quarterback John Brantley, who was out there warming up earlier, is not warming up with the rest of the team as they go through pregame drills.

Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett are throwing. Brantley is nowhere to be seen.

So did Brantley get ruled out of the game after his earlier warmups? Or is he inside getting worked on? No word from Florida yet.

2:25 p.m.: Florida notes

Remember the attention that Mike Bobo got for moving back up to the booth this season? Well Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is making that change for this game. Weis had been calling plays from the sideline.

Meanwhile, I'm watching quarterback John Brantley warm up on the field. He's got a lot of tape on his ankle.

1:45 p.m.: Dress list omissions

Georgia will be very thin at receiver today.

Not only is Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring) out, a fact that was confirmed last night, but senior Israel Troupe also didn't make the trip, according to the dress list.

That leaves Tavarres King, Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett, along with freshman Chris Conley, and then three current or former walk-ons: Taylor Bradberry, Michael Erdman and Rhett McGowan.

So yes, I'd expect to see some flexing out of Orson Charles, and perhaps also Branden Smith or Brandon Boykin getting some passes thrown at him.

The offensive line depth isn't too great either: The Long brothers (Hunter and Austin) are out. That leaves the top-six rotation, along with David Andrews, Watts Dantzler, Hugh Williams and Nathan Theus.

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