JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Georgia couldn’t come up with a late-game drive to put away Vanderbilt two weeks ago.
And the Bulldogs’ offense didn’t play its best half of the season during the final 30 minutes at EverBank Field on Saturday, scoring no second-half points.
But a clock-eating drive in the waning moments of the game allowed the Bulldogs to survive where they had failed against the Commodores.
Protecting a three-point lead, the Bulldogs’ offense burned the final 8:17 of the game to secure a 23-20 win over the rival Florida Gators.
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“We practice (drives like that) all the time,” receiver Rhett McGowan said. “Just move the chains. Move the chains. Milk the clock. That’s exactly what we were doing. We were confident we could do that, and we did just that. Whenever someone’s number was called, they made a play.”
The Bulldogs didn’t have a drive longer than three plays for the first 22 minutes of the second half. That span included a safety and a fumbled lateral that helped the Gators turn a 23-3 halftime deficit into a three-point game.
The Georgia defense halted Florida’s second-half momentum with a sack by Corey Moore after the Gators had crossed into Georgia territory early in the fourth quarter. After the Gators downed a punt at the Georgia 17, Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray had a lot of field in front of him and just more than eight minutes to kill.
Murray connected with a 6-yard pass to Rantavious Wooten to start the drive. The senior quarterback didn’t miss on his three passes on the drive.
Todd Gurley, who returned to the lineup after missing three games, picked up two first downs on short, second-effort runs. In between those runs was a 13-pass from Murray to McGowan. The second Gurley first-down run pushed the Bulldogs to midfield, and Brendan Douglas moved them into Florida territory with a 10-yard run.
The big moment on the drive came on third-and-7 with less than two minutes to play after Douglas was stopped on two short runs.
Murray rolled to his right and found the former walk-on McGowan, who gained exactly the yardage needed for the first down.
“Rhett is one of our most reliable receivers,” Murray said. “He’s great at everything. He works his tail off. He made some big, big catches for us.”
The pass to McGowan wasn’t supposed to be a risky option, McGowan said.
“That’s what you want,” McGowan said. “Everybody out there wants their number called. When they called my number, I knew there was a good chance it was coming to me, and Murray put a good ball on me, and luckily we were able to get the first down.”
The first down forced the Gators to burn through their final two timeouts following Gurley runs. Although Florida stopped Gurley on third-and-5, Darious Cummings was penalized for an illegal hit to the helmet. The resulting first down allowed the Bulldogs to run out the final minute of clock.
“It’s a beautiful thing to get into victory formation, especially here in Jacksonville,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said.