JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There were three different Todd Gurleys for Georgia on Saturday.
There was the spectacular, game-breaking Gurley, who racked up 121 yards and two touchdowns the first five times he touched the ball, before the first quarter was barely half over.
Then there was the “gassed” Gurley, to use head coach Mark Richt’s word. This Gurley could be seen laying on the ground in front of the Georgia bench, stretching out and then being taken to the locker room to have fluids pumped into him.
And finally there was the Gurley who ate up smaller chunks of yards on Georgia’s decisive drive, helping put the game away.
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There was no fourth Gurley after the game, as he was not made available for media interviews. Team officials indicated he was receiving treatment.
Richt said he “visualized” getting Gurley 25 to 30 touches in the game.
“But he just wasn’t there to do it,” Richt said.
It ended up being 17 carries and three catches, with Gurley missing much of the second quarter. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said earlier in the week that he would be careful in managing Gurley’s workload.
“We were trying to get him to the fourth quarter. And I just think the excitement and the adrenaline kind of got to him a little bit,” Bobo said. “But he gives us a boost offensively with what he can do. Just huge plays he made (Saturday).”
When Gurley was out there, it was still enough, even if he wasn’t touching the ball.
“His energy,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “When he makes those runs or those catches and he’s running people over ... or his presence in the huddle. He’s a very vocal guy, just getting guys pumped up, getting guys going, was huge for us. With his play, and his personality, it was great to have him back.”
For Georgia’s defense, this game very much resembled the loss at Vanderbilt, with one exception: It made a big play.
Safety Corey Moore’s third-down sack forced Florida to punt with 8:17 left. The Gators never got the ball back.
Moore snuck up to the line as the Gators set at the line, then burst up the middle upon the snap, bringing down Tyler Murphy for a 14-yard loss.
Moore credited inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera with forcing one of Florida’s guards to move, thus opening up the middle.
“If it wasn’t for him, I never would have gotten the sack,” Moore said. “And I want to thank for my defensive players, grinding it out throughout the game. I know I made the sack, but without everybody doing what they have to do, I never would have gotten the sack.”
On Georgia’s sideline, Richt was about to urge defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to blitz. But Grantham was dialing it up already.
“Really my thought there was, ‘Shoot, they probably would have went for it on fourth down. So you try to go ahead and put them out of range where they’ve gotta kick it,’ ” Grantham said.
“It was gutsy,” Richt said. “I was about to tell him, ‘Go sic ’em.’ But Coach Grantham called it before I could get it out of there, and I told him I was behind him 100 percent.”
Georgia iced the game when Florida was called for a personal foul, giving the Bulldogs a first down. But if the penalty hadn’t been called, leaving it at fourth-and-5, Richt was going to try a field goal.
“We said if the ball was fourth-and-1 or less, we would go for it, and if it was anything more than that, we’d kick a field goal,” Richt said.
Earlier in the quarter, Richt took an uncharacteristic risk, and it failed. But it didn’t cost the Bulldogs.
On fourth-and-1 from Georgia’s own 39, Richt agreed to go for it, rather than punt. Bobo called for a direct snap to Gurley, but the tailback didn’t have the speed to get to the outside and was stopped short.
“We just felt like we needed to do something to change the momentum,” Bobo said. “Merritt (Hall, Georgia’s fullback), had a good (block), Todd’s just gotta get his foot north there and go outside. The guy (from Florida) made a great play.”
Georgia got two starters back from injury, but their impact was minimal. In fact one of them didn’t even start.
Freshman free safety Tray Matthews was healthy, after missing the previous three games with a hamstring injury. But he was behind fellow freshman Quincy Mauger.
“Quincy’s done a good job,” Grantham said. “Now we’ve still got hopes for Tray. He’s gonna play. But Tray basically got hurt the week of Tennessee on a Tuesday. So that’s a lot of snaps (he missed), and he’s a young guy. He was ready to play if needed, and I felt the other guys were playing well, and I didn’t really want to mess with it. But as we move forward he’ll play.”
Josh Harvey-Clemons was able to play after a foot injury sustained at Vanderbilt. But Grantham said the missed practice time affected his decision to keep Harvey-Clemons off the field for large stretches, going instead with a traditional nickel defense. It was part of a larger decision to substitute more in the secondary.
“I wasn’t sure how he could hold up for a game because I knew we may be on the field for a bit, because I knew (Florida) had a good defense, too,” Grantham said. “So I wanted to do was split the time to where Josh played base (defense), Corey played nickel and (Damian Swann) played inside. That was a way to get more guys on the field.”
Finally, receiver Jonathan Rumph played, officially burning the redshirt for the junior college transfer. But he did not make a catch and was not targeted.