UGA Football

Gator bait: Georgia loses again to Florida in Cocktail Party rivalry

Georgia takes the field against the Gators

The Georgia Bulldogs run out onto EverBank Field before taking on the Florida Gators during the 2016 rendition of the Georgia-Florida rivalry in Jacksonville, Fl.
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The Georgia Bulldogs run out onto EverBank Field before taking on the Florida Gators during the 2016 rendition of the Georgia-Florida rivalry in Jacksonville, Fl.

New coach, same result.

For the third consecutive season, Georgia dropped its annual rivalry game to Florida. This time, the Gators were able to win 24-10 thanks to a strong defensive performance that prevented the Bulldogs from being able to move the ball with any kind of consistency through the air or on the ground. Kirby Smart, who went 1-3 against Florida as a player, became the third consecutive Georgia head coach to lose to Florida in his first try.

Georgia (4-4, 2-4 SEC) was held to only 164 total yards through four quarters of play. Of that number, only 21 yards came on the ground. With the strong defensive performance, Florida (6-1, 4-1) was able to run the ball and run out the clock in the fourth quarter.

The win keeps the Gators at the top spot in the race for the SEC East.

Four who mattered

Florida defensive back Duke Dawson: Dawson made things difficult for Georgia’s inside receivers and seemed to be in great coverage all game. He recorded two pass breakups and helped make things difficult for Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason.

Florida defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga: Zuniga didn’t log a sack, but he was in the backfield and getting after Eason quite a bit. Zuniga finished the game with four quarterback hurries, the most of anyone on either team. Zuniga also had three tackles, with two of them of the solo variety.

Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker: Baker recorded the first sack of his career against the Gators and also totaled 10 tackles, with five of them by himself. Baker also broke up a pass.

Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith: Smith tallied nine tackles and was a strong presence against Florida’s rushing attack.

Turning point

With the way Florida’s defense controlled Georgia’s offense, it seemed like the game was out of reach once Florida receiver Antonio Callaway took an end-around for a 4-yard score with 3:11 to go in the third quarter.

Observations

Early sizzle burns out: Eason started the game 5-of-7 passing for 80 yards and a touchdown, which helped give Georgia an early 10-7 lead. From there, the Bulldogs could not move the ball at all on offense. The run game was nonexistent, and Eason finished the game 15-of-33 for 143 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers mean Eason only averaged 9.5 yards per completion and 4.3 yards per attempt.

UGA defense impresses in loss: While Georgia gave up 24 points, its defense played a fine game by only allowing 231 total yards. But the Georgia offense’s inability to move the ball allowed the Gators to possess the ball for 37:27. That turned out to be the difference, considering Georgia entered the game averaging a time of possession of 35 minutes per game.

Florida’s defense too much: Georgia came into the game thinking it would be able to run the ball with a variety of different schemes. But in the end, the Bulldogs were stifled by a Florida front seven that seemed to know where each run was heading before the ball was snapped. The Gators possess one of the best defenses statistically as they entered Saturday’s second in the nation in opposing yards per game.

Worth mentioning

Chubb limited in carries, yards: With Georgia struggling to move the ball, running back Nick Chubb had no opportunity to run the ball. Having one of the worst statistical games when starting and finishing a game, Chubb ended with nine carries for 20 yards.

Three injuries: Georgia sustained injuries to three players in Saturday’s loss to Florida. Safety Dominick Sanders sustained an MCL injury that Smart said likely wasn’t serious. Defensive lineman DaQuan Hawkins Muckle and receiver Riley Ridley both suffered sprained ankles.

Florida wins third-down battle: The Gators were able to convert eight of 17 third-down attempts. Georgia only picked up four of its 14 third-down tries.

They said it

Chubb on the offense’s struggles: “It’s just frustrating. We couldn’t really get things going. I felt like it was always three-and-out and we weren’t getting in a rhythm or anything, so it feels pretty bad.”

Center Brandon Kublanow on what went wrong for Georgia’s offense: “I’m not sure. We have a lot of things to work on. Florida outplayed us and that’s that. They played extremely hard and they outplayed us, and that was the story of the game.”

Smart on Florida’s pass rush: “Great pass rush. That’s what they do best. The pass rush protects the secondary and they’ve got some really good pass rushers. (Eason) made some throws that helped us but we couldn’t sustain it. We were one-dimensional and that made it tough.”

What’s next?

Georgia travels to take on Kentucky next Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. game at Commonwealth Stadium.

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