The night before Georgia’s 42-7 walloping over Florida, the defense was issued a big challenge.
Head coach Kirby Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker wanted to see a goal-line stand. The coaches figured Florida’s offense, at some point, would move the ball inside the 5-yard line, with the Bulldogs needing to hold the Gators to a field goal or get off the field on fourth down.
In the second quarter, that’s exactly what happened.
Down 21-0, Florida had an opportunity to cut into the lead and take back some of the momentum Georgia gathered early on. The Gators ran 13 plays down to the Georgia 4-yard line and faced a third-and-2. Florida handed the ball off to running back Lamical Perine, who was met by inside linebacker Roquan Smith right at the line of scrimmage for no gain.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Former Florida head coach Jim McElwain elected to go for it on fourth down and called a passing play. Outside linebacker Davin Bellamy came free to apply pressure on quarterback Feleipe Franks, who was then forced to make an errant throw.
Georgia's defense got off the field and gave the ball back to the offense.
“That’s the proudest I've been because Coach Tucker's been just beating (saying that) defenses always have a goal-line stand,” Smart said. “Great defenses always have a moment where they have a great goal-line stand.”
While Georgia’s red zone defense ranks 18th in the nation, Smart said the unit could use some improvement near the goal line.
Being able to stop the Gators in that situation was a good sign for Georgia’s head coach to see out of his defense.
“We have not been very good on the goal-line,” Smart said. “And (Tucker) actually talked about it (Friday) night in the defensive meeting and he challenged them. He said, ‘You're going to have an opportunity to have a goal-line stand.’ And I'll be danged if they didn't do it. And I thought that was a really big moment in the game.”