JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After watching the Florida Gators quickly blow away what was once a 25-point lead, the Georgia Bulldogs seized the opportunity and finished well on Saturday.
No. 1 Georgia rallied behind Florida’s 17 unanswered points in the third quarter by fighting back with two consecutive touchdowns to hold off the Gators in a 42-20 victory. Georgia’s forced drives late in the third quarter and early in the fourth followed a strong first half in which the Bulldogs dominated and nearly knocked the Gators out of contention.
The Gators trailed by 25 at halftime, but quickly made it clear the game wasn’t over.
Florida (4-4, 1-4 SEC) found success on its first drive, driving its ground game hard on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Trevor Etienne reaching the end zone on a 3-yard touchdown run. 9:34 left in the third quarter. The Gators got the ball back after one Bulldogs play — which ended with Kenny McIntosh fumbling the football — and moved the ball well again, but the Bulldogs’ defense buckled and forced a field goal.
Adam Mihálek cut Georgia’s lead to 28-13 with 6:07 left in the game with his 26-yard field goal.
Georgia (8-0, 5-0 SEC) was still in control of the game, but another mistake on the next possession really gave the Gators hope for a comeback.
Stetson Bennett threw his second hit of the game and the Gators responded quickly. Facing third-and-six at the Florida 22, Anthony Richardson found Xzavier Henderson down the right sideline for a 78-yard gain.
All of a sudden, what seemed like a sure win for Georgia was an 8-point game with just over 18 minutes left.
To the Bulldogs’ credit, they shook off their mistakes and got back to work.
Bennett hit Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint with a 19-yard catch to get near midfield before Daijun Edwards broke free for a 20-yard run. Edwards capped the drive two plays later by finding a hole up the middle and taking off for a 22-yard touchdown run.
Edwards’ key carry into the end zone put Georgia up 35-20 with 35 seconds left in the third.
Florida was on offense after the break, but Georgia rose to the challenge after Edwards’ score. The Gators got all the way to their own 48-yard line before the Bulldogs fumbled, leading to an incomplete pass on fourth down to give the ball back to Georgia.
With a chance to deliver a knock-out blow to one of its biggest rivals, Georgia took it.
Florida linebacker Brenton Cox jumped offside on fourth down, giving Bennett a free play that led to the superstar quarterback hitting Brock Bowers down the right sideline for a 29-yard gain. Kenny McIntosh closed the book on the drive on the next play by pushing forward for a 4-yard touchdown run.
McIntosh’s second score of the afternoon put the Bulldogs up 42-20 with 11:44 left.
Florida threatened once more, but Georgia got the stoppage again. Richardson led the Gators to the Georgia 15-yard line before another incompletion gave the ball back to the Bulldogs.
A competitive second half of action followed the first where Georgia rolled.
Georgia shook off a poor first possession of the afternoon by putting together an eight-inch, 66-yard drive that culminated in Edwards’ 1-yard touchdown run with 7:15 left in the opening quarter. McIntosh got in on the fun nearly six minutes later when he surged ahead on a 2-yard carry to make it a 14-0 game with 1:30 left in the first.
The Bulldogs held the Gators’ offense at bay for most of the first half, but their third touchdown of the afternoon left Florida completely bewildered.
Bennett fired toward Bowers early in the third quarter on a pass that was tipped by Florida linebacker Amari Burney as Burney fell to the turf. The ball hit Burney twice before moving forward toward Bowers, who also tipped it twice before hauling it in and taking off for 73 yards.
As the Gators faithful struggled to rally, the Bulldogs were celebrating a 21-0 lead.
Mihálek got Florida on the board with a 52-yard field goal with 5:35 left in the first half, but the Bulldogs had another score in them. Bennett led a strong drive in the final minutes of the second quarter that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown run by Ladd McConkey with just 17 seconds left.
By halftime, Georgia had outscored Florida 346-88.
The Gators threatened in the second half, but ultimately did more than enough to keep Jacksonville undefeated. Georgia returns home next Saturday to face Tennessee.