No. 1 Georgia leaves late, wins ‘Cocktail Party’ 42-20

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Top-ranked Georgia expects to eventually benefit from a play like this. It might happen next year. Or maybe next week.

Daijun Edwards and Kenny McIntosh each ran for two touchdowns and the Bulldogs pulled away from Florida after a second-half scare to win 42-20 Saturday night in a rivalry dubbed “the world’s greatest outdoor cocktail party.”

Up next: No. 3 Tennessee, a game that could have Southeastern Conference and College Football Playoff implications. Georgia might not have the same margin for error against the Volunteers as it did against Florida.

The defending national champion Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0 SEC) looked to be in trouble as the Gators (4-4, 1-4) scored the first 17 points of the third quarter to turn a 28-3 deficit into a one-score game.

But the Dawgs he responded in resounding fashion with back-to-back touchdown drives to seal their 10th straight win. It was Georgia’s fifth win over Florida in the last six seasons.

“I don’t like losing momentum in the game,” Dawgs coach Kirby Smart said. “I enjoy that we never blinked. … There are two things (that happen) when adversity strikes: you break or you bond. Our team has come together.”

It was dedicated to legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley, who died Friday at the age of 90.

Dooley dominated the Georgia-Florida series during his coaching career, going 17-7-1 against the Gators. The most famous victory came in 1980 when Lindsay Scott hauled in a 93-yard touchdown pass from Buck Belue in the final minute. The improbable 26-21 triumph propelled Georgia to a perfect season and its first consensus national title.

“Such an ambassador for our program and all of college football,” Smart said. “I know if he was looking down on it, he would have enjoyed the first half. I don’t know that he would enjoy the latter.’

Florida had all the momentum in the third quarter after Amari Burney forced two turnovers on Trevor Etienne’s TD run. Burney stripped McIntosh and intercepted a pass from Stetson Bennett.

“They didn’t stop us any other way,” Bennett said. “We responded really well after I threw and went right down the field. They all answered the call whenever they were asked.”

Georgia put the game away thanks to some key fourth downs. Bennett connected with tight end Brock Bowers on a fourth-and-seven play set up one touchdown between two failed attempts by Florida to move the chains on fourth down.

“Yeah, it’s a turnover on downs and turnovers affect the outcome of the game,” Florida coach Billy Napier said. “It’s no different that turning the ball over allowed them to get us back into the game. … We had our opportunities. We can train better. We can play better.”

Georgia played nearly flawless football, finishing with 555 yards against a beleaguered Florida defense. Edwards had 106 yards rushing, including a 22-yard TD run that capped a Florida comeback. McIntosh added 90 on the ground.

Bennett completed 19 of 38 passes for 316 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Bowers caught five passes for a career-high 154 yards, including a 73-yard score in which he hauled in a ball that tipped a Burney defender.

“The ball is bouncing in the air and I just caught it,” Bowers said.

Richardson threw for 271 yards and a touchdown for the Gators, who have lost 12 of their last 15 SEC games. Nearly half of Richardson’s passing yards came on plays of 78 and 41 yards.

“Whenever you have a team like that, it’s easy for them to do what they do,” Richardson said. “They have people doing their job and it’s pretty hard to influence and stop them.

TANKEAWAY

Florida: Despite the rally against Georgia, the Gators have ground to make in the SEC East Division. Napier knows it starts on the recruiting trail.

Georgia: The Bulldogs struggled at times due to dropped passes, costly penalties and turnovers. Those are mistakes that could doom Georgia in tight games as the toughest part of its schedule looms.

CONSEQUENCES OF THE SURVEY

Georgia should retain its top spot in the next AP college football poll.

KEY INJURIES

Georgia standout linebacker Nolan Smith spent the second half in street clothes because of a shoulder injury. Freshman linebacker Darris Smith was concussed on a second-half kickoff when Florida’s Jack Pyburn tackled him to the ground. Georgia right tackle Amarius Mims was helped off the field in the fourth quarter with a left knee injury.

NEXT UP

Florida plays at Texas A&M for the second time in three years. The Aggies went 41-38 in 2020.

Georgia hosts third-ranked Tennessee. The Bulldogs have won five in a row and 10 of 12 in the series.

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