JACKSONVILLE — The day after Vince Dooley died, the University of Georgia football team paid tribute in the best way it could: extending its streak over the University of Florida that is beginning to rival the best that Dooley compiled during his 25 years at the helm. bulldog trainer.
The Dawgs’ 42-20 victory over the Gators Saturday in front of 75,868 at TIAA Bank Field was Kirby Smart’s fifth in six years and a 60-minute statement on the direction of the two programs.
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A dominant first half in which the Bulldogs amassed 346 total yards and 15 first downs and held the Gators to two first downs, 13 yards rushing on 13 attempts and 88 total yards gave way to a sloppy third quarter in which Florida at least maintained interest in its half of the stadium.
But the Dogs rallied again with two impressive scoring drives in the final 18 minutes to win their 19th of 27 games since the second half of the 2020 season by three or more touchdowns.
“For the Dooleys back home in Athens, I know they’re together and it meant a lot to us to win the game for them,” Smart said. “I know he looked down on it. He would have really enjoyed the first half.”
Georgia (8-0, 5-0 in the SEC) will remain the No. 1 team in the nation when both polls are released Sunday and will almost certainly be No. 1 when the first College Football Playoff rankings are released Tuesday.
Barring the Tennessee Volunteers (coming to Sanford Stadium next week) or an SEC West opponent in the conference championship game, the Bulldogs are well on their way to having a chance to defend their national championship.
Meanwhile, the Gators (4-4, 1-4) under first-year coach Billy Napier are trending in the opposite direction and will need to squeeze out two wins from Texas A&M, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Florida State to have a shot at a bowl game that will get a few more practices for the younger players.
Since it’s only South Carolina’s home game, good luck.
Dooley started slowly vs. UF
Dooley made a habit of cursing and belittling his team’s chances against UF teams coached by Ray Graves, Doug Dickey, Charlie Pell and Galen Hall, perhaps on purpose to achieve the 17 wins (against seven losses and a tie) he accumulated between 1964. and 1988 all the more impressive.
Dooley would have everyone believe that his team was just a scrappy bunch of underachievers — undersized Junkyard Dogs and play-running linebackers who were asked to do nothing more than screw up a pass or sack by Herschel Walker, Lars Tate, Willie McClendon, Rodney. Hampton and Kevin McLee.
After starting 3-3-1 against Florida, Dooley has won 14 of his last 18, nine of his last 11 and once snapped a six-game winning streak over the Gators.
Perhaps because his offense embodied the old SEC toss-sweep mentality, Dooley’s Dawgs didn’t post as many losses against Florida. There was a 44-0 victory in 1982, a 33-10 decision in 1979 as the Gators went through their first winless season under Pell, and a 26-3 victory in Dooley’s final game against UF in 1988.
These were mostly methodological matters. Dooley won eight games with one score against Florida and was 9-4-1 when the result was a touchdown or less.
UGA dominates under Smart
The Smart Dawgs have beaten UF by 22, 27, 7, 19 and 35 points during their current run and have gotten off to a fast start. The average halftime score in Georgia’s last five wins over UF is 22-3, and Saturday’s 28-3 halftime edge was even bigger than indicated.
Georgia had 15 first downs to Florida’s two, and the Gators didn’t move the chains for the first time until nearly 20 minutes had elapsed.
Bowers single-handedly paced the Gators with four receptions for 125 yards and finished with five for 154 yards. He gained 73 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter after a fortuitous bounce off the hands of linebacker Amari Burney.
Senior quarterback Stetson Bennett doubled his season total with two interceptions, but threw for 316 yards and dropped enough passes to avoid a sack.
More than the numbers, Georgina’s physical play on both lines was there.
“We pride ourselves on being physical on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” Bowers said of the team’s practice. “That carries over into the game.
The alligators fought back
To Florida’s credit, it didn’t back down. The Gators scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter, starting with a 75-yard TD drive that ended with Trevor Etienne’s 5-yard touchdown run in the same end zone where his brother Travis scored in the Jaguars’ 23-17 victory last week. loss to the New York Giants.
Then the Gator defense, humiliated all season, started producing big plays. The first was the recovery of Trey Dean III. (Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh forced by Burney), setting up a 26-yard field goal by Adam Mihalko.
Burney then picked off Bennett’s pass and Anthony Richardson completed a 78-yard TD pass to Xzavier Henderson, the longest TD pass for the Gators in the series since Kerwin Bell’s 96-yard play to Ricky Nattiel in the 1984 game.
Suddenly, it was a one-score game after it appeared that Georgia could have called the final score.
McIntosh wanted the ball
Smart said the catalyst was McIntosh begging for a chance to redeem his screw-up. He then gained 54 yards on five carries, capped by a 4-yard run for the Dawgs’ final score.
McIntosh had 90 yards on 16 carries and scored twice, and Daijun Edwards had 106 yards and two TDs. Georgia had 555 yards of total offense, 239 on the ground.
“Kenny showed something tonight,” Smart said of McIntosh, a senior from Fort Lauderdale who has patiently waited four years for his turn to reach his career high in rushing yards. “After that fumble, he came out looking like an ‘eye of the tiger’, running the ball hard and physical and getting yards after contact.”
Smart said he told McIntosh on the sideline after his fourth-quarter touchdown, “you’re a bad MFer.”
Smart can’t lose weight
Georgia has a lot of them. So much so that the only thing Smart can’t do in this series is a poor guy like Dooley.
First, no one could beat Vince in the snow work of his poor, hapless dogs going up against seemingly invincible opponents.
“I remember him going on and on about somebody’s coverage of the kick,” Dooley’s son Derek said in 2010.[I was] they thought,]these guys must be pretty bad when Dad had to dig through their kick coverage to say something nice about them.”
Second, with an emphasis on recruiting and exposure (college fans know what four-stars like for breakfast), Smart can’t hide his top five recruiting class in a row and another on the way that currently ranks second. from 247Sports.
He knows he has the goods and so does everyone else. Bulldogs don’t sneak up on anyone.
However, they have dominated all but losing to Alabama in last year’s SEC Championship game. Georgia has won 26 of its last 27 games, all but three by double digits.
Asked if he’s approaching the level of Dooley’s dominance over the Gators in the 1980s — or perhaps Steve Spurrier’s seven-game hitting streak for the Gators from 1990-1996 — Smart said the trick is in terms of one — a streak.
“It’s hard to win any series in the SEC, especially when you’re talking about the top program in the country,” he said. “I don’t look at it as runs, like every single year.
On the other hand, Saturday’s game was another glaring example of the mountain Napier has to climb. He’s feeling the effects of six straight UF recruiting classes ranked ninth or lower, and his first class was 18.
Napier is still playing catch-up ball, and his current commit list barely cracks the top 10 by most services. Losing Lakeland cornerback Corman McClain to Miami last week didn’t help, but at least McClain didn’t go north to Athens.
Smart said he wasn’t going to settle.
“Billy’s going to do a great job and he’s done,” Smart said. “He’s recruiting hard.
But so is Smart. And he has a six-year head start.
Contact Garry Smits at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GSmitter