Fourth down and Richt. That is what I'm going to have to rename what happens after third down. In a progression of games that has seen UGA with its back against the wall, not to mention their coach's future up in the air, they have continually proven that have what it takes to get it done. As we went down 17-3 I couldn't help but think to myself how I couldn't handle another one of those Florida drubbings. Instead of crumbling, UGA fought back with incredible resiliency to get them back into the game before eventually taking the lead. Even better, they displayed incredible gumption in the way they did it.
I think the biggest take away from this game was Georgia's backbone. There were setbacks along on the way. A kickoff return TD, a ball bouncing off our RB's head for an interception, missed field goals, absence of receivers, a big deficit, etc. Instead of rolling over, UGA found ways to overcome all of these circumstances and show what we've been edging on being able to do for a few games now. Richt coached like his back was against the wall. After Blair's early miss, he decided that we had to score six, something this team has been struggling to do this season. The decision to go for it on two fourth down plays that resulted in touchdowns were some of the most non-standard Richt calls we've seen, but showed the new found will to win that the Dawgs seem to be coming into.
Richard Samuel's display of heart in the 4th quarter was one of the most validating efforts I've seen for a Georgia player in recent memory. I was rooting hard for this guy, and he's undone any wrong in my mind from his previous lackluster performances. His third down and three run featuring incredible second effort (like he did on 4th down in the Ole Miss game) and the desire to smell the endzone through the end of the game were incredibly uplifting. This guy wanted it and deserved it. Hopefully he can provide the necessary compliment to Crowell as the season winds down. The offensive line protected Murray pretty well and is showing continued development. Murray was able to spread the ball around to an array of receivers which is necessary this year with the absence of AJ Green.
Tavarres King and Michael Bennett had two of the most memorable catches in Georgia history with two 4th down TDs. Their repositioning on those balls in the most dire of circumstances is reflective of the heart they've been showing recently. As I watched UGA's struggles last year, I kept saying Tavarres King's heart was evident, as it seems he plays hard no matter what the circumstance. His play exhibits leadership, and despite early season woes (which we can stop mentioning at this point), he's backing it up on the field. Michael Bennett is the quietest, least emotional, get the job done receiver I've seen in a long time. He'll never have a large spotlight, just as Durham didn't, but it doesn't matter to him. When called upon, he makes catches in very necessary circumstances, just like the tail end of the SC game. I can't say enough about this guys effort.
Todd Gratham was an incredible hire. His defense is now showing an incredible reflection of his attitude in their play. With their backs against the wall in the second half they allowed Florida to merely gain 32 yards and one first down, forcing turnovers along the way. I mentioned that the Jarvis Jones addition during the offseason would be key to UGA's success as it went somewhat under the radar amidst other recruiting news. He proved it with this play including 4 sacks and a hard nose for finding the football. The secondary showed great ability to "get wide" and contain Florida's speedsters despite some first half woes. The secondary was ballhawking and made the necessary adjustments negating Reed's play at tight end during as the game wore on. Defensive pressure was very evident versus an immobile Brantley. All in all I think the defense played well as a unit, and showed the type of junkyard attitude we feel has been absent in Athens for a while now. Once again the only two touchdowns were on a fluky 4th down pass and a long kick off return.
The game was definitely not without some worrisome points. Walsh is obviously continuing to struggle in the kicking game. Once again UGA allowed a long non-offensive touchdown which has been a storied problem this season. We were also very fortunate to recover two fumbles. Florida exploited us in the first half with a few big plays, and seemingly passed at will to their tight end Reed. However, once again, Grantham showed the ability to adjust, and the entire team showed a resilient nature. The two major turning points to me aside from the 4th down scores were the forced fumble late in the second half. This afforded us the chance to get back in the game with a late half score, as well as momentum for when we got the ball back in the second half within a touchdown. The Drew Butler punt that unheralded Blake Sailors made a great play on to pin Florida deep and change the field position in the second half was also a crucial play. I always stress field position and turnovers and Georgia succeeded in these areas despite setbacks. Murray and the RBs took care of the ball basically just having one fluky interception for their turnover. Obviously we have to tie up some lose ends as the season finishes out, but displaying the ability to overcome these types of setbacks is evident of the Georgia team we haven't seen for a while now. Sure Florida was down, but we did what we had to do when the time called.
FYI - if Georgia had been able to pull an OT win last year, we'd be batting .500 against Florida the last 8 years. It seems that with the resiliency shown in last year's hard fought loss, plus with this year's miraculous comeback effort the tide could really seem to face some change in this series. The attitude displayed by the younger players who seem to really believe in what Georgia should represent since the season's first two losses is coming to bear in a very positive way. I eyed the schedule progression up until the Florida game as a necessary stepping stone process up unto our ultimate goal every year, beating Florida and putting ourselves in legitimate position to contend for the East. I know that the teams were not the best we've faced, nor was this the best Florida team we've faced in the last decade, but I still hold to the fact that we are winning the games. What else would you have the team do? Trust me, we've endured the alternative not only versus weaker teams, but also the agony endured in the Florida series, and this type of win is program defining. It sets the stage for the resolution of the beginning of the season's woes, the struggles of the last three years, and could provide the momentum to finally turn the corner and get the program back where it needs. The stage is now set to potentially run the table the rest of the season and possibly win the East. Sure we'd like to have those first two games back, but this is reminiscent of 2007 and a return to the swagger that UGA needs. Richt, barring a major collapse down the stretch run has solidified himself as our head coach in a desperate situation. The heart of Georgia's players showed through, in the game they'd been eying all season, and hopefully the rest of the season is a continuation of this process. Enjoy that cigar this week everybody.