1. It's never easy, is it? Is any iteration of a Mark Richt coached team capable of burying the Gators when they have them on the ropes? This game reminded me of the 2004 Cocktail Party, when the Dawgs jumped out to a 21-7 lead and were sitting on the Florida 5 yard line with a little more than 6 minutes before the half...ready to deliver the death-knell. Then, David Greene fumbled an exchange to one of our backs (Thomas Brown?) and Florida recovered, ending the scoring - and blowout - threat in Ron Zook's 3rd and final season in Gainesville.
Saturday, I swear to you we had a the Gators by the short-and-scalies...we couldn't slam the door; couldn't put 'em away when the offense was still moving the ball effectively without Todd Gurley. And in that moment, 2004 began to creep back into my consciousness. Yeah, we won that game when Fred Gibson caught the game winner after a second half of offensive ineptitude (sound familiar). Like 2004, yesterday eventually turned into a needless nail-biter. I don't know which idiot (me) suggested in the game-thread that we might actually see Hutson Mason take a few snaps in this game, but that person should take a sabbatical.
2. We won? Oh, yeah! Last night, I didn't quite know how to feel. Only upon awaking after one helluva hangover, did the full realization and appreciation of what had transpired only a few hours before sink in. We just beat Florida for the 3rd consecutive year. We have held the bragging rights now for 731 consecutive days. We did it with our best player maybe 60 or 70% healthy, and with a still-depleted receiving corps doing everything they could. Should we have won by a greater margin? I believe so. But I will say this: Walking out of that stadium on the losing end when you are in the game until the last minute or so is more painful than exiting before halftime when the outcome is not in doubt. The Gator fans who stuck around experienced this. I've experienced it on more than one occasion. It isn't pleasant. Victory by any score, especially in this rivalry, is as sweeter than honey.
3. The first quarter of this game, from an offensive standpoint, was imaginative and brilliant. Having Todd Gurley back there makes the entire thing click, as 254 in a single quarter will attest to. Florida's 4th down gamble should have resulted in another Dawg touchdown - which almost happened as Rantavious Wooten just missed grabbing a perfeclty thrown ball by Aaron Murray. This probably puts the game away - given Florida's inability to generate consistent offense of their own...
4. ...but Florida did move the ball at times, and again we did help them out. The "lateral" to Artie Lynch which turned what was actually the perfect play-call against an all-out blitz became yet another self-inflected would that nearly killed all the good efforts of the first
quarter half. That 3rd quarter was a nightmare, as has often been the case this season. Fix this.
5. So, at what point does the offensive braintrust decide to "go conservative" when the enemy was back on their heels and we were moving the ball at will? Is it chivalry? The specific moment in question was just under 10:00 in the 2nd quarter, Todd Gurley rips off a 30-yard run to set up Georgia at mid-field. Exit Gurley, enter two "safe" runs in the middle for a couple of yards. Gurley enters the game and the short-side screen loses a yard. Punt. We were at mid-field just after a long Gurley run...Florida's backpedaling in the secondary...and we run the "Carlton Thomas" express. Mystifying...and momentum changing.
6. Okay, enough of that. Marshall Morgan has become the best kicker in the Conference. Every one of his 9 points was clutch and essential to victory. What a turnaround. His kicks sail through the uprights with a beautiful arc and authority. This is one aspect of special teams to behold...
7. ...and on the subject of Special Teams: It's refreshing when we don't have to discuss this area of the game because they did not haaaack it up. The long-snapper was solid, we fielded punts (not without a few moments of sheer terror...), and the short-kicks were effective. Why we decided to tempt fate and nearly get burned when Solomon Patton was only a Sheldon Dawson touchdown tackle away from undoing all this good-will (and good decision making) is mystifying. Jeez.
8. Todd Gurley is the best running back in America. He can do it all: Run in traffic, run to daylight, receive and pass-protect. Once he gets his conditioning back, he could help us finish the season strong. We'll need him to be at or near 100%. I don't know if it's possible, but his ankle didn't seem to bother him - just his stamina. Get lots of sleep this week, TGII. Lots.
9. I can't get too bent out of shape for the one ball that Michael Bennett didn't catch that could've kept a key drive going when Georgia was struggling; it wasn't a perfect pass and at that point in the game nothing was working, anyway. But having Michael Bennett back is a beautiful thing. The chemistry between he and Murray is special. He's got to stay healthy for the final stretch. Chris Conley should be returning by Auburn as well.
10. Brendan Douglas ran like a man when he got his chance. If he were a stock, I'd be gobbling up as many shares as I could. His versatility is truly exciting and, if used right, will win us some games in the future.
11. The defense still struggled at times. Still out of position at times, missing a few tackles and remaining consistently inconsistent. However, we sacked Tyler Murphy 4 times, none bigger than the all-out safety blitz when Florida just got a gift 1st down because we had too many men on the field on 4th and about 3. Mark Richt says that call was all Todd Grantham...and you could see it coming. A 14-yard loss later pretty much guaranteed we'd get the opportunity to run the offense, staving off another potential Florida score...which was nice considering they just hung 17 unanswered points on us. Conversely, Florida couldn't stop us when it mattered most. We gutted out the game-winning, clock eating drive and that is a credit to our offense who really hadn't done anything up to that point in the second half. Guys made plays. And Gator's got penalties.
12. Ramik Wilson had a nice game. He was all over the field and is turning into a solid 'backer. Did anyone else see the holding by Florida's tackles pretty much all-game-long? I guess this just won't get called unless any particular offensive lineman physically tackles one of our guys - which is what happened to Ray Drew early in the game by Florida's Trenton Brown. Throwing a flag for holding has become a lost art in the Southeastern Conference.
13. A shout-out to some clutch catches by Rhett McGowan. Fighting for first down yardage and getting it when it's needed to set up points and run out the clock should get you about 30,000 little Dawg Bones on your helmet, young man. Awesome.
14. This game was chippy from the get go. Solomon Patton began the festivities and was flagged after some jawing and an eventual upper-cut to Leonard Floyd's face guard...right in front of the officials. This came after Florida's big first-possession long pass that set 'em up on the Georgia 10. That little stunt pushed the Gators back and ultimately they would miss a very make-able field goal. This was huge. In fact, all the penalties that Florida would accumulate were meaningful in this game: Whether it took them out of scoring position or helped sustain Georgia possessions - like the clock-eating final drive. Thank you. Oh, thank you for your undisciplined coaching . I understand Patton's desire and emotion to perhaps "square up" for getting his arm broken by Shawn Williams in last year's WLOCP. But revenge never works in football. Especially when you try to exact some of it right smack-dab in front of an official. This game was chippy, all right. It got a bit dirty, too. Florida's bench should be examined by the league officials for some pretty crappy moves after the Josh Harvey-Clemons "horse collar" tackle on Patton.
There should be a league review of some Florida bench personnel on this. Yeah, like that'll ever happen...
14a. I believe it was Florida's game-plan to try and get into Todd Gurley's head by trying to literally get into his head - or at the minimum - his face mask. There was some dirty pool going on early and often by more than one combatant wearing a blue jersey. You saw it, and so did I. I don't blame Gurley for defending himself at all. Shame on you and all your coaching staff, Will Muschamp. Traitor.
15. Three in a row. It's a winning streak. Mentally, this thing has flipped. Can we sustain it? Staying healthy by the time early November has a helluva lot to do with it. But, despite our questionable coaching at times and the propensity to trip over our own size 15's, this team still has a lot of heart...and just might be getting healthy enough to finish with a flourish as we wind down 2013. Still, what might have been?
16. Congratulations, Aaron Murray. Slayer of Gator, Burner of Jorts.
Until next time...