With Saturday’s 23-20 win over Florida, the Dawgs accomplished something that no Georgia team in more than twenty years had been able to do: win three consecutive games in the series. The last time Georgia posted a third straight win over the Gators it was 1989. George H.W. Bush was president, Ray Goff was UGA’s head coach, and none of the current Bulldog players had even been born.
Such a milestone win calls for the handing out of a few game balls. Here are my choices to be the recipients:
Aaron Murray: The Senior quarterback passed for 258 yards and a touchdown and was able to avoid the turnovers that had plagued him in previous Georgia-Florida games. During Georgia’s final drive to end the game, Murray completed all three of his pass attempts to keep the chains moving and the clock running. With the win, Murray became just the third Bulldog quarterback to beat the Gators three times, joining Buck Belue and John Rauch.
Todd Gurley: After missing the previous three games, Gurley made his presence felt in a big way. On Georgia’s first two possesions, the Sophomore tailback ran for a five yard touchdown (which he set up with a thirty yard run) and caught a 73 yard touchdown pass from Murray. Despite being in and out of the game due to conditioning issues, Gurley ended the game with a combined 187 yards and two touchdowns.
Garrison Smith: The senior defensive lineman came up big for the Dawgs, posting nine tackles and 2.5 sacks. After struggling all season, the Georgia defense posted a solid effort in the win, and Smith was a big reason for this success.
Marshall Morgan: Morgan made all three of his field goal attempts, from 49, 27, and 32 yards. In the past, Georgia kickers have struggled in this game. It was a big boost for the Dawgs to have a kicker they could rely on.
Rhett McGowan: While the former walk on’s numbers weren’t spectacular, three catches for 43 yards, two of his receptions were huge. Near the end of the first half, on a third down and 22, McGowan caught a first down pass from Murray which led to what turned out to be the game winning field goal. Then, during Georgia’s final drive, he caught a pass and fought his way for a crucial first down to keep the ball away from the Gator offense.
The Offense Line: After Georgia’s offense struggled mightily in the loss to Vanderbilt, the big guys up front gave the Dawgs an immediate lift in the first half; opening big holes for Gurley and the other backs, and giving Murray time to throw the ball. Though the offense was much less effective in the second half, Georgia’s offensive line was instrumental in leading the way for the eight minute drive that effectively ended the game.
Despite the fact that Georgia nearly let the game get away in the second half, this was a huge win for the program. After two decades of futility, the series has now swung back in the Dawgs’ favor. The performances turned in by these players, and big plays by many others, helped make the victory possible. This game could be the starting point for a strong run the rest of the way. Here’s hoping.