The Bulldog fans held their cell phones aloft, swaying gently to the strains of Krypton Fanfare as the fourth quarter began, just as they had to begin the final stanza of seven previous contests.
It seemed like a weird thing to do since the game had been over with for an hour by then.
The Red and Black threw 21 points on the board in the first quarter, harassed Felipe Franks into an interception, and never really looked back on the way to a 42-7 victory in the 96th iteration of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Florida scored a meaningless touchdown with three minutes left in the game, but that was really as close as the Gators came to salvaging any sort of dignity in a game which their own pregame comments made seem like a line in the proverbial sand. Line. Crossed.
To be fair the Gainesvillians did finish with the lead in first downs (15-14) and time of possession (34:55 to 25:05). But that was simply because the ‘Dawgs rarely needed very many plays or much time to find the endzone. Georgia only ran 42 offensive plays in the entire game. 35 of them were on the ground, and more often than not those plays worked.
8 of Georgia’s rushes were for 10+ yards. 3 of those ended in the end zone. Florida knew what was coming. They couldn’t do a dang thing about it. And that’s a Bulldog point of pride.
Sony Michel led all runners with 137 yards on only 6 attempts. Busting touchdown runs of 74 and 45 yards is good for the ole yards per carry average. Nick Chubb posted a more workmanline 77 yards on 13 carries, many of them tough yards to move the chains or create favorable down/distance situations. Elijah Holyfield added a nice 39 yard touchdown jaunt of his own late. All told the Red and Black churned out 292 yards on the ground, a far cry from 2016, when the Classic City Canines managed an anemic 21 yards on the ground.
Jake Fromm did what he’s done all season, completing enough passes to keep defenses honest, getting the offense in the right looks presnap, and not losing the game by trying too hard to win it. There was the matter of his lone interception, a third quarter pass that appeared to be the result of miscommunication with Sony Michel. But the scoreboard tells no lies: Fromm was 4 of 7 for 101 yards passing, and frankly that was 101 more than it probably would have taken to win this one comfortably.
The Bulldog defense did give up a season high 183 yards on the ground, and was gashed at times by a Gator front five that has some real talent. There was also the matter of some poor tackling, especially in the second quarter, when it appeared a little bit of a mental letdown may have taken hold. But the defense did create a touchdown on a sack/fumble/score, and stiffened close to the goal line on a couple of occasions to keep the shutout intact until garbage time.
It’s been a long time since I watched the waning moments of a Georgia/Florida game secure in the knowledge that the victory was well in hand. This time around I felt like it was over at the end of the first quarter. While you could have convinced me at halftime that Florida ultimately would score, you couldn’t convince me that they would do it consistently or quickly enough to stage a comeback, and you definitely couldn’t convince me that Georgia was just going to stop scoring and allow the Saurians to catch up.
Admittedly Jim Chaney probably could have gone to the air a little more in the third, but given that his first attempt to do so ended in about the closest thing to disaster Georgia experienced all day, you can’t blame him too much. And when every fourth rushing attempt is ending in a double digit gain, keeping it on the ground is the K.I.S.S. approach.
Florida has been officially, irrevocably, and hilariously been eliminated from the SEC East race. Georgia moves on to play South Carolina with a chance to lock up the SEC East (pending the outcome of tonight’s Tennessee/Kentucky game). Yes, the last remaining roadblocks on Kirby’s March to Atlanta are Mike Stoops and Will Muschamp.
But Tuesday’s initial college football playoff committee rankings should crystallize the fact that the Dawgs’ goals are loftier now. Georgia, barring a feat of epic stupidity on the part of the committee, should debut in the top four. Staying there will require focusing on each game as it comes.
That starts in seven days with a visit from the Gamecocks. Until later . . .