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...And that’s when Kirby Smart knew he hated Florida

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Why there’s no way UGA’s Head Man will let the Dawgs lose to the Gators

Travis Taylor #19...
Kirby Smart tries to tackle Travis Taylor at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in 1998

Due to the bye week, my column on when I knew I hated Florida will run next week. This week, in an attempt to quell my own anxieties over the current state of Georgia’s Offense, I’m taking some time to examine Kirby Smart’s hate for Florida.

There’s a lot of angst in Dawg Nation right now. It started two Saturday’s ago with the disastrous loss against South Carolina, and continued this past weekend with the 21-0 win against Kentucky. The offense looked listless at times, and the play calling drew boos from the Georgia faithful. While I was not in attendance for the game, I definitely have had plenty of anxiety around Kirby Smart and James Coley’s continued commitment to what I call “Man Ball.” It has induced much pacing and late night tossing and turning as well as lashing out a bit more angrily than usual at strangers on Twitter. Jake Fromm passed for just 37 yards, and the Dawgs ran the ball into the teeth of a stacked box time and again, even after it was evident to everyone with eyes that Runs to the outside were far more effective. The text thread I’m in with a bunch of my friends and family who are also UGA fans filled with anxiety laden messages so frequently Saturday night that my phone got physically hot and I wondered if Georgia’s season or my cellular device would meltdown first.

After watching Kirby Smart’s press conference I felt better.

Georgia’s game plan ultimately paid off, and after getting the ball back at the Kentucky 39 following a shanked punt from the Wildcats, the Dawgs imposed their will on the ground to the tune of 21 points to close the game. This was right out of the Kirby Smart philosophy. After struggling in second halves during Smart’s first year in 2016, Georgia outscored opponents by 142 points in the third and fourth quarters of games in 2017. That number dropped to 68 points in 2018. Georgia lost leads late to Alabama in each of the last two years, and it is clear from his press conferences that Kirby believes his team should win games in the fourth quarter. Perhaps Kirby has been playing the long game all year and trying to condition Georgia for the stretch run, when they’ll need to hold or take leads late in games. Either way, watching Georgia wait until the game is 60% over to look productive on offense is anxiety provoking.

Kirby’s points about the weather in his press conference were valid, and Georgia did what it needed to do to win the game. He was also correct that winning a football game in those conditions required acts of selflessness by guys like George Pickens, Kearis Jackson and many others. Blocking nearly every play in the cold and the rain isn’t fun, but the Dawgs had the right mentality to succeed. Last week I implored Georgia’s players to work harder in an open letter I wrote. At least from what I saw on my couch, Saturday night they did. Ultimately, the Man Ball approach was enough to get it done against a team with a converted wide receiver playing quarterback.

The issue at hand is that Florida is up next, and there’s plenty of reasons to believe the Gators offense won’t be so easy to stop. Despite the lack of changes against Kentucky, I believe that Georgia will make whatever adjustments are needed over the next two weeks.

There has been much speculation in the media, and among fans, that Kirby and Coley are either too stubborn or too incompetent to change offensive philosophies. The fear is that Kirby, and by proxy James Coley, would rather lose a football game playing a physical run-first style that focuses on field position and ball control than win a game playing an up-tempo high flying style. After last two games, that’s a valid concern. However, there;s a reason why I’m not worried.

Kirby Smart Hates Florida. He hates them with the fire of a thousand suns. He gives the media plenty of coach speak about how Florida is another game, and all league games are important. He’ll tell the cameras that he and his staff must prepare their team the same every week because great talent exists across college football, and anyone can beat you any day of the week. Despite all of that talk, Kirby Smart lives to beat Florida. He has made beating the Gators a priority, and celebrated the last two victories over Florida with a level of expression the usually stern Smart rarely does.

At this point it’s well known that Smart was a Safety at Georgia from 1995-1998. He recorded 13 interceptions for the Bulldogs and was an All-SEC selection his Senior year. Smart’s time wearing silver britches also coincided with some of the worst beatings in the history of the Georgia-Florida rivalry. Smart’s teams lost to Gators 52-17 in 1995, 47-7 in 1996 and 38-7 in 1998. Kirby and the Dawgs did get to taste victory in 1997 when they pulled an upset over the Gators by a score of 37-17. It would be Georgia’s only victory in 14 meetings against the Gators.

Steve Spurrier hated Georgia for beating him in his Senior season of 1966 when the Dawgs upset the Gators 27-10. The loss cost UF their first SEC Championship, and Spurrier never forgot. That loss kept him from becoming a champion, and was what caused him to make beating Georgia a priority throughout his coaching career. For years UGA had a lovely habit of beating Florida anytime they had a good season going for them, and that ownership created the monster that ended Georgia’s dominance in the rivalry.

Dan Mullen has tried to mold himself in the image of Spurrier, taking shots at Georgia throughout the off-season and turning up the heat in the rivalry. The difference is that Spurrier actually beat his rivals before going into troll mode. Mullen spent the summer puffing his chest out, and trying to get his program to look like it’s on equal footing with Georgia. Smart didn’t take the bait, and simply expressed that Georgia is a program that talks with its helmets.

Just like after last year’s loss to LSU, Georgia is walking into the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party with a cloud of doubt from the outside. Just like last year, they are going to beat Florida. If there is one opponent that Smart will change any philosophy or game plan to beat, it is the Florida Gators. Why?

Let’s go back to the infamous 1995 game against the Gators. Georgia and Florida played in Sanford Stadium due to the old Gator Bowl being renovated, and prior to the game Steve Spurrier found out that no opponent had ever scored 50 points between the hedges. With the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter, and the Gators leading 45-17, Spurrier continued to call passing plays for backup quarterback Eric Kresser. The Gators ran a flea-flicker, at one point on their final drive and moved the ball down to Georgia’s ten-yard line instead of running out the clock. With 1:10 remaining Kresser threw a touchdown on a slant to Travis McGriff. I found something rather fascinating when I watched the end of that game on YouTube yesterday. Do you know who McGriff jogged past just after he caught that final touchdown?

A true freshman safety by the name of Kirby Smart.

The Gators ran the score up to purposely embarrass the Dawgs

...And that’s when Kirby Smart knew he hated Florida.

There is no way in hell a Georgia team coached by Kirby Smart is losing to the Gators. At 3:30 P.M. on Saturday, November 2nd, 2019 the Georgia Bulldogs will have a plan for Florida, and it will be a good one. This game was won a little over 24 years ago, when Steve Spurrier unknowingly gave birth to the man who would bring the type of vitriol and hatred he had for Georgia to the Bulldogs’ side of the rivalry. Kirby would install the Air Raid the next couple of weeks if it meant beating Florida

Rest easy and enjoy the bye week, Bulldog Nation. This one is in the bag.

As always, Go Dawgs!