There is no way to put it more succinctly. Georgia did to Florida what it’s done to everyone else. Lead the way with a suffocating defense that sets the tone for everything else. Such was the case on Saturday at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in a 34-7 win for the Dawgs.
Going into the game, there were three keys to a win. Here’s how Georgia met them.
Emotions, emotions, and emotions
Honestly, I won’t be shocked if there’s not a near-fight pre-game. These teams detest each other...and despite public statements, the same goes for each head coach. For Florida, this game is their whole season. For Georgia, the loss last year has been rubbed raw, and losing to Florida never sits well. Neither of these teams care for each other, and the key for Georgia will come early on - not to get called for a late-hit penalty early that’ll kill a Georgia drive or extend one of Florida’s as well as not to get tossed out for a post-whistle penalty, as well. The team that keeps its head on straight will win this game.
From the start, Florida seemed more wound up and bouncing around and Georgia was more business-like, which is a huge imprint of Kirby Smart. It, to me, goes back to the Dawg Walk under Kirby Smart. It’s gone from, under Richt the bus rocking back and forth on Lumpkin Street to the buses smoothly pulling up to the Dawg Walk, Smart getting off the bus looking around like a WW2 General as if to say ‘it’s time to go’ and players dressed on business attire following behind. In other words - Georgia is here to do a job and do it well, and that was evident on Saturday.
Georgia let its emotions speak for itself, and speaking of those - Florida’s demeanor showed a team that was beaten by the end of the first half.
As the quote goes - “We talk with our helmets.”
The kicking game
The job that a placekicker does looms large in big games, and it’ll be even more large, here. That’s because TIAA Bank Field, the artist formerly known as The Gator Bowl, can play zany tricks on kickers with its location on the St. John’s River and wind currents that can come off of it. A missed field goal can stunt momentum, we saw this in Georgia’s loss to a Will Muschamp-coached team, in Jacksonville. It’ll be the closest thing to a home game for Georgia kicker Jack Podlesny, and he’ll need to have a good day.
Up until Georgia’s defense took over late in the first half, this was a legit concern. I’m pretty sure I was not the only one having a big ‘oh no, here we go again’ when Podlesny missed an early field goal. The good news is that Florida had similar woes.
The early miss gave Florida a chance at momentum, but the Gators couldn’t take advantage.
The good side of an off week before this game? Time to rest up? The bad? Time for Florida to do the same. I know we’ve mentioned a loss to Muschamp already, but it’s the most recent thing that comes to mind, when he staved off losing his job for the moment as Florida reworked its offense to run for more than 400 yards in 2014 in a win for the Gators. There’s no telling what Florida will do with its offense of quarterbacks. The flip side is that Georgia may play Stetson Bennett..or it may play JT Daniels. The team that can adjust the best of the change-ups likely wins.
Florida fans got their wish with Anthony Richardson at quarterback. And Georgia’s defense made those same fans heed the lesson of being careful what you wish for. It was nice seeing someone else make the absent-minded decision of repeating the folly of giving a QB his first start in Jacksonville and disaster following - see Fauton Bauta.
But be honest - a part of you had been having a case of Georgia Sports PTSD when Emory Jones came in to replace Richardson in the second half. He brought a different element for Georgia to defend, but as expected, the Dawgs adjusted.