I’ve been waiting for this one.
And it’s finally time.
I share with you three great videos from this game’s history:
The “Run, Lindsay, Run” play, maybe the best of Larry Munson’s storied career, came from the 1980 edition of the rivalry.
In 2006, my nom de blog’s namesake, Reggie Nelson, gave UF the best single symbolic representation of Florida’s long stretch of success against the Bulldogs with a great bit of intimidation against Mohamed Massaquoi.
Last year, Georgia got revenge. And danced.
And now, we have our annual edition of the closest thing either Florida or Georgia has to a border war, a national championship elimination game for both teams, and a competition for the SEC East lead.
The game begins with Florida’s kick coverage swallowing up Moses Brown within the Georgia 20.
First play is a screen to Knowshon Moreno that loses two; second down’s a run up the middle that Brandon Spikes stuffs. Spikes gives Moreno a little talking-to on the ground. Then Georgia has a false start on third down, and it’s third and 18. Georgia stays safe and runs Moreno up the middle for two. The Dawgs will punt.
Brandon James makes the fair catch near midfield, and UF gets its own false start, this one on first down. (Oh, Penn Wagers is officiating. That is great.)
The last time the Gators wore their all-whites, Florida spanked South Carolina 51-31 in Columbia. Tim Tebow had five rushing touchdowns.
Jeff Demps gets the first carry of the game for the Gators, and gets maybe two up the middle; a pass to Percy Harvin gets several yards to the left, and Florida will have third and four after a timeout.
Tebow fakes the screen, and runs up the middle on a draw for the first down.
Chris Rainey’s first contribution to this game is a run for no gain, maybe a loss of one. Same sort of thing on second down, as Georgia’s defense is reading the Florida run game well.
It’s a screen to Demps on third and long, and Asher Allen stuffs it. Florida punts, and Georgia will take over almost exactly where they were to begin the game.
A play-action pass on first down to Massaquoi gets about 25 yards, with the defense sucking in for the run; on the resultant first down, Matthew Stafford airmails a receiver, but a roughing the passer penalty moves the chains.
A pass to Moreno in the flat gets the Dawgs within the red zone as the back breaks a tackle or two; a counter on the next first down gets five or so.
Stafford gets sacked on second down, and the holding penalty is declined to give Georgia third and eight in the red zone. Georgia brings a bunch formation, Stafford fakes a reverse, and Florida gets its second consecutive sack. Blair Walsh misses a 37-yarder just left, and it’s still tied in Jacksonville.
Florida takes over at their own 20. Quarkback Demps gets five on a stumbling run up the gut, and quarkback Rainey gets four on a similar run on second down. It’s third and one, and Tebow runs left, looking to pass, can’t find anyone, and dives to the marker. It’s a first down, despite Gary Danielson finding holding.
And now we’ll review it. There’s basically no way to say definitively where the ball is when Tebow’s knee hits the ground, without an angle from the Florida sideline, so the call stands.
Harvin, on a sweep, gets about 20 yards. Nice to see you again, Percy.
And, again, Harvin, on a play to the left flat, makes a move and chews up another 20 yards.
A false start on Maurkice Pouncey backs Florida up, and Tebow keeps it on an option to get nine. Tebow uses the rocker step on second down and fires to Louis Murphy, who can’t tuck it in. It will be third and six.
Georgia rushes four, and Tebow’s throw to the left is picked off by Prince Miller, who rips a floater out of the receiver’s hands, but an illegal hands to the face penalty will erase the pick and move Florida to Georgia’s 14.
A huge, momentous penalty there.
Demps up the middle, bounces, gets one. And a pitch to Percy Harvin on second down gets six points, as Harvin is greeted by green and strolls into the end zone.
Florida makes the point after and it’s 7-0, Gators.
Georgia gets to their 25 on the kickoff, Moreno goes left for a few on first down, and the first quarter ends.
After one, it’s Florida 7, Georgia 0.
CBS returns with pictures of Stafford and T.I.’s Rihanna-assisted “Live Your Life,” and Stafford does just that, with completions on second and third down to get a first down and a spot near midfield.
On first down, Stafford throws deep to A.J. Green, but it’s out of bounds. Second down, he rifles one downfield, and the receiver drops it. Third and ten, Stafford audibles, is pressured, steps up, and throws to Massaquoi for 27 yards and a first down.
Danielson is now saying Stafford is Elwayesque. That’s a new one on me. Georgia gets its requisite false start for this drive, and it’s going to be first and 15 from the 27 or so.
On first down, Moreno has room for just two on the left. Then, Stafford is pressured, has to lob it short, and it falls incomplete. A third down scramble by Stafford gets seven or so, but Walsh will still have to kick. It’s good, and the score is 7-3, Florida.
Georgia tries the onside kick; Florida recovers. Florida runs one of the quarkbacks on first down, then Tebow hits Hernandez for twenty yards. Another Tebow run for six, and there’s an offsides on second down to give the Gators first and ten from the 11.
Demps, straight up the center, for two or three. Second and seven, and Demps scoots to the 2. It’s third and inches, and the Gators will call timeout.
We return, and Florida’s in the shotgun, Harvin to Tebow’s left, and Tebow goes up the middle to score the 37th rushing touchdown of his career, breaking a tie for the UF career mark with Emmitt Smith.
But it’s close enough to be reviewed, and I’m on record, after seeing it in real time, that the ball did not cross the plane of the goal line, and the call on the field was a poor one.
“After the review, video evidence shows he did not get in the end zone.” Take the points off the board, rub out Tebow’s record, and it’s fourth and inches.
Tebow goes left and over the line, and this one’s a TD, no doubt. Jonathan Phillips kicks the extra point, and it’s Florida 14, Georgia 3, Tebow reclaiming sole possession of that school record.
Caleb Sturgis’ kickoff goes out of bounds, and Georgia comes out of the I-formation at their 40; Moreno gets five on a cutback.
Another drive, another pre-snap penalty, but this one’s offsides on Florida, and it’s a first down for the Bulldogs just across midfield.
Florida brings two blitzers, and Stafford’s deep throw is wobbly and deflected. Georgia tosses right to Moreno, and he gets a first down behind a road-grading from Brannan Southerland.
Moreno goes up the gut, bounces left, and is pulled down after a gain of eight or nine. Moreno, on a toss to the left, gets another six. There’s some imposition of will going on. Caleb King gets just one up the center.
Nice job by CBS finding Tebow alone on a bench, talking to Dan Mullen on his headset. Good shot.
Stafford drops back, and gets dropped.
On third and long, Stafford is under fire and chucks one to Massaquoi for 30 yards and a first down at the 6. Awesome throw from Stafford there, but he follows it up with a throw behind Tripp Chandler in the end zone. Moreno goes left on the second down, and meets A.J. Jones a yard behind the line. Georgia calls timeout before third and goal from the 7.
Georgia comes out with four wide, moves Moreno out, and throws to him in double coverage, but it’s incomplete, and Walsh will kick again.
Walsh nails the left upright with one of the most satisfying thunks you will ever hear on a football field, and Florida takes over in their own red zone.
It’s looking like the Gators will run out the clock, with two runs up the middle for six yards on first and second down. Third and four, and it’s another handoff; Georgia stuffs it, and the Gators will have to punt after Mark Richt calls the Dawgs’ last timeout.
The punt is nearly blocked, but it’s a nice, deep one, and there’s good coverage. Stafford kneels to run out the clock, and it’s halftime.
After thirty minutes, the score is Florida 14, Georgia 3.
At halftime, Moreno’s got 48 yards, and Demps has 17, so the wild guess in the Saturday Speculator may be a little wrong. But Florida’s got an 11-point lead and receives the ball to start the second half, which could be an opportunity to put a lot of distance between the two teams and perhaps help take Moreno out of the game.
Quite possible the last “Go Gators” commercial ever just ran. It’s a much-maligned commercial, but it’s sweet and memorable. Georgia follows with a spot that highlights their two Rhodes Scholars with a smirking voice-over saying “Only one public university in the country has two Rhodes Scholars.” It’s smarmy, and the advantage is to Florida.
And we’re back, Brandon James receiving the kick and weaving to Florida’s 30.
First down’s a Tebow pass to Riley Cooper for another first down; Tebow runs left for five or six on that first down, then throws for another first down. Florida’s moving the ball right now.
Rainey goes off tackle for two. Tebow gets another two up the gut.
Tebow’s pressured, moves out of the pocket, and gets it to James, who has his hands on the ball, looks upfield, and drops it. The punt is perfect, though, and gets downed on the 1.
Moreno goes left, cuts right, and gets three.
The AFLAC question: who was the last team to defeat the previous two AP national champions in consecutive weeks?
Stafford hits Massaquoi on the second-down play-action, getting 15 or so, and Danielson calls him a “gunslinger” three times.
The resulting first down is a gain of one for Moreno after some penetration blew up his running lane.
Stafford is pressured on second down, rolls right, and finds a receiver to get the first down. Moreno uses that first down to hop over some leg tackles and get another first down. There’s another first down on that one, and Stafford fires a laser to Green. Georgia’s moving the ball now, and Florida’s defense is looking flammable.
As I type that, a badly underthrown ball is picked off by Joe Haden, who races up the sideline and is knocked out at the 1; Haden threw an arm around Green’s waist almost for balance, got underneath the route, and the rest was defense turned offense.
Tebow takes it in from there, and it’s 21-3, Florida, after a momentous interception and a quick touchdown. That’s the Gators’ third one-yard drive in two weeks.
Georgia’s 17-year-old returner bobbles the kickoff in the end zone, then nearly brings it out. I doubt we will see him again.
First down is a short pass that falls incomplete; second down is a run right by Moreno, who gets maybe one. Third and nine for Georgia, and they’ll call timeout.
Stafford is rushed, throws over the middle, and Dustin Doe makes the diving deflection. The AFLAC answer: Northwestern, in 1943.
James fields the punt on a bounce, and gets nothing, but he saves the Gators about ten yards, as that one had some speed and room to roll.
Tebow throws left, and Cooper catches another one for eight yards. The screen on second down gets blown up, and it’s going to be third and two. Tebow keeps it and gets three or four and the first down; on that play, Tebow waits, waits, and puts one in Louis Murphy’s breadbasket for a touchdown up the sideline. A beautifully lofted throw and a kick through the uprights, and it’s Florida 28, Georgia 3.
Replay shows that Murphy tugged Asher Allen’s shirt to get behind him, and that’s definitely pass interference, but that’s a blown call.
Richard Samuel, he of the near-catastrophe last kick, returns this one to about the 25. First down is a throw to the right that gets just one, but second down’s a great throw to Green for another 18 or so yards. It’s being reviewed, but there’s no clear angle, and this one should stand.
It does, and Florida’s charged a timeout.
First and ten from the 42, it’s a pitch to Moreno, and it skips off of his hands; after a scrum, Terron Sanders picks it up, spins, and returns the ball to the 10.
Harvin runs through the gut for maybe two on first down, but Tebow goes untouched through a chasm on second down to score. The ball sails through, and it’s a staggering 35-3 lead for Florida.
Samuel juggles the kickoff again, and returns it to about the 17.
It’s a toss to Moreno on first down, and he gets about one; Massaquoi gets another of his patented 15-yard catches over the middle. Then, a pass to the left flat for another first down.
A screen gets nothing; a throw to a plodder gets four or five. It’s third and six, and Stafford is forced to throw with bodies around him; Dustin Doe tips and picks the ball with a twisting move.
That’s Georgia’s third turnover, and Florida will take over near their 40. A block in the back pushes the Gators back to their 33, and UF lets the third quarter run out.
At the end of three, it’s Florida 35, Georgia 3.
(Yeah, that was another entry in the Gators’ efforts to make their third quarters the longest stretches of time in recorded history.)
James goes right for, eh, maybe two. On second and 16, Demps catches a screen and gets the Gators a manageable third and seven. Tebow’s wrenched down in the pocket, and there’s a yellow flag that turns into nothing. Chas Henry will punt for the fourth time today, and it’s a great one, chasing the returner to his own 10. The coverage brings him down around the 13 after some lateral movement.
Moreno gets three off tackle to the right.
There’s a penalty before the second down snap, there’s some chippiness on it, and Brandon Spikes does some Razzie-worthy acting with a couple of rolls on the ground after Moreno shoved him post-whistle. Those histrionics contribute to a delay of game penalty, but Spikes jumps offsides on third and 17.
The second shot at third and 12 is a bomb to A.J. Green, who snatches it from the sky and gets 54 yards when all is said and done.
The next play is a pick by Ahmad Black on a Doe deflection, and he returns it to about the Georgia 25. And on the only play of that drive, Georgia forgets how to play defense, and Harvin makes a catch without anyone in a ten-yard radius for the touchdown. The extra point goes through, and it’s Florida 42, Georgia 3.
Samuel breaks a kick for the first time, sheds some tackles, and gets across midfield. A pass to Michael Moore for nothing on first down, a deep ball to Green that gets broken up on second down, and overthrows on third and fourth down, and the best field position Georgia’s had all day is wasted without even one positive yard gained.
Emmanuel Moody returns to the field for Florida with a long, threshing run, and Tebow leaves, jumping and fist-pumping, to the delight of the crowd.
John Brantley comes on, throws left to Deonte Thompson, and gets a first down; the first down was that last first down’s mirror image, for fewer yards.
Moody loses one on the carry up the gut, but an offsides makes it second and six. Brantley tosses one out of the back of the end zone on that play, but Brantley throws a strike to Thompson for the score on third down. The PAT is true, and it’s Florida 49, Georgia 3.
Samuel bobbles another kickoff, and he’ll kneel in the end zone.
Georgia’s got their backups in, and Samuel’s getting some garbage yardage, but this one’s been over since midway through the third quarter.
Georgia converts a fourth down. It matters to Mark Richt.
Someone named Cox to someone named White for the touchdown, and Georgia gets their first touchdown as Cameron “Human Victory Cigar” Newton claps insincerely on the Florida sideline. After the extra point, it’s Florida 49, Georgia 10.
There’s some freestyling going on on the Florida sideline. This has been a good day.
Chris Rainey, Americaback, quarkback, idiot savant, my momentary hero: he walks up the kickoff, makes a move, and gets a 50-yard return. It’s cancelled out by a block in the back, but that was a fun little idea.
Moody gets nothing up the middle on first down, and Brantley goes left for five on second down. On third down, Brantley throws left and high, but there’s a pass interference flag that CBS doesn’t even bother to show the ref explaining, and Moody gets another three up the middle on the first down.
Moody continues to run well at the end of the game, getting a first down with a run up the middle, and then another on a run to the left. Urban Meyer’s calling timeouts at the end of this game to soak in the victory a little more, which is going to get panned on Sunday, but, in this moment, seems brutally, cruelly appropriate revenge.
Tebow’s jumping all over the field, towel in the air. After another Moody run, Meyer and Richt exchange a brisk, brusque handshake, and the deed is done here.
The final score from Jacksonville: Florida 49, Georgia 10.
UF debuts its new commercial, “When Did You Become A Gator?” It’s better than the “Go Gators” spot, and available for watching again here.
Florida was owed ounces of revenge in this one, and took pounds. Their defense harassed Matthew Stafford all day and limited Knowshon Moreno to a handful of eight-to-ten-yard runs, taking away his big plays entirely. And great man coverage turned three of Stafford’s deep throws into interceptions; it bent but did not break, turning three good early drives by the Dawgs into a field goal and two misses.
Florida’s offense was most effective when given short fields, but Tim Tebow made good throws all day, ran effectively, and was the cool, calm emotional center of a team that was composed and dominant. He accounted for five touchdowns, two through the air and three on the ground. Percy Harvin was the best weapon for the Gators, running on sweeps and getting loose repeatedly. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps were largely neutralized, but this was the sort of game that needed Florida’s bread and butter to feed the offense, and that’s what Tebow and Harvin did today.
Georgia’s defense was as good as could have been expected with the field position it was given, but Florida battered it in the red zone and bombed it when it could. The huge margin of victory was inflated by turnovers rather than gross inadequacy.
The Gators summarily dispatched this Georgia team and the ghosts of last year with a thoroughly superior performance, one in which a great team came of age and eviscerated a very good one. Florida may not be the best team in the country at the end of the year if their loss to Ole Miss derails their championship dreams, but this is clearly the best team in the country right now.