In what was essentially the de facto SEC East Championship game, the Florida Gators defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 44-28. It was a game with four quarters that seemed to have entirely different storylines. Overall, it is a game that the Bulldogs will want to forget, but will be forced to think about what could have been for the rest of the season.
Georgia Falls to Florida in Jacksonville
The game started with a boom for the Bulldogs as Zamir White took the first play from scrimmage 75 yards to the end zone. That would be followed by the Georgia defense forcing a three-and-out and getting the ball back into the offense’s hands. Then the second drive for Georgia ended with the first career touchdown for freshman wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint. However, that is the last time that the true freshman will get to take a snap this season. As he was crossing the goal line, he was tackled and suffered a hard-to-watch lower leg injury. It has since been reported as a broken ankle. The receiver group was already slim, too, as Rosemy-Jacksaint was replacing George Pickens, who did not make the trip to Jacksonville with an upper-body injury.
From there, things started to go awry for Georgia. The next drive saw the Gators get on the board after Kyle Trask got the offense ticking. The Bulldogs would go three-and-out and punt it back to the Gators. Florida would capitalize on another good drive and would tie the game up. Then, D’Wan Mathis would get a few snaps on the next drive as Stetson Bennett got looked at under the tent. However, the offense still punted after three plays, despite Mathis completing his one attempt.
The second quarter appeared to see Georgia reclaim the momentum with an Eric Stokes pick-six on the opening drive for Florida. However, the Gators would bounce back with a two-play touchdown drive to bring the score level again. The drive was capped off by a 25-yard pass to Kyle Pitts that was completed despite Tyson Campbell playing all over the tight end. That was where the game really went downhill for the Bulldogs. Through the rest of the first half, Florida would outscore Georgia 17-0. To add salt to the wound, the Bulldogs would lose safety Lewis Cine to a targeting call after a brutal hit on Pitts. Heading into the locker room, The Gators led the game 38-21.
The second half was much more of a defensive battle than the first. The Gators kicked a field goal on their first drive and would only score once more in the fourth quarter. Bennett threw an interception on the first drive. After that, Mathis would get his shot. On his first drive, he would score a 25-yard touchdown pass to Kearis Jackson, but ultimately, that would be the final time Georgia would score. The Florida defense was ready for the pass, and Mathis struggled.
Overall, it was a poor performance for Georgia. In a game where they needed a win, it was clear that the offense can not hang with some of the elite offenses in the nation. Conversely, the defense, which was decimated with injuries, could not stop one of the better offensive teams in the nation for the vast majority of the game. Despite looking strong early, the Bulldogs never seemed to be in control following the second-quarter surge from Florida.
Georgia also needs to find a solution in the passing game. Bennett is certainly not the solution for the Bulldogs. Similarly, Mathis struggled to really get things going in the game, as well. Mathis still has more upside and should be the quarterback for the rest of the season. In-game experience is very valuable to a young quarterback. The game ended Georgia’s hope for a spot in the SEC Championship game. Because of this, the remaining games should be used to get young players live reps in a year that will not affect eligibility down the line.
This year’s Georgia team was incredibly talented at almost every position. However, injuries really hurt the Bulldogs this year. That was once again the story in Jacksonville. Not only were there the injuries coming in, but the Bulldogs saw a couple more important players go down with injuries that would end their game.
Despite these injuries, Georgia must find a way to be more consistent throughout the whole game. That can be tough, especially with the unpredictable nature of injuries. However, there has not really been a game this season where the Bulldogs have been consistently the better team for all four quarters. That must change, especially next season, if Georgia wants to have long-term success.
The Road Forward
Moving forward, Georgia will head on the road this week to take on the Missouri Tigers. They will be looking to bounce back and finish the season on a good run to carry momentum into a bowl game and spring football. Following that matchup, Georiga will have a home game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, a road game against the South Carolina Gamecocks, and a home closer against the Vanderbilt Commodores.