Florida Coach Steve Spurrier earned his 100th victory at the school in a fitting fashion Saturday.
Not only did No. 5-ranked Florida’s 30-14 victory come against No. 10 Georgia, the team Spurrier loves to beat most, but it came in the same manner the Bulldogs used to stick it to the Gators for so many years before he became coach.
Georgia was shut out in a second half in which Florida resorted to the ground game as its Fun ‘N Gun offense didn’t produce any passing yards.
“I can get that feeling where we need to put it on the ground,” said Spurrier. “When our defense is playing like they’re playing, I can just say, hang onto the ball fellas, and hopefully we’ll break one here and there.”
The victory was Florida’s ninth in the last 10 games against Georgia and--more importantly--gave the Gators (7-1, 5-1 in the Southeastern Conference) control of the East Division. If Florida defeats Vanderbilt next Saturday and South Carolina the following week, it will go back to the SEC championship game for the first time since 1996.
For now, the Gators will celebrate a victory in one of the nation’s most storied rivalries, best known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
This year’s version was a watered-down affair, a game bogged down by steady rain in the first half and sputtering offenses in the second.
Twice in the second half, Georgia (6-2, 4-2) took over inside the Florida 40 and failed to score. On the second drive, Keith Kelsey forced a fumble on a run up the middle by Jasper Sanks at the Florida 10 and Bennie Alexander recovered.
One possession after the turnover, Bo Carroll’s 30-yard touchdown run gave Florida a 23-14 lead.
Florida got the ball back when Alex Brown forced another turnover at the Georgia 2, and on the next play, quarterback Doug Johnson ran for a touchdown.
Brown also had an interception on Georgia’s final drive, adding to a reputation he built with a five-sack performance in a 23-21 victory over Tennessee earlier this season.
“When they’re not double or triple teaming him, he can come up with the couple big plays we need,” said safety Marquand Manuel.
Carroll had 113 yards rushing in 13 carries, accounting for most of the Gators’ offense in the second half.
Despite Spurrier’s threats to the contrary, Johnson lasted the entire game. He threw for 234 yards in the first half, and had only two completions--one for 10 yards, another for minus-10--in the second, as the game turned into a defensive struggle, more reminiscent of 1969 than 1999.
Georgia quarterback Quincy Carter completed only six of 23 passes for 76 yards. He had more success running, especially in the first half, when he sliced through the Florida defense on option plays for two touchdowns that gave the Bulldogs a 14-10 lead.