The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party… It really is, to borrow from The Masters, a tradition unlike any other. A lot of people over the years have talked about moving this game to either Atlanta or back to the home sites. I am not one of those people. Selfishly, the trip to Jacksonville and Neptune Beach is one of the things I look forward to most during the college football season. Friday is always a great day at the beach (weather permitting), we pick up a chicken nugget tray on the way into the stadium on Saturday, have an awesome time tailgating under the bridge across from EverBank Field, hopefully get a win, and enjoy a night back in Neptune Beach. That’s my Georgia/Florida tradition, and I know most of you reading this have your own tradition for this game that you value. It’s definitely a better trip when the Dawgs win, but when Georgia wins by 35? It was glorious. The Dawgs put a savage beating on the Gators, and here’s what I saw from the game:
1. Layin’ the smack down: Remember in Rocky III when Rocky fought Clubber Lang for the first time? That’s what this game was like. Georgia dominated Florida from start to finish in this game. At no point did it look like the Gators could win. It was so darn beautiful. Quite frankly, it looked like the Gators quit after the first few Georgia scores. Their fans certainly did as some of them started leaving at halftime. With all of the trash talking that the Gators were doing before the game, it was so satisfying to see the Dawgs go out there and completely stomp on their throats. Another great thing to see was how mad the first team defensive players and Coach Smart got after the second teamer’s allowed Florida’s only score. This team isn’t satisfied with just winning games. They want to DOMINATE.
2. Can’t imagine a better start: The way this game began was perfect. The Dawgs won the toss and deferred, which is exactly what they want to do. Then, they forced Florida into a three and out. That included a sack by Lorenzo Carter, which is something the Dawgs failed to do in the previous two games. Following a good punt return by Mecole Hardman, the offense got the ball near midfield and almost scored immediately. After a couple of Nick Chubb runs, Jake Fromm dropped back on third down and with three Gator defenders bearing down on him, he remained composed and found D’Andre Swift out of the backfield. Swift did what he normally does and took the ball all the way to the six, and Nick Chubb finished things off. As the title of this section says, I really could not imagine the Dawgs starting this game off any better.
3. Balance? Who needs balance?: Seriously… When you can run the ball the way Georgia has been doing it this season, why would balance be necessary? Georgia ran through, over, and around the Gators all day on Saturday at EverBank Field. The Dawgs attempted 35 rushes compared to only seven passes against Florida, and while the Gators held the ball for essentially 10 more minutes than Georgia did, the Dawgs were much more efficient with their touches (Understatement much?). Sony Michel had 137 yards and two touchdowns on six touches, and 119 of those yards came on only two touches. While Sony was the big play threat, Nick Chubb was the grinder. He had 13 carries for 77 yards with a touchdown. Add in D’Andre Swift catching three of Jake Fromm’s 4 completions for 84 yards and Elijah Holyfield delivering the 39-yard knockout punch (I think I’m the 500th person to make that joke) in the fourth quarter and you can say that Georgia’s running backs came to play on the banks of the St. Johns.
4. Passing on the pass: As mentioned in the previous point, Georgia only completed four passes and only attempted seven passes against Florida. That being said, three of the completions from Jake Fromm were outstanding. The pass to Swift out of the backfield on Georgia’s first drive showed such composure by Fromm. With a hoard of Gators bearing down on him, he found Swift in the open field and let him do what he does. The touchdown pass to Javon Wims was incredible. It was a ridiculous catch by Wims, but it was also an incredible throw by Fromm. He put it in a spot where only Wims could get it, so throw and catch combined made for one hell of a play. It even got highlighted on Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN in Randy Moss’s “You Got Mossed” segment. That’s high praise coming from one of the best receivers in NFL history. The third great Fromm completion was in the fourth quarter before the Holyfield touchdown. Swift had found a pocket between the linebackers and secondary and Fromm dropped that thing in there like a Steph Curry three-pointer. He put that thing on a dime and it was one of the better throws he’s made this season. Fromm did have an interception, but it appeared to be due to miscommunication between him and Sony on the route. While Khakis didn’t have to throw a lot, he hit a few big plays that were very important for the Dawgs.
5. Savagery in Jacksonville: Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker’s group of defensive savages continued their strong play down in Jacksonville. Georgia failed to record a sack in their two previous games, but they got five against the Gators. Those sacks caused Florida to lose 46 total yards. Feleipe Franks only threw for 30 yards on only seven completions. Lorenzo Carter and Roquan Smith led Georgia with nine and eight tackles respectively, and those guys were all over the field the entire game. Dominick Sanders got another interception that further vaults him up UGA’s all time list, and he had to tiptoe the sideline to do it. The play that really summed up the struggles for Florida though was the sack by Tyrique McGhee that led to the fumble recovery touchdown for J.R. Reed. McGhee was in Franks’ face so fast that it seemed like he was there on the snap, and Reed did a great job of stripping the ball before Franks hit the ground. Give the coaching staff a lot of credit because they have kept this defense hungry and motivated all season long, and they play with such an intense energy.
6. An exorcism in Duval County: Georgia certainly exorcised some demons on Saturday. Quite a few times, the Dawgs have gone into Jacksonville with a better team and a team that was favored to win, and for some reason or another, they would lose to Florida. It almost seemed like Georgia was cursed some of those years. There were many Georgia fans that were extremely worried going into this game because of that, but it turns out that worry was completely unnecessary. I talk a lot about how this team just feels different, and that those woes of the past are behind them. A lot of fans won’t accept that until Georgia wins another SEC or National Championship, but I’m enjoying living in the now and watching this incredibly fun team destroy their opposition. Coach Smart has driven the idea into this team that humility is only a week away. They have embraced that and play with a sense of urgency seemingly at all times.
7. On to November: Tonight, the initial set of College Football Playoff rankings will be released, and Georgia will either be first or second. I have a feeling that based on their comparative resumes, Georgia will be at the top and Alabama will be right behind them. Georgia has a better resume. Period. Alabama doesn’t have any wins over teams currently in the AP Top 25. Georgia has two such wins: Mississippi State (21st) and Notre Dame (5th). It really doesn’t matter, but if the Dawgs are number one, that would make a lot of Georgia fans very nervous. Coach Smart will do his best to not allow it to be a distraction and have this team focused on South Carolina. Georgia is once again a heavy favorite this weekend, and I for one am not worried one bit about the Gamecocks. There may be a “look ahead” factor with a big game at Auburn following the South Carolina game, but I just don’t see that happening based on what we’ve seen from this team so far. They constantly take care of their business and have been extremely focused. Will Muschamp would LOVE to come into Sanford Stadium and ruin the Dawgs dream season, but news flash Coach Boom, it’s not going to happen. Dawgs win big this weekend and get ready to take on the WarEagleTigerPlainsmen.