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Mitchell catch, Gators fumble lift Georgia to crucial win

The SportsXchange

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell atoned for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by catching a short Aaron Murray pass three plays later and turning it into a 45-yard scoring play with 7:11 remaining to assure 10th-ranked Georgia's 17-9 upset victory over No. 2 and previously unbeaten Florida on Saturday in front of 84,644 at EverBank Field.

With Georgia nursing a 10-9 lead, Mitchell caught a 12-yard pass from Murray for a first down to the Gators' 35. However, he drew a penalty for taunting a Florida defender, taking the ball back to midfield.

On a third-and-5, Murray hit Mitchell in the left flat. Mitchell broke Loucheiz Purifoy's tackle attempt and sped the rest of the way to the end zone to secure the first back-to-back victories in the rivalry for Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC) since 1988-89.

"I'm just glad I got the opportunity," Mitchell said.

The Gators (7-1, 6-1) drove deep into Bulldogs territory after that but, after Jordan Reed caught a pass from Jeff Driskel and got inside the 5-yard line, the ball was jarred loose by linebacker Jarvis Jones. The ball squirted forward into the end zone and was recovered by Georgia cornerback Sanders Commings with 2:05 left.

The victory denied the Gators a chance to clinch the SEC East and allowed Georgia to maintain control of its destiny. The Bulldogs can capture the division by winning their last two SEC games against Mississippi and Auburn.

"The defense rose to the occasion and everyone fought their tails off," said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who had beaten Florida only three times in 11 years prior to Saturday. "There was a lot of emotion and two really good football teams getting after it."

Florida coach Will Muschamp said six turnovers and 10 penalties did in a team that now has to hope Georgia is upset by Ole Miss or Auburn to win the SEC East.

"We're not a team that has a lot of margin for error," he said of a young squad built on defense and the run. "Six turnovers ... wow ... that's tough to overcome."

Murray, the first Georgia quarterback to start and win two games in a row against the Gators since John Lastinger in 1982-83, had underwhelming stats: 12 of 25 for 150 yards and three interceptions. Todd Gurley gained 119 yards on 26 carries. Driskel was 16 of 28 for 185 yards for the Gators.

The teams combined for nine turnovers and 24 penalties for 227 yards.

"I knew we could come out and make things happen in the second half," said Murray. "We got a fresh start and had 30 minutes of game left."

Florida's defense has now held Murray below 50 percent in completion percentage and forced him to turn the ball over four times in two years -- without a victory.

"If you give him all day in the pocket, with receivers running clean, he's going to pick you apart," said Gators linebacker Jon Bostic. "I thought we played him well. It wasn't good enough."

After Georgia led 7-6 at halftime, the teams traded field goals in the second half, with Georgia's Marshall Morgan kicking one from 29 yards out in the third quarter and Florida's Caleb Strugis nailing one from 50 yards with 9:41 left in the game to cut Georgia's lead to 10-9. Morgan missed one from 37 yards late in the third quarter.

The first half was sloppy as the teams combined for six turnovers and 12 penalties for 98 yards. The quarterbacks were especially at fault in making hurried, ill-timed decisions. Murray continued his problems with the Florida defense with three interceptions, giving him seven against the Gators in his career. He has just 11 picks against all other SEC opponents.

Driskel deviated badly from his relatively mistake-free play during previous games. He had two fumbles and one interception, after having only one fumble and one interception in the first seven games.

The Bulldogs got their only first-half points on their first possession of the game when Todd Gurley scored his 10th touchdown of the season on a 10-yard run. The score was set up when Driskel was sacked by Damian Swann on a corner blitz and fumbled, with the ball recovered by linebacker Jarvis Jones at the Gators' 20.

Florida's scoring came on two second-quarter field goals by Sturgis, from 38 and 22 yards.

Both teams threw away other scoring opportunities. Georgia drove to a first down at the Florida 11 following a Gators fumble near the end of the first quarter, but Murray's pass was picked off by Florida safety Josh Evans.

The Gators made a furious drive deep into Georgia territory in the final minute, reaching the Bulldogs' 5 for first-and-goal. However, Driskel was flushed out of the pocket, scrambled to the right and threw into coverage in the end zone, getting picked off by safety Bacarri Rambo.

NOTES: When Sturgis made his 50-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, it gave him eight from 50 yards or longer in his career, extending his school record. Sturgis is 3-for-3 on field goal attempts of that length this season and is 15-for-17 (.882) overall ... Georgia was 0-for-9 on third-down conversions until a defensive holding penalty gave them one with 8:55 left ... There was a brief shoving match before the game among an estimated two dozen players, with Florida strong safety Matt Elam appearing to be the instigator. It began when Georgia came out of one tunnel and Florida came out a few seconds later a bit too close to the Bulldogs. There were also three personal fouls called in the first three minutes. Two offset and the other was a celebration penalty on the Bulldogs after their first touchdown ... The last time Florida faced the Bulldogs unbeaten was in 1985 when the Gators were 6-0-1 and ranked first in the Associated Press poll. Georgia won 27-0 ... The two teams have played when both were ranked in the AP poll 21 times in the past, with Florida holding an 11-9-1 edge.
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