October 31, 2009
Scroll down or click here to join the Doc's game day live blog, covering every game all day long.
Florida 41, Georgia 17. The Gators' final numbers -- 208 yards rushing, 163 passing, both well below their season averages -- aren't going to come flying off the stat sheet, but the difference in Florida's much-dissected, much-criticized offense was obvious on the first possession of the game: UF's opening drive covered 80 yards, matching its longest march in well over a month in just six plays. Its second drive covered 92 yards on 11 plays, matching its longest of the entire season. In the second quarter, with Georgia beginning to mount a rally with 10 unanswered points, the Gators went 65 yards in just four plays, aided by a personal foul penalty against UGA.
And most importantly for an offense that's been depressingly bad at finishing drives lately, all three possessions ended in the end zone courtesy of Tim Tebow's arm (with a spectacular assist from Riley Cooper on his second TD grab) and record-breaking legs. With touchdowns where the Gators had been settling for field goals in the largely disappointing efforts of the last three weeks, the game was effectively over at the half, at which point the top-ranked UF defense was set free to pick off Joe Cox and backup Logan Gray four times in five possessions and take in a touchdown of its own. The typically merciless Urban Meyer was even happy enough to call off the dogs (no pun intended) this time around by taking a knee at the 20 on the last possession of the game.
At 4-4 with the worst scoring defense (and nearly the worst total defense in yards allowed) in the SEC, Georgia is not the greatest measuring stick for whether or not the kinks have been completely worked out. But this is, finally, the kind of win completely befitting of an alleged No. 1 team, in all phases -- if the Bulldogs were ever in this game, they were effectively knocked out of this game when Florida finished off those first-quarter drives with touchdowns, black-out uniforms be damned.
To put it more pointedly: After the unsatisfying defensive slogs against Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State, it was the Gators' first effort against another SEC heavy that seemed convincing enough to hypothetically beat Alabama. And with the East Division title effectively secured (a win over Vandy next week or a South Carolina loss at Tennessee tonight makes it official) and South Carolina and Florida State looming as the tallest remaining hurdles to the expected 12-0 regular season, the next month is officially a warm-up for the winner-take-all showdown with the Tide on Dec. 5.