Fourth down is the new first down. That seemed to be the motto for the game Saturday night in Jacksonville between the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators.
The Bulldogs—looking to stay tied atop the Eastern division of the SEC—needed a statement victory over the struggling Gators and got it.
On the opening drive from scrimmage—after a long kickoff return from Chris Rainey was negated—Florida marched down the field with ease. But a dropped ball and missed field goal later left the game scoreless early.
Florida wouldn't let that get them down as they answered on their next drive with a touchdown pass on 4th down and 19 from senior quarterback John Brantley to sophomore tight end Jordan Reed.
Florida would add another touchdown on a 99-yard kickoff return by Jeff Demps following a Georgia field goal.
Just before the half with the score at 17-3—advantage Gators—running back Chris Rainey would fumble the ball at the Florida 25-yard-line. That fumble would prove costly as Aaron Murray then connected with wide receiver Michael Bennett on a 4th down and 5 touchdown pass.
Georgia played the game of field position for most of the third quarter.
After yet another fumble by the Gators in their own territory, Georgia head coach Mark Richt opted to leave slumping place-kicker Blair Walsh on the sidelines again on 4th down and 4.
Murray would then throw a brilliant pass to junior Tavarres King in the right side of the end zone to tie the game up at 17.
Special Teams Trouble for Dawgs
Haunted by special teams all game, the Bulldogs gave up another long kickoff return to the Gators, setting Florida kicker Brad Phillips up for a 40 yard field goal. He would knock it through the uprights to give the Gators the lead once again, 20-17.
The Dawgs would answer right back with an impressive drive into Gator territory, but Walsh would miss again from 37-yards out.
Still with control of field position, Georgia would get the ball back to start the final quarter of play.
With freshman Isaiah Crowell out with a leg contusion he sustained in the third quarter, the Bulldogs would feed the ball to backup Richard Samuel on three of four straight plays. Samuel would not be denied of the end zone as he would power his way in from four yards out—giving Georgia a 24-20 lead.
It was up to the Bulldog defense from there to come up with big stops. They would.
Will Georgia represent the East in the SEC Championship game?
On 4th and 10 inside the Dawgs territory, Florida decided to go for it. Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones would come up with a huge sack on John Brantley, giving the Bulldogs the ball back with a chance to run out the remaining 5:32 left on the clock.
Hard-nosed running and a crucial third down completion from Murray would seal the game for Georgia, 24-20.
Despite Aaron Murray having an 0-10 passing drought, he would finish 15-34 for 169 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Isaiah Crowell was the leading rusher for the game with 80 yards on 18 rushes.
The Georgia defense held the Gators offense to just 226 total yards for the game, and an astounding -19 rushing yards.
Georgia's next game comes next week as the New Mexico State Aggies come into Athens.