As well as the Georgia defense has played this season — the Bulldogs entered Saturday’s game against Florida third in the nation and first in the SEC in total defense — there was a void.
The ‘Dogs had yet to score a defensive touchdown.
Safety J.R. Reed ended that in the fourth quarter when he and cornerback Tyrique McGhee combined to sack UF quarterback Feleipe Franks, forcing a fumble that Reed picked up and took two strides into the end zone for the score.
Georgia’s defense had not scored since Maurice Smith’s interception return last year against Auburn.
The drought was especially galling to the players because defensive coordinator Mel Tucker had taken to showing the unit video of other SEC teams scoring defensive touchdowns the previous week to motivate them.
“Now they get to see one of their own,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “It was long overdue.”
Georgia had five sacks, with eight players contributing at least a half-sack. The Bulldogs came into the game next-to-last in the SEC with an average of 1.43 per game.
RB Davis hurt
The Gators, hindered by injuries all season, were delivered another blow early in the game when leading rusher Malik Davis hurt his left knee and left the game. Davis watched the second half from the sidelines with his knee in a brace.
Davis had four carries for 20 yards before the injury. He entered the game with 506 yards for the season.
Other injured UF offensive players made token appearances. Wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland started but was mostly used as a decoy and wide receiver/running back/wildcat quarterback Kadarius Toney had a minimal impact on the game, with one reception for 8 yards and one carry for minus-1 yard.
Empty in the red zone
Florida and Georgia were two of the five teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision who had scored on every red-zone possession this season entering this week’s games.
The Bulldogs’ streak continued. The Gators’ did not.
Georgia scored on its first two trips to red zone, but Florida failed to convert a fourth-and-two from the Bulldogs’ 4 after a promising drive that had lasted 15 plays and 82 yards, using up 7:34 of the clock.
Lamichel Perine’s 29-yard gain set UF up with a first down at the Georgia 12. The Gators were hit with a false-start penalty but Perine burst through for an 11-yard gain for second-and-four at the 6.
But two more running plays by Perine netted only 2 yards and Feleipe Franks was hurried into an incompletion by Davin Bellamy when he tried to hit Moral Stephens in the corner of the end zone.
Georgia converted on its only trips to the red zone, both in the first quarter, on a 6-yard touchdown run by Nick Chubb and a 17-yard TD pass from Jake Fromm to Javon Wims.
The knockout blow
Georgia sophomore running back Elijah Holyfield scored the Bulldogs’ final touchdown of the game on a 39-yard run.
Yes, he’s former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield’s son. He had four carries for 49 yards and is fourth on the team with 207 yards. Holyfield scored his second touchdown of the season.
Holyfield is the only running back on the team who has yet to have a carry this season that’s resulted in a loss of yardage.
Townsend breaks record
The running joke this season was that Florida punter Johnny Townsend has been the team’s most valuable offensive player.
But the senior became, statistically, the program’s best punter in terms of real estate chewed up by his high, booming kicks.
Townsend had seven punts for 381 yards and a 54.4 yard average against the Bulldogs, with one kick of 70 yards.
He has now punted for 10,078 yards, breaking the record held by Eric Wilbur (9,900).
There were scouts from the Jaguars, Atlanta, Carolina, Indianapolis, the Los Angeles Chargers, the L.A. Rams, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Francisco at the game.
The only bowl representatives were from the TaxSlayer Bowl and Florida Citrus Sports, which runs the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the Camping World Bowl and the Cure Bowl in Orlando.