Georgia feels cursed in another loss to Florida

Dawgpost.com
Posted Nov 1, 2003


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Scoot over Cubs fans. Out of the way Red Sox die-hards. Make room for a whole lot of heartbroken Southerners wearing red and black. Georgia should never have expected to beat Florida in the year of the curse.

Just weeks after Chicago and Boston baseball fans had streaks of futility extended in painful fashion, the No. 4 Bulldogs fell again to the Gators on Saturday, 16-13 in front of 84,411 in Alltel Stadium.

Chicago fans hold a goat responsible. Boston fans still spit out Babe Ruth's name. Bulldogs fans are running out of reasons. The loss was Georgia's sixth straight and 13th in 14 games against the Gators.

"There was a lot on the line in this game, and we didn't get it done," quarterback David Greene said. "It hurts."

The loss ended Georgia's national championship hopes and forced a logjam atop the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division. The Bulldogs (7-2, 4-2 SEC), and No. 23 Florida (6-3, 4-2) are tied at the top with Tennessee (6-2, 3-2) also in the mix with three very winnable conference games remaining.

"You come into this game, it's for the SEC (lead), the national championship is still in sight ... this one hurts," sophomore Bartley Miller said. "Plus, it's Georgia-Florida. We're sick of losing."

The Bulldogs erased a 10-point fourth quarter deficit with a 1-yard Kregg Lumpkin touchdown run with 9:18 left and a 21-yard Billy Bennett field goal with 3:49 left.

Then the curse returned. How else can you explain a true freshman quarterback, Chris Leak, driving the Gators 66 yards in 3:16 against the nation's No. 1 defense to set up Matt Leach's game-winning 33-yard field goal with 33 seconds remaining.

"The Lord helped us out and the Gators came through," Florida receiver Carlos Perez said.

Georgia coach Mark Richt's postgame talk to his team's was one of his shortest of the season.

"There's really nothing you can say to make anybody feel better right now so I didn't really try to," Richt said.

"It's hard to go on after a game like this," said Bennett, who missed a 32-yard field goal in the first half. "I take the responsibility."

The Bulldogs will take Saturday off before playing Auburn at home on Nov. 15.

Georgia had a season-high 202 rushing yards against the Gators but counteracted that with a season-low 188 passing yards. Greene was 18 of 32 with one interception and no touchdowns.

Through the first three quarters, Georgia had 147 rushing yards and 78 passing yards. Florida took a 10-3 lead when Leak hit Perez on a wide receiver screen that went 34 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown with 7:00 left in the third quarter. The Gators added to the lead with an 18-yard Leach field goal with 12:10 left in the game.

"I'm proud of our team. I'm not proud that we lost by any means, but I'm proud of our guys. I'm just extremely proud of how they fought out of it," Richt said. "They could have folded and they didn't. I think any Bulldog fan would be proud of the guys."

The Georgia fans couldn't have been happy, though, to see the Gator seniors walking off the field holding up four fingers to represent their perfect record against the Bulldogs or to see several Gator players plant a Florida flag in the middle of the SEC logo at midfield.

"It's beautiful," Gator linebacker Channing Crowder, an Atlanta native who led his team with 15 tackles. "I committed to (Georgia) and de-committed and committed to Florida. I knew where I was supposed to go."

The game started slowly. Leach missed a chance to put the Gators up when he hit the right upright on a 48-yard attempt with 7:33 left in the first quarter. Bennett matched him with 11:49 left in the second quarter, missing his 32-yard attempt wide left.

Asked to talk about the miss, Bennett said, "I kicked it. It didn't go through the uprights, and I didn't get any points for that."

Both kickers bounced back, though. Leach went first, putting Florida ahead 3-0 with a 24-yarder with 7:28 left in the first half. That kick came after Georgia had stopped the Gators on first-and-goal from the 2-yard line.

Bennett tied the game on the last play of the half, hitting a 21-yarder after an 18-yard screen pass to Damien Gary was stopped at the 3.

Georgia escaped a couple of bad plays early in the second half thanks to penalties. First, Gary dropped a punt that was recovered by Reynaldo Hill at Georgia's 17-yard line, but the play was negated by a personal foul face mask committed more than 30 yards away from Gary, when a Gator defender tore off Thomas Davis' helmet.

On the Bulldogs' ensuing drive, Keiwan Ratliff appeared to have his second interception of the game and eighth of the season with 10:03 left in the third quarter, but he stepped out of bounds prior to the interception, negating the play.

Despite those breaks, the Bulldogs still couldn't break the Gators' spell over them.

"I don't care about the history," defensive end David Pollack said. "That was different coaches, different players, a completely different regime. I don't care about the past. I wanted to win the present. We lost. We're just (p------)."


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