JACKSONVILLE - Georgia beats Florida 31-24 in at the Cocktail Party…
10 28 2004 - Inside Slant: Georgia
When Georgia players look back on Saturday's game against Florida, they won't remember that the Gators were playing less than a week after the firing of their coach, Ron Zook. Instead, what they'll remember is a 31-24 victory that gave Georgia its first victory over Florida since 1997 and the program's second in the past 14 years. "At least for 365 days we can say we got the better end of Florida," senior linebacker Arnold Harrison said. "For the past five years I've seen Georgia teams lose to Florida and I've seen the seniors take it the worse. We didn't waste our opportunity. Now this will be with us forever." This time it was eighth-ranked Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC) that made the necessary plays to secure the victory, including a clutch catch by Fred Gibson when the Bulldogs needed it most. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead by scoring on their first three possessions, and they led 24-7 in the third quarter before the Gators captured the momentum and cut Georgia's lead to three early in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs responded with a strong offensive drive but found themselves facing third-and-9 at the Florida 15 when quarterback David Greene threw a quick slant to Gibson. Just as strong safety Cory Bailey and cornerback Reynaldo Hill appeared to be closing in on the ball, Gibson reached out and snatched the ball away and crossed the goal line for a 31-21 lead with 8:37 left. "I thought it was a certain interception when David threw it," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "When he caught it, I could hardly believe it." It was appropriate that two seniors would hook up for a decisive score since those seniors have had to endure Florida for so long. "I'm glad our fans can come back to the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and won't have to hear the Florida fans run their mouth next time," senior defensive end David Pollack said. "It's been a long time coming," Richt said. "A lot of people have been through a lot of pain and suffering, and they finally get to enjoy it." Unfortunately for the Bulldogs the victory didn't change the standings in the SEC East. Since Tennessee owns a victory over Georgia, there's nothing Georgia can do but keep winning, while hoping that Tennessee somehow loses to one of its remaining SEC opponents -- Kentucky and Vanderbilt. NOTES, QUOTES GAME BALL GOES TO: QB David Greene -- He completed 15 of 23 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns, leading Georgia to its first victory over Florida since 1997. Greene also tied Peyton Manning for the most wins by a Division I-A quarterback with 39. KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Fred Gibson -- Gibson dropped three passes against Florida last season and dropped a third-down pass on Georgia's final drive of the third quarter on Saturday, but he came through with a clutch grab on a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that helped put the game away. QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's awesome. It's everything I thought it would be. It stinks that it took until my senior year to beat them. At least I can put that on my resume one day." -- Georgia QB David Greene. STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL LOOKING GOOD: With 255 passing yards and three TDs by QB David Greene, 103 rushing yards by RB Danny Ware and some big catches by WRs Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown, the Bulldogs put up 31 points and 407 yards against Florida. STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: The Bulldogs gave up a season-high 458 yards, mostly by missing tackles. All-SEC linebacker Odell Thurman missed several tackle opportunities by overpursuing plays, and the Bulldogs allowed the Gators to cut a 24-7 lead to 24-21 in the fourth quarter. "We played as poor as we've played this year," defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. ROSTER REPORT: TEs Leonard Pope and Martrez Milner shared the starting job early in the season, but Pope has taken some big steps forward in the past month, catching four touchdown passes in the past three games. He caught three passes for 90 yards against Florida. ... FS Thomas Davis, one of the key playerson Georgia's defense, left the game in the second quarter with a sprained right knee and ankle and did not return. His status for Saturday's game at Kentucky is uncertain.
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