Celebration sparks Dawgs' win over Florida

Celebration sparks Dawgs' win over Florida

JACKSONVILLE, FL – For two weeks, Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez worried and worried about one thing.

Martinez knew head coach Mark Richt had challenged the team to incur a celebration penalty after its first touchdown, and Martinez lost sleep over what kind of field position the penalty would mean for Florida on the next drive.

None of the defensive staff imagined how bad it would get. After more than 60 of the Bulldogs' 70 players celebrated together in the end zone after a 1-yard run by Knowshon Moreno, Georgia was called for two personal fouls and ended up kicking off from its 8-yard line.

"We didn't realize we were going to kick off from the (8-yard) line," defensive line coach Rodney Garner said. "I'll be honest with you there. We were saying, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, Lord, Jesus, that can't be right. That's got to be the wrong spot."

The Bulldogs caught a break when Florida was whistled for a personal foul on the kick, so the Gators got the ball on their 33-yard line, meaning Georgia had survived Richt's gamble. It held on the rest of the night, too, winning 42-30.

Richt told his team during its off week two weeks ago that he wanted it to incur a penalty after its first score as a way of firing up his players, he said.

"We had been playing a little dull the last few games, and we just wanted to get everybody going," quarterback Matthew Stafford said.

Neither Richt nor any of his players knew to what level the celebration would grow.

"I gave them too much time to think about it," Richt said.

After realizing how much planning was going into the event, Richt clarified what he meant Saturday before the team left its hotel.

"I said, ‘It's team celebration, its not just one guy doing something off the chain,'" he said. "I guess they misinterpreted that to think the entire team should run off the sideline."

One personal foul was whistled on the Bulldogs as a team and one was whistled on senior center Fernando Velasco. Velasco blamed his penalty on Moreno.

The offensive players had decided that if they scored the first touchdown the player who scored would pretend to take pictures of the rest of the offensive players while they posed. Georgia's reserves and defensive players surprised the offense when they stormed on the field, Velasco said, and Moreno went ahead with the original plan, taking pictures of Velasco, who posed and then mimed taking pictures of Moreno.

The move clearly angered Florida coach Urban Meyer, but Meyer refused to bash the Bulldogs after the game.

"It got Coach Meyer's attention," Garner said. "He got after his guys, and they got emotional. It turned into a street fight. Everybody is going to stand toe-to-toe and hit everybody on the chin and let's see who's going to be the last man standing."

The move led to a testy first quarter in which the Bulldogs were called for five personal fouls. "They disrespected us man, but it's one of those things we just had to come out and keep playing," Florida's Louis Murphy said.

Richt defended his move after the game, saying he saw no parallel between the celebration and his team jumping on the Vanderbilt logo after beating the Commodores' two weeks ago.

"I don't see any disrespect in that at all," he said. "I see it as a coach trying to win a big game."

Richt brought in several people to talk to the team in meetings this week to inspire the players.

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