ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia had a kicking edge entering last year's game against Florida, which was forced to use punter Chas Henry as its kicker because Caleb Sturgis was sidelined with a back injury.
That edge never panned out for the Bulldogs, who lost 34-31 on a 37-yard Henry field goal in overtime.
This time around, it's the Gators with the advantage. A healthy Sturgis has made 15 of 16 field-goal attempts this season -- his lone miss was from 52 yards out against Alabama -- while Georgia counterpart Blair Walsh has connected just 12 of 20 times.
Walsh, who missed five attempts during his sophomore and junior seasons combined, is only 2-for-6 this year on attempts of 40-49 yards.
"I'm sad for him that he has struggled and maybe hasn't had the type of season statistically that he had hoped he would have at this point of the season, but I really do have full confidence in him," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. "I'm not going into this game saying, 'Man, I'm not going to attempt that 50-yarder or 47-yarder. I'm going to have the same mindset I had in game one with regard to that."
Walsh made one of three field-goal attempts against the Gators as a freshman but went 1-for-1 each of the past two meetings.
"I think he's handled this as professionally as he can," Bulldogs punter Drew Butler said. "He's missed a few kicks, and it's become a big deal because of his great success in the past. I think he understands that it comes with the territory of being a great kicker."
Leading Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell sustained a hamstring injury in the Oct. 8 win at Tennessee and sat out the next week against Vanderbilt. He was expected to return this week but had a setback in Monday's practice.
"He didn't do well," Richt said. "He practiced for about five minutes, maybe."
Mitchell did not practice Tuesday, according to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who is hoping the freshman still can suit up and compete Saturday.
"I am optimistic, but you never know with a muscle pull or strain or whatever it is," Bobo said. "He's a guy we hope will be out there and can give us a threat."
Although Florida has defeated Georgia three consecutive times since the Bulldogs held their memorable end-zone celebration during the first quarter of their 42-30 win in 2007, at least one Gators player isn't letting go. Senior tailback Chris Rainey appeared in four games for the Gators in '07 before receiving a medical redshirt after a shoulder injury.
Though he didn't play against Georgia, Rainey will forever recall the scene.
"All I can remember about this team is when they were dancing on us," he said. "It's still in my head once people do something like that to me."
Bulldogs redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is among 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award.
The 6-foot-3, 241-pounder has started all seven games and leads the team with 10 tackles for loss, four sacks and 16 quarterback hurries. He has 39 tackles overall for the Bulldogs, who rank sixth nationally in total defense, allowing 272.9 yards a game.
"I think he's a complete outside linebacker, both rushing and dropping," defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "I think he's got a high ceiling. He's only played in our system for one year."
Odds and ends
Georgia and LSU continue to be the only SEC teams to have scored first in every game this season. ... Richt said he is not sure whether Isaiah Crowell's wrist will be 100 percent by Saturday, but the freshman tailback is expected to start. ... The Georgia-Florida game is under contract with Jacksonville through 2016, with an estimated economic impact for the city of $25-30 million. ... Despite losing 18 of the past 21 matchups, the Bulldogs lead the series 47-40-2. ... In five SEC games, Georgia has held foes to a total of three first-quarter points. ... For the first time since 1978-79, the Gators are playing Georgia as an unranked team for two consecutive years.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...