JACKSONVILLE -- Georgia used to win with special teams, but this year's Bulldogs continue to prevail despite them.
The "hidden yardage" in Saturday's 24-20 victory over Florida wasn't that hidden, as the Gators collected 200 yards in kickoff returns compared to 73 for the Bulldogs. Jeff Demps raced untouched for a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter to give Florida a 14-3 lead, and a 63-yard return by Andre Debose in the third set up a 40-yard Brad Phillips field goal that provided the Gators their final lead at 20-17.
"Our special teams were mostly average to scary," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said.
This was the second consecutive game in which the Bulldogs allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown. Vanderbilt's Andre Hal went 96 yards for a score Oct. 15, when the Bulldogs also survived a late blocked punt to down the Commodores.
The Bulldogs didn't have a punt blocked against Florida, but senior punter Drew Butler averaged just 34.2 yards on six attempts. Senior kicker Blair Walsh missed two field-goal attempts and has missed 10 in eight games this season after missing just 13 in his first 39 games.
Brandon Boykin entered Saturday averaging 23 yards a kickoff return but was held to a 18.3-yard average on four returns.
"It was really frustrating," Boykin said.
Florida senior quarterback John Brantley participated in some throwing well before kickoff but did not practice when the entire team was going through warmups.
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he expected Brantley, who had been out since suffering a high-ankle sprain Oct. 1 against Alabama, to play. Brantley struck early with a 72-yard pass to Demps, but the redshirt senior went 1-for-7 passing in both the third and fourth quarters.
"Sacks are good, and we got six sacks, but we got him off the spot and made him move and push off that ankle," Grantham said. "Any time you've got to move in the pocket, you're also affecting their accuracy, so when he had to move, he wasn't as accurate as he needed to be."
Brantley finished 12-of-34 for 245 yards -- only 19 in the second half.
Gauging the Gators
Richt was asked after the game about the Florida program, which has lost four straight games for the first time since 1988.
"They're still the Gators to me," said Richt, who did admit that coaching transitions can be difficult.
Since going 8-0 in SEC play in 2009 before losing the league title game to Alabama, Florida is just 6-8 in conference contests.
"We just have to go back to work, evaluate where we are and figure out some different answers," first-year Florida coach Will Muschamp said.
Odds and ends
For the first time in nine games this season, the Bulldogs did not score first. ... Starting guard Dallas Lee suffered an ankle injury with 1:04 left in the third quarter and did not return. ... Georgia leads the series 48-40-2. ... The national anthem was performed by John Oates of 1980s Hall & Oates fame.
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 ...