published Monday, October 31st, 2011

Georgia able to complete rare Florida-Tennessee sweep

For the first time since the Southeastern Conference went to divisional play in 1992, Georgia has defeated Florida and Tennessee in the same season.

The Bulldogs capped that feat Saturday by rallying from a 17-3 deficit to down the Gators 24-20 in Jacksonville. Georgia won 20-12 at Tennessee earlier this month, giving the Bulldogs their first season sweep of the Gators and Volunteers since 1988, when Tennessee and Georgia were not annual foes and when Georgia coach Vince Dooley was in his 25th and final year.

"I didn't really think about that as being a significant thing necessarily," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said Sunday afternoon. "The bottom line is you just want to win enough games to make it back to Atlanta [for the SEC title game]. That's the goal, regardless of how you do it."

Of course, beating Tennessee and Florida doesn't pack the same punch it once did.

The Gators and Volunteers combined to win the first 10 SEC East titles, but Florida is 2-4 in league play for the first time since 1986 under first-year coach Will Muschamp. Tennessee is 0-5 in the conference for a second straight year under Derek Dooley following Saturday night's 14-3 loss to visiting South Carolina.

"In the '90s, if somebody said Florida and Tennessee would be 2-9 in conference play, you'd have said, 'Whoa. Whoa. Something's going wrong. Something's happening. Something funny,'" South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. "But that's where it is right now. The Bulldogs are playing very well and had a big win, coming from behind to beat Florida, which is a huge win for those guys.

"We're neck and neck with them, and these next two weeks will settle it. It's really sort of fun that there is no room for error for both of us, and that's the way the races are supposed to be."

The Gamecocks and Bulldogs are 5-1 in conference play. Spurrier, who beat Florida and Tennessee in his first try in 2005 and did it again last season, can lead South Carolina to a second straight East title with wins the next two weeks against Arkansas and Florida.

Georgia steps outside the SEC this Saturday to face visiting New Mexico State before hosting Auburn and Kentucky to close its conference schedule. The Bulldogs need to win one more league game than South Carolina to make their first trip to the SEC championship since 2005.

Asked Sunday if he was disappointed in South Carolina's win in Knoxville, Richt said, "I wasn't complaining about anything that happened yesterday. It was a great day."

The Bulldogs smothered both Tennessee and Florida defensively, holding the Vols to minus-20 rushing yards and the Gators to minus-19.

"I think Will is going to do a tremendous job there, but I think we're on the rise," Georgia second-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Saturday night. "You can look at the amount of freshmen we play on defense and you can look at the way this team has improved over the last two years, but the biggest thing I'm proud of is our mental toughness. Yeah, we know our system better, but we play the next play.

"The first play they got a big play, but we didn't give up. After that, we pretty much contained them. We really held them to just 10 points, and I thought our guys were inspired and resilient."

Odds and ends

Starting guard Dallas Lee suffered a broken leg late in the third quarter and will miss the rest of the regular season. ... Georgia, which was last in the SEC a year ago in third-down defense, is now No. 1 nationally, allowing a 25.7-percent success clip. ... Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who had four sacks and forced a fumble against Florida, was recognized Sunday as the Walter Camp Foundation's defensive player of the week. ... Richt said "it has not crossed my mind" when asked if he might bench struggling kicker Blair Walsh. ... Starting tailback Isaiah Crowell played with a shin contusion, while backup Richard Samuel sprained his ankle and is day-to-day.

about David Paschall...

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 ...

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