JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Georgia Bulldogs finally put out a fire defensively.
After failing to slow Tennessee's offense in the second half and failing to slow Missouri and Vanderbilt in the fourth quarter, Georgia's defense took a long-awaited stand Saturday against rival Florida. The Gators had trimmed a 23-3 deficit to 23-20 with 10 minutes remaining and drove the ball to Georgia's 41-yard line, but the Bulldogs stiffened and forced a punt.
The Gators never got the ball again, as the Bulldogs ran out the final eight minutes and 17 seconds.
"I think our guys hung tough and kept grinding," Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "It was a game we had under control. We were controlling the line of scrimmage, but then it kind of got away from us. They get some easy points and some energy.
"We've talked about putting the fires out, and they had the ball at our 40 and we stopped them."
Florida converted a fourth-and-2 from Georgia's 46 when the Bulldogs were flagged for 12 men on the field. The jubilant Gators fans were quickly silenced, however, when the next two plays resulted in a loss of 2 yards and quarterback Tyler Murphy was sacked by safety Corey Moore on third down for a 14-yard loss.
Facing a fourth-and-26 at their 43-yard line, the Gators had no choice but to give up the ball.
"You have to be aggressive in that situation, and our players have confidence they can execute the calls," Grantham said. "My philosophy is to attack the offense, and the more we get seasoned and continue to get our feet underneath us, I think we can continue to be that kind of aggressive style and do the things we need to do to create negative plays like that."
Said Moore: "It was a great feeling, and it was a credit to the whole defense."
The biggest play of Moore's career was sprung when inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera picked the guard to free a lane to Murphy. Moore had one of the Bulldogs' four sacks and one of seven lost-yardage stops.
Senior defensive lineman Garrison Smith had 2.5 sacks, matching his career total, and broke into tears afterward.
"We kept fighting and never gave up," Smith said. "It's emotional. I wanted to go out with a win. I love this game. It meant a lot for me to win this game."
Georgia's defense allowed 319 yards, with 83 of those coming on the second play from scrimmage when Murphy connected with Quinton Dunbar on a pass play to the Georgia 10. The Bulldogs stiffened then as well, and the Gators missed a field-goal try.
In the third quarter, the Bulldogs ran just six offensive plays, with one being a turnover off a lateral and another being a sack for a safety. That left Georgia's defense on the field for a tiring 12 minutes and 30 seconds.
"It definitely felt like we were out there for a while," outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "I was thinking, 'Please let's get a stop.' I was pretty tired out there."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.