JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Now that was frightening.
Georgia's recently hideous offense turned downright ghoulish Saturday in a 27-3 loss to Florida before 84,628 at EverBank Field. The Bulldogs managed only 69 rushing yards and 223 total yards and suffered four interceptions with first-time starting quarterback Faton Bauta.
"It wasn't the best performance," Bauta said. "I really wanted to come out with the 'W' today, but I couldn't get that done. It's not a good feeling and something you wish you don't have to experience."
The Bulldogs scored their fewest points since a 22-3 loss to Tennessee's national championship team in 1998. Georgia has gone consecutive games without reaching 10 points for the first time since 1969.
Georgia had 11 rushes for 15 yards in a first half that resulted in a 20-0 deficit, and the Bulldogs now have a minus-3 turnover ratio this season after being plus-16 last year.
"It's very disappointing to not get in the end zone," Bulldogs fifth-year senior receiver Malcolm Mitchell said. "That's what you do as an offense. You score."
Even Florida coach Jim McElwain commented on how unsightly Saturday's game was to watch. The No. 11 Gators racked up 413 yards behind Kelvin Taylor's 121 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, while quarterback Treon Harris threw for 155 yards and a score despite completing just 8 of 19 passes.
Florida improved to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in SEC play, eliminating everyone from contention in the SEC East except Vanderbilt.
"That was painful, to say the least," McElwain said. "I apologize for that, but the end result was awesome. Our guys figured out a way to win, and I can't say enough about how we played defense. We have a lot of work to do offensively."
The Gators can clinch the East title this week with a win over the visiting Commodores.
If Florida has a lot of work to do offensively, then how must Georgia feel? Even the most impressive drive of the game for the Bulldogs — a nine-play, 86-yard march with Florida leading 20-3 — ended in disaster early in the fourth quarter when Bauta was intercepted by safety Keanu Neal in the end zone.
Georgia's rushing-game woes following Nick Chubb's season-ending injury continued, as Sony Michel managed 45 yards on 13 carries.
"We miss Nick, but it's a total situation where everybody has some ownership in it," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Myself as the head coach, our coaches offensively, and our players, too. We've got to a better job of executing what is called and getting our hat on the right people.
"Everyone has to block to run the ball well, and obviously we need to protect and catch the ball when it comes."
Saturday's game was scoreless until the final minute of the first quarter, when Reggie Davis fumbled a punt at his 5-yard line and Nick Washington fell on the ball in the end zone for a 6-0 Gators lead.
"You're supposed to put your heels at the 10-yard line, and if it goes over your head, you let it go," Richt said. "Obviously it was a bad decision, and he knows it."
Sterling Bailey blocked Austin Hardin's extra point, and the game stayed 6-0 until the 5:06 mark of the second quarter, when Harris scrambled left and found Antonio Callaway for a 66-yard touchdown down the sideline. Callaway blew past Georgia safety Jonathan Abram and avoided a diving tackle by Abram in reaching the end zone.
"We've got them in second-and-10 and the quarterback is scrambling, but he gets outside and we don't play the scramble drill well and give up a big play," Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said. "We've got to do a better job of keeping the quarterback corralled. Our guys fought hard, and some guys grew up today, but we've got to get 11 of them playing football on every play."
A bad day for Georgia quickly got worse when Florida defensive end Alex McCalister slammed into Bauta, causing a wobbly pass that was intercepted by cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, who returned the ball 20 yards to Georgia's 5-yard line. That set up Taylor's 3-yard touchdown run two plays later that put the Gators up 20-0.
The Bulldogs (5-3, 3-3) will host Kentucky this Saturday.
"We need to be men about this and guard our words, because in emotional times things get said and tweeted that you can regret," Richt said. "We know the season is going to continue and that we need to get back to work. That's football, and that's life, because there are a lot of disappointing things that happen.
"You can't lose your composure and your integrity through the process."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.