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Georgia players from left, Ben Cleveland (74), Cameron Nizialek (92) and Trent Frix (69) celebrate with fans after defeating Florida 42-7 in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. Georgia won 42-7. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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Bulldogs blow out Gators; should move up to No. 2 ranking

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A new result against Florida should result in a new ranking for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Georgia continued its perfect run through the 2017 college football season with a 42-7 demolishing of the Gators on Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 84,107 at EverBank Field.

The Bulldogs snapped a three-game losing streak to the Gators and defeated Florida for just the seventh time in 22 years, with Saturday serving as their most resounding triumph in the series since a 44-0 rout in 1982.

"This felt good," Georgia senior safety Dominick Sanders said. "We had the right game plan, and we kept telling each other that we were going to come out and dominate from the start, and that's what we did."

The Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) took a 21-0 lead by the midway mark of the first quarter, and they were within three minutes of posting a shutout. A 1-yard touchdown run by Mark Thompson with 2:42 left prevented Georgia from becoming the first team to keep the Gators (3-4, 3-3) scoreless since they lost 16-0 to Auburn in 1988.

"We let up a little bit at the end when the younger guys came in, but we can't really complain," senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said. "We went out there and played football the way it was meant to be played. We're going to have fun going back home."

Georgia entered Saturday ranked No. 3 nationally behind Alabama and Penn State, but the Nittany Lions lost at Ohio State. TCU entered ranked No. 4, but the Horned Frogs fell at Iowa State.

When the new polls come out this afternoon, Alabama and Georgia should be 1-2.

"The present affects the present," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "The past doesn't affect the present. Anything that had happened here before, what did that have to do with this team? We talked a long time in the off week about owning the burden — the burden of being a highly ranked team and being the favorite.

"Own the burden with your work, and let it pay off on Saturdays."

The Gators, meanwhile, dropped to 3-4 for the first time since 1986.

Florida got the ball to open the game and had a false start before its first snap and suffered a third-down sack when Carter took down Feleipe Franks. Georgia had no such trouble on its first drive, using a 39-yard screen pass from Jake Fromm to freshman running back D'Andre Swift to set up Nick Chubb's 6-yard touchdown run on the next play.

The Gators' second possession ended when a tipped Franks pass was intercepted by Sanders, who had a 13-yard return to Florida's 29. Chubb had a 16-yard run the next play, which helped set up a 17-yard touchdown pass from Fromm to a leaping Javon Wims to make it 14-0.

Georgia's third possession lasted one play as Sony Michel broke through the line and raced to a 74-yard touchdown run and a 21-0 lead at the 7:32 mark of the opening quarter. At that point, the Bulldogs were on pace to win 168-0.

"Anytime you start fast, it says a lot about your game plan, the energy level of the kids and your preparation," Smart said. "When you come out and start fast like that, it has a big effect. Most games aren't that way, but when you come out like that, it gives everybody a little more energy and a little more confidence.

"It's usually hard to run the ball early, but we had success."

The frenetic start slowed for Georgia, and Florida mounted an 82-yard drive to Georgia's 4 midway through the second quarter. The Gators had a Lamical Perine run stuffed on third-and-2, though, and Franks threw incomplete for tight end Moral Stephens on fourth down in the end zone.

Georgia took a 21-0 lead into halftime, marking the first time the Bulldogs had shut out the Gators for the first two quarters since 1988.

"That's the proudest I've been," Smart said of the second-quarter stand that kept Florida scoreless at the break. "Great defenses always have a goal-line stand. Great defenses always have a big moment, and we had not been very good on the goal line. That was a really big moment in the game."

Florida took its opening possession of the second half to Georgia's 24-yard line, but a fourth-and-4 pass from Franks to tight end DeAndre Goolsby in the back of the end zone was dropped. The score would have been nullified due to Goolsby being flagged for offensive pass interference.

The Bulldogs put the game way out of reach midway through the third quarter. Michel got loose for a 45-yard scoring run, and Georgia cornerback Tyrique McGhee sacked Franks moments later, causing a fumble that safety J.R. Reed scooped up for a 3-yard touchdown.

"When Tyrique and I get that blitz, we're just licking our chops, and we know what we have to do," Reed said. "We wanted to catch them off guard, and we did."

Said McGhee: "I came free on a blitz, saw the daylight and made a play. I was totally expecting them to pick it up."

Georgia will host South Carolina this Saturday in a game that will be televised by CBS at 3:30 p.m.

"This was special for our seniors and for our entire university," Smart said. "It was special for our fan base, which was starving for success against Florida. The past does not affect the present, and we know that, and the most important thing for us is to keep chopping wood and moving ahead."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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