UF 20, GEORGIA 13: The Gators make plenty of mistakes but hand the Bulldogs their first loss.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2002
JACKSONVILLE -- Having lost 11 of the past 12 games against Florida, Georgia coach Mark Richt said he wasn't sure if his team knew how to beat Florida.
Apparently, he was right.
And because of it, Georgia no longer is among the nation's unbeaten teams in Division I-A today.
Unranked Florida stunned No.5 Georgia 20-13 in front of 84,433, the largest crowd to witness a Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville.
With the victory, the Gators earned their second victory over a team that entered in the Top 5. It was the first time in the series' 80-year history Georgia lost to Florida when entering undefeated.
"This is a satisfying win," Florida coach Ron Zook said. "I'm happy for our Gator fans, happy for our players. This was a great effort."
Florida quarterback Rex Grossman threw a 10-yard pass to tight end Ben Troupe with 11:27 left. Grossman then ran in for the two-point conversion to give Florida the winning margin.
The victory keeps Florida's slim chances of winning the SEC title alive. The Gators must win its remaining games against Vanderbilt and South Carolina, and Georgia must lose again.
The loss prevented Georgia (8-1, 5-1) from clinching its first SEC East title and first title of any kind since 1982.
"This is huge," said Grossman, who was 36-of-46 for 339 yards and two interceptions, including a career-high completions. "This game couldn't get any bigger. They were undefeated.
"Now we're still alive. We need someone to beat them, but we're still alive. We did our job."
Florida played without its top receiver Taylor Jacobs, who sprained his right medial collateral ligament during the first series.
Eight other Gators caught passes, including Kelvin Kight, who had a career night (nine catches for 115 yards).
Marcus Oquendo-Johnson's sack of David Greene on the final play punctuated the victory, which was aided by Florida's defense.
The unit held the Bulldogs to 0-for-13 on third-down conversions. And Greene completed less than 50 percent of passes (11-of-29 for 141 yards) for the first time this season. It bailed Florida out of three turnovers in the first half, helping to keep the Gators within one (13-12) at halftime.
Safety Guss Scott's 47-yard return of an interception of D.J. Shockley gave Florida its first lead (12-7) with 3:56 left in the first half.
"The defense bowed up and played the way we need to play," Zook said. "Good football teams do that, and we are a good football team."
Florida held Georgia to 168 yards passing and 126 rushing yards.
"We executed the best we could," defensive end Clint Mitchell said. "We knew after the first quarter that we could play with them. It was one of the best games we've had as a whole."
The game was defined as much by what each team didn't do as what it did, particularly during the first half.
Florida was inside Georgia's 20 four times but did not score. Twice, Georgia settled for field goals after getting inside the Gators 30.
And there were the mistakes. Both committed three turnovers during the first half. Florida's special teams, which has struggled throughout the season, caused trouble again.
Matt Leach missed a 27-yard field goal late in the first quarter. Later, Brendt Talcott missed an extra point that would have tied it with 9:39 left in the first half. Georgia's Billy Bennett missed field goals of 50 and 36 yards during the third quarter.
"We had our share of mistakes, and we were undisciplined," Richt said. "We did things we have not done all year. We're still in control (of getting to the SEC title game). We need to regroup and make sure that we don't give up a game down the stretch."
Georgia took just 49 seconds to score its first touchdown after an interception by Tim Jennings that bounced off Matt Jackson's fingertips at the Georgia 17. Jennings returned it 44 yards.
Greene's 10-yard pass to wide-open tight end David Wall gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 6:59 left in the first quarter.
Georgia wasted little time going to its two-quarterback rotation. Greene went 5-of-5 for 56 yards before Shockley took over for one series with just more than three minutes left in the first quarter.
Florida scored its first touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Grossman to tight end Aaron Walker with 9:39 left in the first half. The touchdown completed a 13-play drive, and after Talcott's missed extra point, the Gators trailed 7-6.
Bennett made two field goals during the final 1:47 of the first half (47 and 25 yards) to give the Bulldogs a one-point halftime lead.
His second, with three seconds left, came after fumble by running back Ran Carthon, which was recovered by Bruce Thornton with 1:11 left.