Georgia ends its frustration of not beating Florida since 1997.
By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published October 31, 2004
JACKSONVILLE - With 16 seconds left and the clock winding down, Georgia quarterback David Greene handed the ball to an official, and that, as they say, is when the real party started.
Players rushed onto the field.
The band played Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.
Fans in red and black chanted, "UGA! UGA! UGA!"
Coach Mark Richt jogged toward the south end zone, stopped near the goal line and proudly extended both index fingers toward the sky.
"This feels great," Georgia senior receiver Fred Gibson said. "We hadn't won in I don't know how many tries."
Gibson had lost count, but Georgia fans hadn't.
For the record, the Bulldogs last beat Florida in 1997, when most of their current players were in high school or middle school, 37-17. Since then, the Bulldogs have lost in many different ways.
There were blowouts, such as 38-7 in 1998. And there were close ones, such as 16-13 last season. Outside the Georgia locker room Saturday, all of those disappointments were ancient history. As players answered questions from the media, most couldn't hide their enthusiasm.
"Y'all will leave us alone now," defensive tackle Kedric Golston said, "and quit trying to figure out why we can't beat Florida."
Georgia now leads the series 45-35-2. Before Florida hired Steve Spurrier as coach, the Bulldogs' series lead was far greater. Spurrier, who upon arriving in Gainesville for the 1990 season, labeled Georgia as Gator enemy No.1, beat it 11 times in 12 tries. His success was unparalleled as for many seasons, Georgia entered Jacksonville with promise but left with disappointment.
Spurrier turned the momentum, and his successor, Ron Zook, kept it. Zook, fired last week, won his first two against Georgia, shifting an immense amount of pressure to Richt, who before Saturday was winless in three tries against the hated Gators.
"It feels great," Richt said. "I'm so happy for the players and the coaches and anybody who's ever wanted to succeed at Georgia. A lot of people have been through a lot of pain and suffering, and they finally get to enjoy it."
Ahead 21-7 in the second quarter, Georgia appeared to be on cruise control. But Greene's fumble at the Florida 1 kept the Gators in it, and after a touchdown pass from Chris Leak to Billy Latsko with 12:20 left, the Gators trailed just 24-21.
"Our coaches put so much pressure on us in practice so in games we'll be as calm as possible," Georgia defensive back DeMario Minter said.
The Bulldogs responded by going 85 yards in six plays, scoring the put-away touchdown when Greene hit Gibson on a 15-yard slant pass. Florida added a field goal late, but Georgia effectively ate the clock, and the celebration began.
"The most important thing is that it's for the fans," defensive end David Pollack said.
"A lot of them say this is our season, so it was great to get this for them."