No. 11 Florida Gators football (7-1, 5-1 SEC) pulled away late in the first half and cruised to a 27-3 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs (5-3, 3-3 SEC) on Saturday at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party from EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.
Though Florida’s passing offense left much to be desired, the Gators were simply the better team Saturday, forcing five turnovers on defense (four interceptions) and seeing the running game compile 244 yards on 44 total touches.
With the victory, the Gators take a firm hold on the SEC East crown. It would take Florida losing out and Vanderbilt winning out in order for a three-way tie to be forced in the division. As such, UF is likely headed to the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2009.
OnlyGators.com breaks down seven of the most important takeaways from the Gators’ biggest victory yet under head coach Jim McElwain … coming up momentarily.
Have a day, defense: The Gators held the Bulldogs to just 223 total yards on Saturday, limiting Georgia to 15 rushing yards in the first half (fewest since 2004) while intercepting third-string quarterback Faton Bauta four times. Overall, Florida forced five turnovers on the afternoon and even got some rush against one of the best offensive lines in the country, proving that UF has a legitimate unit that is one of the best in the nation.
Linebackers senior Antonio Morrison and junior Jarrad Davis (six tackles each) dominated throughout the contest, and while Davis dropped an early interception, he made up for it on a second opportunity to seal the game late in the fourth quarter. Also picking off passes on the day were redshirt junior safety Marcus Maye, junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and junior S Keanu Neal, who corralled a ball in the end zone to erase a potential late scoring drive.
Have a day, KT: Junior running back Kelvin Taylor loves Jacksonville … and hates Georgia. Taylor took 25 carries for 121 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday; he now has 318 yards and four touchdowns over the last two seasons against the Bulldogs.
While Taylor was certainly impressive, he was not the only player to pick up chunk yardage. After freshman Jordan Cronkrite got ejected for targeting, classmate Jordan Scarlett was counted on to be Florida’s change-of-pace back late. He broke through for a huge 60-yard run and finished with 96 yards in nine touches.
He. Is. Antonio. No, not Morrison. Wide receiver Antonio Callaway became the first freshman pass catcher to total 100+ yards three times in his first season with the Gators, catching a 66-yard touchdown pass in the first half and finishing with three receptions for 110 yards on the afternoon. Callaway, who was questionable for the game with a mid-week foot injury, could not have looked healthier on Saturday.
One mistake changed the game: While Florida likely would have run away with this contest anyway, the Gators benefited from an early miscue by Bulldogs WR Reggie Davis, who muffed a punt inside the five-yard line that led to a fumble recovery touchdown for junior cornerback Nick Washington and a 6-0 lead for UF. The teams looked like they would be in an offensive funk all game – and were – but the early miscue by UGA gave Florida an opportunity to gain confidence and jump on an early advantage.
Star in the making: Though his stat line was not monsterous, junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard was dominant throughout Saturday’s contest, leading CBS analyst Gary Danielson to opine that Bullard likely made himself more money than he lost by staying in college and not leaving early for the NFL. Danielson was right. Bullard has positioned himself as a first-round draft choice and looks like one of the best defensive linemen in college football.
Rough at quarterback: Though sophomore Treon Harris made a few nice passes on Saturday, he started the contest 2 for 11 and looked like he would have a very difficult day. Harris is simply not the thrower that redshirt freshman Will Grier is, but the Gators have no choice – they have to roll with Harris for the rest of the year, and the second-year signal caller is by far UF’s best choice at quarterback. Harris finished 8 of 19 for 155 yards with the touchdown toss to Callaway, picking up 39 more yards with his legs.
Quicker hits: Florida has not made a field goal since Oct. 3 after redshirt junior Austin Hardin badly missed a 45-yard attempt early in the game … the Gators outrushed the Bulldogs by 100 yards in the first half … UF’s 20-0 lead was the largest halftime advantage in the series since 1996 … redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee was the only other Florida player with more than one reception (three for 23 yards) … per ESPN, McElwain’s 24-point win over the Bulldogs is the largest for a first-year Gators coach since Steve Spurrier in 1990.