By Dory LeBlanc
Just as soon as the whistle blew in Jacksonville to start the annual Florida-Georgia rivalry game, the contest looked essentially over, but the Gators had some dog in them in the second half, and mounted an unbelievable comeback.
Unfortunately, it was too little too late.
Georgia scored on its opening possession, then scored again three plays into their second for a quick 14-0 lead over the Gators.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to 20-0 after two consecutive field goals by Marshall Morgan, including one for 49 yards.
Freshman kicker Frankie Velez missed a 40-yard field goal, but put Florida on the board with a 31-yarder with 9:54 left in the second quarter.
The Gators held Georgia to minus-four yards on the Bulldogs' final drive of the first half, but Morgan nailed a 32-yard field goal attempt to give Georgia a 23-3 lead.
Plant High's Aaron Murray led Georgia to over 300 first half yards, but didn't carry the momentum into the second half and allowed Florida to mount a comeback of 17 unanswered points.
After Austin Hardin missed a 47-yard field goal, Murray attempted to lateral the ball, but it was dropped, ruling it a fumble. Leon Orr, with a heads up move, scooped the ball up and returned it to Georgia's 14-yard line. Two plays later, Mack Brown ran it in from the five to put the Gators back in the ball game down 23-10.
The Orr fumble recovery, coupled with Brown's TD run rejuvinated the crowd, and the Gators defense forced Murray & Co. to punt the ball away.
On the ensuing play, Tyler Murphy avoided a sack and somehow was able to get the ball off to Solomon Patton, who was taken to the ground by a horse collar penalty. Like most Florida-Georgia games, this one got chippy, and a sideline scuffle erupted after the tackle. Two players from each side received off-setting unsportsmanlike penalties, but Florida netted an additional 15 yards due to the horse collar.
Just as it looked like the momentum had shifted the Gators' way, the positive plays stalled as Kyle Moore was called for a noticeable false start, and on the next play, a first down was negated on an illegal formation flag. Head coach Will Muschamp opted to punt the ball, and the move paid off as the Gators special teams downed it at the 3-yard line and Loucheiz Purifoy picked up a safety after taking Murray down with a corner blitz.
Marcus Roberson returned the safety-kick 15 yards to midfield, and Murphy ended the third quarter with a 25-yard run down to the 14-yard line, as Florida trailed 23-12.
On the first play of the final quarter, Murphy kept the ball once again, and ran for a 14-yard touchdown, and converted the two-yard pass to Clay Burton for the two points to come within a field goal of rival Georgia.
The Florida defense continued to stifle the Bulldog's offense, not allowing much breathing room, and had the stop of the game on a 4th-and-1 that gave the Gators a first down at UGA's 39. In a frustrating turn of events, Neiron Ball took his helmet off, drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty, and backing UF up to its own 46.
Georgia's defense returned the favor, stopping Florida on third down, but a strange sequence of events gave Florida the first down after Georgia got called for 12-men on the field on 4th & 2. The Gators could not capitalize on the fresh set of downs, however, and the drive ended with Murphy sacked for a loss of 14 yards.
Murray was calm, cool, and collected on the next drive completing short passes and handing the ball off to Todd Gurley II to take time off the clock and pick up first down after first down.
As Georgia was driving down the field into Florida territory, Muschamp was forced to use two timeouts, leaving the Gators operating with no way to stop the clock with 1:20 left and a three-point deficit.
If the theme of the game for Florida was "bonehead penalties" they ended the contest with a bang, picking up another penalty (illegal hands to the face) to seal the deal for Georgia, and giving the Bulldogs their third consecutive win over the Gators.
Murray ended the day 16-of-25 with 258 yards and a touchdown, while Murphy completed 13-of-29 passes for 174 and added 28 yards on the ground with a score.
Gurley II rushed for 100 yards and a TD on 17 attempts for Georgia and Kelvin Taylor, son of Gator great Fred, had 20 carries for 76 yards on the ground for Florida.
Next Up: Florida hosts the Vanderbilt Commodores at 12:00 next Saturday for the Gators' Homecoming game. As always, keep in tuned to 620am/95.3fm for the call by legendary announcer Mick Hubert.