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Loran Smith: Jones’ performance against Florida best all-time in series

JACKSONVILLE — Outlined against a backdrop of gray skies and turbulent winds off the St. John’s River Saturday, the one horseman rode again.

AJ Reynolds/Staff
Linebacker Jarvis Jones leads the country with five forced fumbles this season.

In Bulldog lore he is known as Jugular Jarvis Jones — just ask Missouri and Florida about his ability to go for the jugular.

But in reality, he represents relentlessness, destruction, devastation, undeniable resolve and unending finality and futility for the opposition.

I am pleased to ask, has any Georgia defender ever played a greater game than Jarvis did in Jacksonville? Jake Scott? David Pollack? Terry Hoage? Bill Stanfill?

Having searched the annals of Bulldog history, I am moved to say that there has not been a one-man defensive performance — reminiscent of Gary Cooper in High Noon — comparable to the one that the quiet and laid-back linebacker from Columbus put on at EverBank Field. Two years in a row, he has dominated this game.

When Catfish Smith scored all 15 points in the Georgia-Yale dedicatory game in Sanford Stadium Oct. 12, 1929, a New York newspaper exclaimed, “Catfish 15, Yale 0.”

It is not a stretch, with all due respect to Malcolm Mitchell, Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley, to proclaim, “Jugular Jarvis 17, Florida 9.”

Were it not for Jarvis, the offense would have had little opportunity to try to do its thing.

Everybody had arrived at kickoff worried about the potential effects of Hurricane Sandy, but Jugular Jarvis was the most devastating of whirring dervishes ever to compete in this rivalry.

He stormed the field like it has never been stormed before. He is, without question, Georgia’s “Mr. October.”

Jugular Jarvis rendered a Heisman-type performance Saturday on national television, and explicitly defined why there is disconcerting injustice in the voting on major awards, which inherently favor offensive players.

Defensive players don’t have an opportunity to accumulate an abundance of big plays and notorious statistics every Saturday like a running back or a quarterback does.

Heisman Trophy winners are supposed to be difference makers. How could any player make a greater difference than Jarvis Jones? Don’t forget, he was not fully healed from injury when he rendered his virtuoso performance in Jacksonville.

His box score is worthy of repeat: 13 tackles (12 solo, 4.5 for loss), three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumbles recovered.

We’ll forever replay Jugular Jarvis’ big-league play with time running out in the fourth quarter: Florida, straining for an opportunity to score, go for two, and force overtime, got its hopes up on a pass completion, when Jarvis reached for tight end Jordan Reed’s shoulder with his right hand, and, as the receiver allowed air under the tucked ball, used his free hand to punch the ball into the end zone where Sanders Commings recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

Big-time football — one of the greatest left hooks ever.

What I like about Jugular Jarvis — and there is plenty to like about this gifted young man who likely gained himself a few extra million dollars Saturday night — is that he is playing all out for Georgia. He knows the pro scouts are looking his way, but there is no slacking off. He is enjoying being a Saturday hero and mixing and mingling with his classmates the rest of the week.

Jarvis has a sway with people. Believe it or not, this terrorizing linebacker is also Mr. Congeniality on campus, but reserved and without braggadocio and trash talking. Good for him.

With his remarkable instincts on the field, Jarvis played against Florida like he was lined up in the Gator backfield.

With the emergence of competence from Jordan Jenkins, freshman linebacker, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was able to “formation” Jarvis, moving him about pre-snap. To the question, what was your alignment plan? Grantham cracked, “We were lining him up where the ball was.”

Garrison Smith “stepped up.” Cornelius Washington gave the Bulldogs “interior push, allowing for pressure on the quarterback.” Grantham noted that Baccari Rambo, still not in peak condition owing to missing early games, took time out for IV treatment and then came up with a critical sack.

Rambo, Rambo where you been? In the quarterback’s lap and going again! That’s the Rambo mantra as he and the entire defense played physical and tough — and without pause.

The offense is not to be maligned, as we take leave of this tribute to a team effort. The big three drawing praise from offensive coordinator Mike Bobo were Malcolm Mitchell, who scored a touchdown with rare broken field currency; Todd Gurley, who ran like one of the original Four Horsemen; and the maturing offensive line.

“It was physical. Both teams really got after each other,” Bobo said. “Our offensive line stood toe-to-toe with them and didn’t blink. I felt that if we didn’t turn the ball over and played without any penalties in the second half, we should win the game.”

It was, in the description of offensive line coach Will Friend, “prison yard ball.”

With no holds barred, the Bulldogs came out on top.

You may have heard about Aaron Murray’s buying ice cream for the offensive linemen. He might consider buying a dairy for Jarvis Jones.

Now for a reality check. Florida was primed for an upset. Two hard games back-to-back — LSU and South Carolina — took its toll mentally and physically. The Gators were a little beat up.

Georgia will now be challenged to come down from its high against an improving Ole Miss team.

There is work to be done, but it is good to be home.

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