Newcomers get ready for first taste of Georgia-Florida rivalry game

John Jenkins and Georgia’s other newcomers are learning all about this rivalry game against Florida.

Newcomers get ready for first taste of Georgia-Florida rivalry game
Marc Weiszer

“The biggest cocktail bowl, I guess that’s what it’s called, right? The cocktail bowl,” the junior college transfer nose guard asked last week.

By the time game week rolled around Jenkins referred to it as the “cocktail party.” Well, since the use of “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” is now officially discouraged, cocktail bowl might just pass muster.

“I know it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere,” freshman tailback and Georgia’s leading rusher Isaiah Crowell said of playing in Jacksonville.

Georgia has played 15 members of its signing class this season.

Those newcomers — along with redshirt freshmen and transfer linebacker Jarvis Jones — are getting their first up close exposure to the rivalry and its history before they play in the game.

“I know Florida won the series more often than Georgia has,” freshman linebacker Amarlo Herrera said.

Not quite. The Bulldogs hold a 47-40-2 edge, according to Georgia. Florida says it’s 46-40-2.

More recently, of course, it’s been a different story with the Gators dominating.

“Is it really 18 of 21? That’s crazy,” redshirt freshman receiver Michael Bennett said of the Gators’ hold in the series since 1990. “I didn’t know that. Man, we’ve got to start winning, I guess.”

Bennett wasn’t on the travel roster last year, but traveled on his own to the game.

“I grew up watching the game a lot, and it’s just going to be fun to be a part of it now,” Bennett said. “In ’07, when we beat (Florida quarterback Tim) Tebow and I followed Tebow a lot, I thought it was pretty cool that Georgia beat Florida because I thought they were invincible back then.”

The neutral site 50-50 ticket split is unique with fans wearing red and black or orange and blue.

“It’s going to be loud the whole game no matter what,” Herrera said.

“I hope we can just treat this game like another game,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Hopefully the guys won’t get so geeked up, so to speak, that they won’t be able to handle it. We’ll see. I think they’ve played enough games right now that they’ll be all right.”

Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said playing Boise State in the Georgia Dome to open the season gave the freshmen a taste of what they’ll experience in Jacksonville even though that crowd was heavily pro-Bulldogs.

The atmospheres for games against South Carolina at home and on the road against Tennessee also helped.

“They’ve got some experience in big-time games,” Bobo said.

Even so, Bobo said: “It is a little bit of a culture shock for those guys. It’s a neat environment split down the middle 50-50. Just the energy and the intensity of that game, both sides, you can just feel it. You really can’t get them used to it. It’s something they have got to experience.”

Florida has played 15 true freshmen and 23 freshmen overall this season who will be playing in the rivalry game for the first time, too.

“We have talked to our team about it, especially to the young guys, and we’ve had the older guys talk about it a little bit as far as this game is concerned,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “That’s how you try to prepare your team for what they’re walking into.”

Jenkins, who picked Georgia over Florida, heard on Facebook from people he knows back home in Connecticut about what’s coming.

“It’s going to be a big deal. I can only imagine,” he said. “They’re telling me you don’t know what you got yourself into. My cousin is a Florida fan, so it’s a live game.”

Herrera expects some jitters, but he doesn’t expect it to last long.

“You’ve still got a little bit of nervousness until the first play,” Herrera said. “After the first play, you’re all good.”

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