JACKSONVILLE, Fla..–Aaron Murray may not get to a third straight SEC championship game this season, but he’ll always have three straight wins against Florida.
“My favorite game to play in by far, and then to win it three games in a row, to go out on top is a great feeling,” the Georgia senior quarterback said after the Bulldogs won 23-20 Saturday despite being held scoreless in the second half.
Tailback Todd Gurley’ sudden impact in his return from an ankle injury was the big individual story on a day when Georgia again made things too interesting in the second half, allowing the sinking Gators to rally within three and then coming up with a Corey Moore safety blitz for a sack and a clock-killing drive a la the South Carolina game.
Murray was 16 of 25 for 258 yards and a touchdown, but had no interceptions.
The Tampa native was born on the same day—Nov. 10, 1990—that Steve Spurrier beat Georgia for the first time as Gators coach.
The Gators won 18 of 21 starting then, but the Bulldogs have begun to flip that the last three years with Murray at QB. Only QBs Buck Belue (1979-81) and Johnny Rauch (1945-48) won three in a row against the Gators.
–Other postgame tidbits:
–It’s not every game you hear an official call out three offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Georgia and two of the players are Murray and Chris Burnette like happened .
Gurley, who jawed in the first half after a 30-yard run, also got flagged on the second-to-last play of the game as did a Florida player.
“The emotions were running high,” said receiver Michael Bennett, who returned from a knee injury that kept him out for two games to finish with a game-high five catches for 59 yards. “You could see it on the field. Just a lot of jawing with each other. It’s always going to be like that in Georgia-Florida. You’ve just got to keep your cool at times and just pick your fights I guess.”
Said Murray: “When you’re on that field and you’re in this game, there’s a lot of emotions flying, a lot of heated guys, great competitors, understand the meaning of this game.”
Florida defensive lineman Darious Cummings had a costly personal foul on Georgia’s final drive after Gurley was stopped for no gain on a third-and-5.
Florida had 7 penalties for 70 yards and Georgia six for 45.
Florida coach Will Muschamp was asked about the unsportsmanlike penalties.
“It’s hard to see some of that,” he said. “In the last 24 years, the University of Florida, we’ve led the SEC penalties 20 our 24 (years) either first or second. That was long before I got here. So, it’s interesting, but it is what it is.”
Florida has gone 4-5 since losing to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl to end last season.
–We’ve got a Gurley story on our website, but here’s what Richt said about the sophomore who accounted for 187 yards (100 rushing yards and 87 receiving yards) of Georgia’s 414 total yards.
“He helped out a little bit, didn’t he?” Richt said. “He played so well those first couple of series. It was good to have him back.”
Gurley has rushed for 550 yards and five touchdowns in five games this season.
–When Murray threw what was ruled to be a lateral to Arthur Lynch in the third quarter, the tight end just froze, with his body language indicating he couldn’t believe he didn’t catch the ball. The Gators meanwhile recovered the fumble.
“When guys drop the ball, they hit themselves in the head or they clap one time,” Richt said.
He joked that he had studied the reaction through the years.
“When you watch film every day in practice …every once in a while you get a double clap and usually it’s a clap or you hit yourself in the head,” Richt said.
On the play, Richt said: “We had a lateral on a play that it shouldn’t have been a lateral. It was very close.”
– The Bulldogs managed just five yards of total offense in the third quarter after rolling up 335 in the first half.
“We kind of called about everything we had there in the first half,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “A throwback to the tight end. We were calling some stuff to try and get us some explosion plays because I didn’t really think you could line up and produce explosion plays without kind of some motion and stuff.”
–The top of the SEC standings after tonight: Missouri 4-1, South Carolina 5-2, Georgia 4-2. Florida is just about out of it at 3-3. Georiga goes out of conference next for Appalachian State at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Athens.
–Third down for Georgia’s offense was better: 7 of 12 in the game.
–How about Marshall Morgan? He went 3 of 3 on field goals to go to 13 of 15 on the season.
He connected on field goals of 49, 27 and 32.
“Marshall Morgan actually made four field goals,” Richt said referring to being iced on one attempt with a timeout. “Only three of them counted.”
–Garrison Smith’s 2 ½ sacks now have him with four on the season, just one away from Ray Drew’s team-lead of five.
–By the way, when’s the last time you heard something about moving this game out of Jacksonville? Georgia now leads 43-37-1 in Jacksonville.
Richt didn’t have much fun with the way things turned on his team in the second half, but had some fun when his postgame news conference ended and reporters began filing out of the interview room. He leaned into the microphone for all to hear this: “Off the record, winning is more fun than losing,”
–Please follow me at Twitter.com/marcweiszer