JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Georgia defense has been one of the best in the country through eight games this season, and they solidified their position among the best on Saturday in Jacksonville.
The No. 8 Bulldogs secured the border’s bragging rights for the third-straight season in a 24-17 victory over No. 6 Florida thanks in large part to another strong performance from the defense.
“Give Florida a lot of credit, that’s a good football team,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “But our kids were resilient today and you saw that first hand.”
Road block up front
The Georgia defense has been elite all season, entering this game as the fifth-best scoring defense in the country, allowing just over 10 points per game.
But this performance was different.
This Florida offense was easily the best Georgia had faced all season. Quarterback Kyle Trask ranked third in the SEC in quarterback rating entering the game, and tight end Kyle Pitts is perhaps the best athlete in the conference, but the Bulldogs rose to the challenge.
It started with their run defense. The Bulldogs’ front seven rendered the Gators’ rushing attack useless. Including sacks, Florida rushed for 21 yards. Even without the sack numbers included, the Gators’ backfield was hemmed in, totaling just 44 yards on 13 carries.
“We pride ourselves on stopping the run,” Georgia safety Richard LeCounte said. “Making teams one dimensional, it’s not just the interior guys or the linebackers. The whole defense is stopping the run.”
The Georgia defense also maintained its perfect record this season against the run, as they have still not allowed a single rushing touchdown all season.
Solid, but far from perfect secondary
The Bulldogs held the Florida passing game in check for most of the game, but a strong finish from Trask in the fourth quarter kept the Gators in the game. Unable to get the run game going, the Florida offense leaned on Trask throughout the second half and gave the Bulldogs’ secondary some trouble. He finished with 21 completions on 33 attempts for 257 yards and two touchdowns.
“We didn’t get the sack numbers we wanted to get,” Georgia linebacker Monty Rice said. “Trask had a lot of good quick passes.”
It wasn’t the strongest performance, but it was good enough considering the talent on the Florida offense. Smart spoke at length during the week about the Gators’ talented offense but his guys did enough to ensure the bragging rights will stay with the Bulldogs for at least another year.
“They’re going to hit plays on you,” Smart said. “Four of their wideouts are going to be playing in the NFL including the tight end. I really thought our players embraced the challenge today.”