Mark Thompson

Associated Press

No. 3 Georgia hands Florida its worst Cocktail Party beating in 35 years

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No. 3 Georgia and Florida met up in Jacksonville for their annual Cocktail Party. The Gators were sent home early, while the folks in red and black will party their way back to Athens. The Bulldogs knocked out the Gators in the first half of the first quarter and cruised from there, taking home a 42-7 victory, the program’s largest over Florida since a 44-0 whipping in 1982.

Georgia opened the game by pushing Florida nine yards backward in a three-and-out, then scored in four plays, keyed by a 39-yard pass from Jake Fromm to D’Andre Swift. Playing in what seems like his 11th Cocktail Party, Nick Chubb punched in the opening score from six yards out.

Feleipe Franks was intercepted on Florida’s next possession, and Fromm capitalized by hitting Javon Wimms for a 17-yard touchdown strike.

Georgia forced another three-and-out on Florida’s next possession, and Sony Michel, also playing in his 11th Cocktail Party, got in on the fun with a 74-yard touchdown run on the first play of Georgia’s third possession.

Michel’s run made the score 21-0 Georgia — at the 7:32 mark of the first quarter.

The score remained there until the middle of the third quarter, when Michel again busted free, this time for a 45-yard score. Georgia pushed the lead to 35 on the ensuing possession when J.R. Reed sacked Franks, forced a fumble in that sack and then returned that sack for a touchdown.

After another long completion from Fromm to Swift, Elijah Holyfield added a capper on a 39-yard burst. Chubb and Michel combined to rush 19 times for 214 yards and three touchdowns, and Holyfield added 49 yards and a score on four carries.

Franks’s first Cocktail Party went decidedly different than Fromm’s. He hit 7-of-19 passes for 30 yards with an interception and was credited as the Gators’ leading ball-carrier with nine attempts for minus-15 yards. Malik Zaire entered the game in mop up duty and got the Gators on the board, rushing and passing for 66 yards on a 71-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard Mark Thompson touchdown plunge with 2:42 remaining, narrowly avoiding Florida’s first shutout since 1988.

Georgia (8-0, 5-0 SEC) can clinch the SEC East if Tennessee beats Kentucky later tonight and the Bulldogs best South Carolina in Athens next week. Florida (3-4, 3-3 SEC) will need to win three of its final five games to reach a bowl game. Oh, and Florida AD Scott Stricklin is reportedly exploring firing Jim McElwain with cause over his death threats claim last week.

No. 17 Florida defense dominates Iowa in Outback Bowl blowout, 30-3

Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images
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Austin Appleby may not have been able to beat Iowa (8-5) while he was at Purdue, but he was able to do that on Monday in the Outback Bowl with the No. 17 Florida Gators (9-4). Appleby had early mistakes with a pair of turnovers on the first two drives of the game, but Appleby ended his day with 222 yards and two touchdowns to help the Gators pull away from the Hawkeyes in Tampa in a 30-3 victory.

The story of the game was Florida’s defense, which came up with three interceptions of Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard and held the Iowa offense to just 55 passing yards. Iowa was limited to just 226 yards of offense and went 4-of-16 on third down. Even a 100-yard day from Akrum Wadley (115 yards) was not enough to keep the Hawkeyes within reach once the game snowballed out of control.

Florida scored the first touchdown of the game on an 85-yard pass play to Mark Thompson with multiple missed tackles along the way. Chauncey Gardner padded a comfortable 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter with a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown, and the Gators tacked on two more field goals from there to pile on in the 27-point victory. Considering how Florida was embarrassed last season by a Big Ten team in the bowl season (Michigan), this must have been a little extra sweet to do the same to another Big Ten team.

The loss by the Hawkeyes clinches a losing bowl record this season for the Big Ten. At 3-6 and just one game remaining to play (Penn State in the Rose Bowl), the Big Ten had a rough postseason that included two New Years Six bowl losses by Michigan and Ohio State (in the College Football Playoff). A Penn State win would at least give the Big Ten a split in NY6 bowl games if it can beat USC in the Rose Bowl. The SEC is now 6-5 in the bowl season with two more games to play. Auburn faces Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl later tonight and Alabama will face Clemson in the nationla championship game next week.

Iowa has now been outscored 172-75 in its last five bowl games, which has culminated in a five-game bowl losing streak for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. Florida head coach Jim McElwain picked up his first bowl victory of his career.

Iowa’s 2017 season will get underway on September 2 at home against Wyoming from the Mountain West Conference. Iowa will play key division game son the road against Wisconsin and Nebraska next fall, as well as on the road against Big Ten East opponent Michigan State (who can’t possibly be as bad in 2017 as they were in 2016, right). The Hawkeyes also host Ohio State in early November next fall.

Florida’s 2017 season will start in Arlington, Texas against the Michigan Wolverines on September 2 in the Cowboys Kickoff. Other non-conference games will include home games against UAB (the Blazers are back in 2017!) and rival Florida State. In conference play, the Gators host Tennessee as well as LSU and Texas A&M.

As a reminder, the Florida victory means you get a free bloomin’ onion at your local Outback Steakhouse tomorrow, January 3.

Florida leads Iowa, 10-3, in defensive Outback Bowl at halftime

Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images
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The Outback Bowl was expected to be a true defensive battle between Iowa and Florida, and through one half of play that has most certainly been the case, although Mark Thompson ripped through for a 85-yard touchdown play late in the first half to give the Gators a 10-3 lead at halftime.

Florida got the ball to start the game, but the drive ended with Austin Appleby being picked off on a tipped and caught by a diving Brandon Snyder. But Florida’s defense responded by forcing Iowa to a three-and-out to force a punt. That would only lead to another interception off a tipped pass from Appleby, this time with Desmond King getting himself in position to have the ball fall in his chest on the ground. It was Florida’s second turnover in the first five minutes of the game.

King’s interception would lead to a field goal by Keith Duncan for a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Florida would answer on the next drive with a 44-yard field goal off the leg of Eddy Pineiro.

Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard nearly reached across the goal line for the first touchdown of the game midway through the second quarter, but the ball was placed just outside of the end zone and Iowa opted to go for it on fourth down. It did not go so well, with Florida stuffing the play for a turnover on downs.