No. 7 Georgia heard the question for two weeks: is the team capable of making another run at the SEC title? On Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville, the Bulldogs went a long ways to answering in the affirmative.
Kirby Smart’s squad got back to clicking on offense and forcing turnovers on defense as the Dawgs beat rival No. 9 Florida 36-17 in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and secured their status as East Division front-runner in the process.
In perhaps the most encouraging part of the game for many fans in red and black, Jake Fromm looked much more like the signal-caller who took his team to the final game of the season last year as a true freshman. The quarterback threw for 240 yards but saved his best passes for the end zone, tossing a trio of beautiful touchdowns while not turning the ball over. Jeremiah Holloman was one of the breakout stars in the game for the Georgia receiving corps, scoring twice to finish with four catches and 48 yards while leaving a few nightmares for Gators defensive backs to get over once they watch the tape next week. Tight end Isaac Nauta was also a big part of the passing game with 73 yards and several huge first downs.
While the Bulldogs had their struggles at times running the ball — including getting stuffed five times three yards away from the goal line — the two lead tailbacks still got their numbers in the end. Elijah Holyfield finished with 71 on the ground while D’Andre Swift busted out for 104 yards and iced the victory with a fourth quarter touchdown that saw him burst through the line and out run everybody on the field.
It wasn’t all bad for Florida as the team did lead in one category: unique penalties. They had one player flagged for a delay of game for not wearing pads covering his knees (which extended a UGA scoring drive) and head coach Dan Mullen wound up with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as well.
Though the final margin was rough, the Gators did have some chances but continually had to play from behind in the game thanks to turnovers. Tailback Jordan Scarlett (56 yards rushing) fumbled early in the first half and QB Feleipe Franks threw an interception on the very next series. It was all together a bit of a reversion to the mean for the UF offense overall as there was little consistency throughout the game and Franks seemed to get hit on every drop back. It was impressive that he even managed to score twice (one passing, one rushing) but that was otherwise it as the entire unit got stuck in neutral.
When all was said and done from Jacksonville though, it was Georgia that can finally claim (improbably) just their second winning streak in the series in the past two decades. While the Bulldogs still have to play at Kentucky and against Auburn, the victory should all but lock up another division title and trip to Atlanta in the process.
Whether it will all be enough when they face Alabama or LSU in December is a separate issue entirely but, at least this weekend, the Dawgs took a step in the right direction and lived up to their preseason billing by moving toward another title in the SEC East.