JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On a soggy neutral turf, the fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (4-2, 4-2 SEC) fell, 44-28, to the eighth-ranked Florida Gators (4-1, 4-1 SEC) Saturday afternoon in front of 19,210 fans at TIAA Bank Field and a CBS television audience.
Redshirt sophomore running back Zamir White led the Georgia offense with 107 yards on seven carries, averaging 15.3 yards per rush. Quarterbacks Stetson Bennett and D’Wan Mathis combined to finish 9-for-29 for 112 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Redshirt sophomore Kearis Jackson led the receivers with 48 yards on three receptions. On the defensive front, sophomore linebacker Nakobe Dean led in tackles for the second-consecutive week, tallying a career-high 15 tackles.
“The defensive injuries were tough on us,” said head coach Kirby Smart following the game. “We have to have better communication. We gave out a lot of free yards. But give them credit. Florida had a good plan; they did a good job. I thought our guys had a really good plan to start offensively. We started out with some rhythm and did things well early on.”
On the first play from scrimmage, White immediately put Georgia on the board with a 75-yard rushing touchdown, the first time the Bulldogs had scored on their opening play since 2017. Following a three-and-out for the Gators, the Bulldogs quickly moved into Florida territory before Bennett found freshman wideout Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint for a 32-yard touchdown, building an early 14-0 lead.
Facing a two-score deficit, Florida’s offense broke into Georgia territory with a 39-yard completion from Kyle Trask to Keon Zipperer, leading to a 14-yard touchdown catch by Justin Shorter with 8:20 remaining in the first quarter. On their ensuing possession, the Gators again worked down the field, culminating in a 2-yard touchdown run from Dameon Pierce to tie the game at 14.
Early in the second quarter, Georgia retook the lead as junior cornerback Eric Stokes picked off Trask and returned it 37 yards for his second touchdown of the season, giving the Bulldogs a 21-14 advantage with 12:17 to play in the half. Despite the turnover, Florida soon rebounded with a two-play scoring drive, featuring a 50-yard completion followed by a 25-yard scoring completion to Kyle Pitts.
Following a Georgia punt, Florida broke the tie with a 24-yard touchdown catch by Kemore Gamble before later adding a 50-yard field goal from Evan McPherson. The Gators then tacked on another score before the half, taking advantage of a short punt with a 14-yard touchdown from Trask to Trevon Grimes, sending the Bulldogs to the locker room facing a 38-21 deficit.
After Florida notched a 51-yard field goal on its opening possession of the second half, Georgia looked to narrow the margin, but Bennett was intercepted at the Florida 35-yard line on 3rd-and-10 near midfield. On the next Bulldog possession, Mathis entered the game and engineered Georgia’s first scoring drive since the opening quarter. Following a conversion on 4th-and-1 at midfield, Mathis found Jackson for a 25-yard touchdown, completing a 12-play, 80-yard sequence.
Following a missed 44-yard field goal by McPherson, both teams began trading punts in the fourth quarter. After a near pick-six by senior cornerback Mark Webb, the Gators looked to seal the game but the Bulldog defense forced an incompletion on 4th-and-4 at the Georgia 28 with five minutes remaining. On the next possession, Mathis was intercepted on a fourth down attempt, allowing Florida to close the scoring with a 34-yard field goal.
Georgia remains on the road next week for a matchup with Missouri (2-3, 2-3 SEC) on Saturday, Nov. 14 at Faurot Field in Columbia. The game is set for a noon start time and will be broadcast on ESPN.