Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Painful Day: Florida Routes Georgia 49-10

Jacksonville —- Through his first two seasons as Georgia’s starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford’s main bugaboo was his penchant for throwing interceptions. That was an area in which he seemed most improved this season.

But then he threw three interceptions in the second half against the Gators on Saturday, and they were all killers. Florida had 152 yards in interception returns.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Stafford, who completed 18-of-33 passes for 265 yards.

The worst mistake was the first, an 88-yard interception return to Georgia’s 1 by Florida’s Joe Haden. Trailing 14-3 in the third quarter, the Bulldogs had driven from their 2 to Florida’s 29. The Gators needed one play to make it 21-3.

“That pick was the key,” said Stafford, who has eight interceptions against 12 TDs this season. “If we go in there and score, it’s 14-10.”

It was the beginning of the end for Georgia’s offense. It committed three more turnovers on its next four possessions —- two interceptions and one fumble.

“We made some huge mistakes,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “When you make big mistakes against a really good team, then a game can get away from you.”

That said, Richt said the loss shouldn’t be pinned on Stafford.

“I think Matthew’s past that type of a situation where he feels like he has to make a risky throw,” Richt said.

Stafford was sacked twice for a loss of 16 yards but was pressured many more times.

Another turnover came when Knowshon Moreno mishandled a pitch on a toss sweep. Florida defensive tackle Terron Sanders carried it to Georgia’s 10. The Gators scored two plays later.

Said Moreno: “Good pitch. I just dropped it.”


Tough day for Walsh

The two missed field goals by Blair Walsh accounted for just six points in a game his team lost by 39. But the freshman place-kicker from Tampa felt they were a big reason the Bulldogs failed to win the game.

“I do think it had an impact on the game,” Walsh said. “Beside the points, we lost some momentum because of it, wasted a couple of drives. As a team we just didn’t play the way we should’ve played. That didn’t help.”

The worst part for Walsh is he felt both were relative chip shots. He hooked a 38-yarder in the first quarter wide left. After making a 35-yarder early in the second half, he had a 27-yarder that hit the left upright with the Dogs trailing 14-3 with 1:44 left in the first half.

That makes five misses in the three games. Before the Vanderbilt game, Walsh was 10-of-12 with his only misses coming from 54 and 56 yards.

Asked whether he was in a slump, Walsh said: “That could be completely accurate. I’m going to try to put that to rest next week. It sucks that the team lost, but I’ll be back next week firing.”

Give Walsh this much —- he’s close. He has hit an upright in three consecutive games.

“I just missed them,” he said. “I wanted to make them, but I didn’t hit them the way I wanted to hit them. I sort of swung around them a little bit. But I’ll be back next week.”


Two late timeouts by Gators but no celebrations

Florida never whipped out any stunts or grandiose celebrations to retaliate against Georgia for its end-zone celebration last season. But coach Urban Meyer did raise a few eyebrows with a couple of timeouts in the game’s final minute even though the Gators led by 39 points at the time.

After third-string tailback Emmanuel Moody carried the ball for 14 yards, Meyer signaled for a timeout with 44 seconds remaining. Another 17-yard carry by Moody and Meyer called the third and final timeout with 30 seconds to go.

“What was the deal?” Meyer said, repeating the question. “Moody was running the ball real hard, and I wanted to get him a couple of more carries. He deserved it.”

The Florida media laughed in scoff.

“It seemed like you might have been trying to rub it in there,” one reporter said.

“No,” Meyer replied. “Just trying to win the game.”

Richt wouldn’t let on if he was miffed, though the coaches’ postgame handshake could have been measured in nanoseconds.

“Well, the rules say you can have three timeouts in a half. Right?” Richt said when asked about it after the game. “And he used them. Right? Well, that was legal to do. I don’t have a problem with it.”

Richt didn’t think Georgia’s celebration last year had any impact on Saturday’s game.

“The celebration wasn’t why we won last year. We played well enough to win,” he said. “This year we didn’t. Did it motivate them? I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist.”

Said Meyer: “Everybody talked about last year, last year, last year. What happened last year wasn’t why we got beat.”


Calls go against Bulldogs

You are not likely to see Georgia coach Mark Richt madder than he when his challenge was overruled by replay officials. There was no score about 11 minutes into the game when Tim Tebow ran for yard on third-and-1 at the Gators’ 29. First down, the referees ruled.

After watching the replay on the Jumbotron, Richt thought Tebow’s knee was down well before reaching the first-down marker. Richt challenged and the play was reviewed.

Replay officials stuck with the call.

“I was just shocked it didn’t get reversed,” Richt said. “I would’ve never asked for it if I hadn’t seen it on the Jumbotron. If we’re right there, it’s fourth-and-1.”

Another call hurt the Bulldogs later in the drive. Prince Miller picked off a pass, but Jarius Wynn was flagged for hitting an offensive lineman in the head. Instead of Georgia’s ball, it was first-and-10 Gators at the Bulldogs’ 13. They scored two plays later to go ahead 7-0.


Tebow’s play does talking

Tim Tebow didn’t do much talking before Saturday’s game against Georgia, and, frankly, he didn’t say much after the Gators’ 49-10 victory. But his actions during and immediately afterward told you all you needed to know.

Tebow ran back and forth behind the Florida bench and in front of the Gators’ fans, jumping up and down, doing the Gator chomp and waving to the crowd.

He played a near-perfect game against the Bulldogs with three rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns, no interceptions and one big victory.

“He played relaxed,” Florida coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s playing well, and he’s having a lot of fun. Tim Tebow loves the game of football, and he loves the University of Florida. He’s contagious. When he plays well the whole offense plays well.”

Tebow wasn’t as eloquent as he was effective.

“It was a great win for us,” he said. “We knew we needed this one and we were focused all week. The defense made plays and the offense finished drives.”

Tebow made two particularly good throws for scores. He hit Louis Murphy in stride for a 44-yard TD over Asher Allen down the Florida sideline. A 25-yard strike to Percy Harvin over the middle sealed the game in the fourth.

ETC. …

Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who missed the past three games and most of the another with a sprained left knee, returned to the field. While it looked like he was playing defensive end, it was actually as a third linebacker playing on the line of scrimmage. “It’s the same position I always play, just standing up on the line,” Ellerbe said. Ellerbe got close to having one sack on a play that was overturned by penalty, and he had one tackle for a loss of 6 yards. Sophomore Darryl Gamble started and played most of the game at middle linebacker. … Senior tight end Tripp Chandler (shoulder) also returned to action after missing the past three games. … WR Mohamed Massaquoi had a career-high 112 yards on five catches.

As a result of the loss, Georgia’s game against Kentucky next Saturday will kick off at 12:30 p.m., and be televised by Raycom Sports. ESPN announced before last week that it would select the Georgia-Florida winner for a national audience next Saturday. The Gators play at Vanderbilt. … Saturday’s game ended a three-game stretch in which the Bulldogs played consecutive Top 25 teams for the first time since 1969. They beat No. 22 Vanderbilt and No. 11 LSU. … Georgia hasn’t beaten Florida in consecutive years since 1988-89. …

Linebacker Darius Dewberry injured a quadriceps muscle in the first half and did not return to the game. … CB Remarcus Brown injured his left foot in the fourth quarter and did not return… . Freshman Richard Samuel had 139 all-purpose yards: 40 rushing on four carries and 99 yards on three kickoff returns, including a 60-yarder. … Knowshon Moreno had 65 yards on 17 carries to move up to seventh on Georgia’s all-time rushing list with 2,324 yards. He passed Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich (2,271).


WSB, Georgia Bulldog Network

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