October 28, 2006

Florida defense the life of the party

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Game Notes: Florida smelling SEC East title

Florida defense steals the show | Box score

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida's defense deserved a rousing toast after this game - even if it wasn't a cocktail party.

The Gators forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes, helping ninth-ranked Florida beat Georgia 21-14 on Saturday and continue its recent dominance in the rivalry.

Florida now has won eight of nine and 15 of the last 17 in the series that has been known as the World Largest Cocktail Party. School and city officials believe the nickname conjures up images of drunkenness - not what they want to promote, especially after the deaths of two Florida students the past two years.

They urged television networks to stop using the moniker altogether.

Whatever you want to call it, it's been all Gators lately.

With the latest victory, Florida remained atop the Southeastern Conference East Division and moved a step closer to returning to the conference title game for the first time since 2000. The Gators (7-1, 5-1) need to beat Vanderbilt and South Carolina to make it happen.

The Bulldogs (6-3, 3-3) lost for the third time in four games and essentially dropped out of the division race.

Although Andre Caldwell scored two early touchdowns - a 12-yard run and a 40-yard reception from Chris Leak - Florida's defense got the credit for this one.

The Gators led 21-0 after Georgia fumbled on the opening play of the second half. Derrick Harvey knocked the ball out of Kregg Lumpkin's hands, and Ray McDonald returned it 9 yards for a score.

Jarvis Moss forced quarterback Matthew Stafford to fumble on the ensuing possession, giving Florida a chance to extend the lead. But place-kicker Chris Hetland had the first of two missed field goal attempts.

Hetland, who entered the game with one field goal in five attempts, hit the right upright from 39 yards away.

Instead of putting the game away, the Gators allowed Georgia to stick around.

The Bulldogs nearly took advantage, too.

Leak's first interception in four games against Georgia came on Florida's next possession. The Bulldogs needed five plays to drive 52 yards for their first score, a 13-yard run by Stafford to make it 21-7.

Georgia fans were on their feet for the first time of the game, and players were in a frenzy on the sideline. They continued to celebrate when Florida was forced to punt. But the punt hit the back of Kelin Johnson's leg - Georgia's third fumble and fourth of five turnovers - giving the Gators the ball back. Florida reclaimed the momentum, but just briefly.

Hetland missed a 42-yarder wide left on the second play of the fourth quarter, keeping Georgia in a game Florida had pretty much controlled from the start.

The Bulldogs moved the ball well, but Stafford's second interception ended the drive.

Florida gave it right back, though.

Backup quarterback Tim Tebow, who had played so well in wins against Tennessee, Alabama and LSU, fumbled the ball back to the Bulldogs and Lumpkin scored three plays later on an 8-yard run to make it 21-14.

Georgia got the ball back with five minutes remaining, but Brandon Siler sacked Stafford on the first play. The Gators finished with four sacks.

The Bulldogs punted, and Florida ran out the clock from there.

The Gators picked up two critical first downs - one on a 5-yard face mask and another on DeShawn Wynn's 6-yard run with a little more than a minute to play.

For more coverage of Florida, visit GatorBait.net; for more on Georgia, visit UGASports.com.




 

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