Florida turned over the ball to Georgia on Saturday, and the Bulldogs took the reins in the SEC East as a result.
My recap of the college football weekend is up, and framed around teams that know how to take things. After nearly two months of doing that, Florida didn't on Saturday — and gave Georgia a chance to take an opportunity the Dawgs didn't know they would have.
And because I don't care if I quote myself at length, here's the relevant part:
Georgia came to Jacksonville for the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Florida as the underdog and the team that few expected to be the more calm, composed, and dominant outfit. Will Muschamp's Gators had just spent the better part of two months grinding all of their opponents to dust in one way or another; Mark Richt's Bulldogs had defensive players calling the rest of the team soft, and a running game that had gone flaccid against Kentucky, of all teams. But the Bulldogs set the tone against Florida from the first series: a flubbed exchange between Jeff Driskel and Mike Gillislee got the ball on the ground on the Gators' first offensive play; pressure produced a Driskel throw-cum-fumble on the third, one that set up the Dawgs just outside the Florida red zone.
One short drive later, the team that would be the taking things in Jacksonville all afternoon went up 7-0, never to relinquish the lead. And Florida just kept giving, hemorrhaging six turnovers — four by Driskel, including one horrific interception at the end of the first half that prevented the Gators from taking the lead. The Gators weren't capable of taking over, just taking what Georgia's suddenly ferocious defense gave them; with the power running that had proved so effective against LSU failing to make headway against Georgia's stout front, Brent Pease's offense became one of screen passes and swing passes and comebacks that begged for broken tackles.
Jarvis Jones helped scuttle it, time and again, with relentless pursuit of the ball. Todd Grantham's Dawgs were fantastic on the day, making sure to secure the balls Florida dropped, stymieing an offense that had just gone six-for-six in the red zone a week before by allowing no touchdowns, and setting up their offensive counterparts with advantageous enough field position to keep the lead and bury the Gators deep.
When Florida did appear to have the taking thing down, after Georgia ripped off a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to build the 17-9 lead that would become the final score, Jordan Reed attempted to take too much in an ill-timed, poorly-conceived attempt to Superman over the goal line — and Jones punched the ball out, turning a potentially game-tying touchdown into a game-sealing touchback.
I think Saturday was the first time this season that another team was able to dictate the game against Florida, or at least the first instance since the first half against Texas A&M. That was, not coincidentally, the worst stretch of play for the Gators this year.
And then Saturday happened, and the Gators played their worst in their first loss.