Florida was down 23-3 at halftime, beaten and battered and all but buried. And though the Gators tried valiantly to get out from under the five feet of earth, the hole was too deep: Florida lost, 23-20, despite a second half wilder than the unhinged first.
In that first half, Georgia scored two touchdowns in the first six minutes of play, thanks to two huge plays from Todd Gurley and an empty drive featuring an 83-yard completion by Florida, and added another field goal before the end of the first quarter. Georgia would extend the lead to 20-0, then to 23-3 just after halftime — thanks in part to a failed fourth down try from the Gators that gave the ball back to the Bulldogs with just enough time to make a run at three points.
At halftime, Georgia had more yardage than it had put up in the full game between these teams in 2012, and Florida had gone almost 10 quarters without an offensive touchdown in the series.
Then the second half happened.
Florida's Leon Orr picked up a dropped pass that was ruled a fumble midway through the third quarter, setting up Florida's first offensive touchdown since 2011 against the Bulldogs on a diving Mack Brown rush. Florida struck again after holding on defense and burying Georgia deep, with a beautiful corner blitz from Loucheiz Purifoy that brought Aaron Murray down in the end zone for a safety, cutting the lead to 23-12.
And then, when Florida got the ball back after the safety, the Gators relied on Tyler Murphy's legs for two straight runs that covered 39 yards and scored a second touchdown. Murphy completed a two-point conversion to Clay Burton — of all possible people, Clay Burton — and Florida had shaved Georgia's lead to a field goal.
Alas, that 23-20 score would remain on the board until the 0:00. Florida got an immense fourth-down stop on a Gurley run, but a penalty after the play on Neiron Ball backed the Gators out of Georgia territory, and a penalty for too many men on the field that gave Florida a first down only led to a drive that sputtered at midfield. And when Georgia got the ball back with more than half the quarter left, the Dawgs shoveled the final foot of soil on the Gators, converting third downs and bleeding the clock.
It wasn't over until Darious Cummings was flagged for illegal hands to the face with just over a minute left on a third down stop that turned into a first down for Georgia, but the Dawgs would have kicked for a 26-20 lead without that penalty, and Florida's offense, despite being far better than it has been of late in this game, would have been hard-pressed to score a touchdown in under a minute. And Florida had gotten more than its fair share of chances by that point: The Gators missed two field goals in the game, one each from Francisco Velez and Austin Hardin, and had plenty of possession and yardage with which to create more than 20 points.
Florida falls to 4-4, and is essentially out of the SEC East race at 3-3 in the conference, but its loss was not nearly the embarrassment that was anticipated after Georgia's blazing start and a 20-point halftime deficit. And Florida's ability to stay in this game when every Florida fan was losing his or her head is commendable.
But dying hard counts for a moral victory, not a real one.