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Bulldogs claim Jacksonville contest with 36-17 victory

Georgia-Florida 2018
Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In front of a capacity crowd at TIAA Bank Field and a nationally televised CBS audience, sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm directed 240 Georgia yards through the air and 189 on the ground, guiding the seventh-ranked Bulldogs to a 36-17 victory against the ninth-ranked Florida Gators on Saturday afternoon.

With three touchdowns, Fromm completed 17 of 24 passes for 240 yards. While sophomore wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman led the Georgia receivers in point production with two touchdown passes for the first time in his career, junior tight end Isaac Nauta assembled a career-tying five completions from Fromm for 73 yards and 14.6 yards per catch.

Sophomore tailback D’Andre Swift registered a touchdown and his first 100-yard rushing performance on his career, while junior tailback Elijah Holyfield assembled his most attempts at 20 for 71 yards.

The defensive corps forced four turnovers on the game, including a fumble and an interception on the first two Florida possessions. Sophomore Monty Rice headlined the attempt, collecting a career-high 11 stops and a forced fumble that led to Georgia points in the first quarter.

With the 36-17 win, the Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1) evened the playing field with Florida (6-2, 4-2) when both teams are in the top-10, bringing the mark to 3-3. Georgia leads the all-time matchup 52-43-2.

“The difference was we got kids with character,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “Everybody questioned these kids because we didn’t play our best game, and all we did was work. Everybody questioned and questioned it. They are tough, physical kids. We still have a long way to go. But we got better today…They played their heart out. I’m so proud of the way they played. I’m proud for the University of Georgia.”

The Georgia run game controlled the first drive for the Bulldog offense, split between Holyfield and Swift. Through 12 plays and 71 yards, the pair of tailbacks marched the Bulldogs to the Florida 4-yard line, where junior place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship drilled a 21-yard field goal for the 3-0 margin.

Three plays later, sophomore linebacker Monty Rice halted a Jordan Scarlett 12-yard run, instigating a fumble that found sophomore defensive back Richard LeCounte, who ran for 32 yards. Set up in the red zone, the Bulldog offense produced a 16-yard touchdown from Fromm to sophomore wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman. The Blankenship PAT secured the 10-0 lead headed into the second quarter.

At the 9:57 mark in the second frame, the Gators used 14 plays and 76 yards to cut the Bulldog advantage to three with a 1-yard leap into the end zone from redshirt sophomore Feleipe Franks.

After each offense traded possessions twice, Georgia received an additional opportunity with 60 seconds remaining in the half. Sophomore defensive lineman Malik Herring ended the final Florida drive before intermission, forcing an Emory Jones fumble. The ball was recovered by Jones, but pushed the Gators back seven yards to the Florida 29-yard line, where Tommy Townsend punted from twice, due to the first punt’s run-in with a camera wire.

Starting at their own 20-yard line, the Bulldogs utilized junior tight end Isaac Nauta on four-straight completions from Fromm on the right side. 66 yards later, Fromm switched the script to junior wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who used nine yards to place Georgia five ticks from the end zone. With six seconds remaining, Blankenship sent the Bulldogs into the break with a 13-7 lead.

For the Gators’ first margin of the game, they opened the second half with a touchdown at the 13:35 mark, but the Bulldogs returned with seven points of their own the next drive. A trio of Holyfield rushes prefaced a 35-yard tight end connection from Fromm to Charlie Woerner; a second touchdown to Holloman followed, who secured the back-shoulder throw from Fromm to re-gain the lead at 20-14.

Next, the Bulldog defense conducted the first stop of the second half by either team. Georgia was forced to punt, but Hardman placed himself at the 1-yard line, where he caught the punt and positioned the Gators inches from their own end zone. There, Franks fumbled the ball on the first play, forced by junior defensive back Tyrique McGhee and recovered by junior linebacker Tae Crowder.

The Florida defense held the Bulldogs to a field goal, executed by Blankenship, before the Gators tacked on their own field goal from freshman Evan McPherson.

The following Georgia drive was defined by a collection of extra-yardage plays: a Riley Ridley 15-yard completion, a Holloman 15-yard completion, a Swift 21-yard rush and a 24-yard Terry Godwin touchdown. A failed two-point conversion froze the score at 29-17.

A three-and-out with lost yardage forced by the Georgia defense set up a 6-play, 66-yard drive, highlighted by a 22-yard Ridley completion and a 33-yard Swift touchdown, which sealed the score at 36-17.

The Bulldogs head to Lexington, Kentucky next weekend to face off with the Wildcats.

POST-GAME NOTES

*Series History/Ranked Matchup: Georgia’s 36-17 win over No. 9 Florida gave the Bulldogs their second straight win in the series and now they are 3-3 all—time when both teams are ranked in the top 10. Today was the first top 10 matchup since 2008. The Bulldogs, currently ranked No.7, lead the all-time series 52-43-2.

Responding To Deficit: Florida took a 14-13 lead to start the 2nd half with a three-play, 48-yard drive in 1:14. It was capped by a 36-yard TD pass from Feleipe Franks to Freddie Swain with 13:35 left. Georgia responded with a seven-play, 72-yard TD drive capped by a Jake Fromm-to-Jeremiah Holloman12-yard TD completion. It put Georgia back on top 20-14 with 10:33 left in the 3rdquarter. Then after both teams punted on their next possession, Georgia forced its third turnover and turned it into a field goal and a 23-14 lead with 0:07 left in the 3rdquarter.

*Scoring Defense: Georgia carried a 13-7 lead to halftime and finished with a 36-17 win. In the first half, Florida ran 34 plays for 159 yards and was held to seven points. UF’s lone TD drive covered 76 yards on 14 plays in 7:04. The Bulldogs forced turnovers on Florida’s first two possessions, and they led to seven points. UF finished the game with 275 yards on 58 plays. Georgia’s leading tackler was sophomore WLBMonty Rice who finished with a career-high 11. Rice already tied his career-high with eight in the first half and had a forced fumble. Coming in, Georgia ranked 13thnationally in scoring defense (16.3 points per game).

*Fromm Directs Offense: Sophomore QB Jake Fromm finished 17-for-24 for 240 yards and 3 TDs. In the first half, he went 8-for-11 for 97 yards as Georgia built a 13-7 edge. He converted a 3rd-and-13 with a 16-yard TD pass to Jeremiah Holloman for a 10-0 lead with 6:07 left in the 1stquarter. On the final possession of the first half, Fromm threw four straight completions to junior tight end Issac Naut for 66 yards. Ultimately on that drive, Fromm was 5-for-6 for 75 yards and culminated with a 22-yard field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship and a 13-7 halftime edge.

In the fourth quarter, on a 3rd-and-9, he tossed a 24-yard TD pass to senior Terry Godwin. Then it went for a 2-point conversion, and it failed. Georgia led 29-17 with 8:39 left in the contest. The three TD passes by Fromm ties the Bulldog mark in the UF series in the modern era, also done by Aaron Murray (2010), Matt Stafford (2007) and Buck Belue (1980). Georgia came in today averaging 39 points a game while UF was allowing just 16.6.

Rushing Leader Gets The Win Again:For the 13thstraight year in the series, the team with the most rushing yards got the victory as Georgia outgained UF 189 to 170. Junior Elijah Holyfieldhad a career-high 20 carries for 71 yards while sophomore D’Andre Swift finished with a career-high 104 yards on just 12 carries for an 8.7 average. Swift’s 33-yard TD runs put the game out of reach with 4:29 left as the score made it 36-17.

*Blankenship’s Day: JuniorPK Rodrigo Blankenship finished 3-for-3 on field goals (good from 19, 21 and 22 yards) and had 3 PATs and six touchbacks on eight kickoffs. He now has 53 touchbacks on the year, trailing only his record 67 set last season. His final kickoff of the first half was a squib as time expired. Blankenship is now 13-for-15 in field goals this year.

*All-Purpose Hardman: Junior Mecole Hardman accounted for 87 all-purpose yardswith  10 receiving, 26 punt return yards and 51 kickoff return yards. Also, he downed a punt on the one yard line with 4:11 left in the 3rdquarter.

*Points off Turnovers:  Georgia scored 10 points off 3 Gator turnovers, while the Gators did not force any Bulldog miscues.Georgia is now +5 in Turnover Margin, scoring 48 points off 12 turnovers on the year. UF ranked among the national leaders with a +9 turnover margin and did not force any today.

Sophomore WLB Monty Rice caused a fumble on UF’s first possession, and it was recovered by sophomore RS Richard LeConte and returned 32 yards to the UF 13. It led to a TD as Jake Fromm connected with Jeremiah Holloman on a 16-yard TD on 3rd-and 13 for a 10-0 lead. Then on UF’s 2ndpossession, junior Tyrique McGhee notched his 1st interception of the year (2ndof his career) at the UGA 29. It led to a punt. Also, McGhee forced a fumble at the UF 1, and it led to an 18-yard field goal and a 23-14 edge.

*For Starters: Senior C Lamont Gaillard started his team-leading 36th straight game while on defense, the team leader in starts is senior DB Deandre Baker now with 29 including a streak of 11 with junior RS J.R. Reedthe most consecutive on defense with 23. Sophomore WR Jeremiah Holloman made his first career start as did freshman DL Jordan Davis. Holloman had a career-high two TD receptions.

*Captains: The captains were junior WR Riley Ridley and seniors DEJonathan Ledbetter and CLamont Gaillard.

*Up Next:No. 7 Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC) will face No. 12 Kentucky in Lexington Saturday, Nov. 3 at either Noon, 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m.

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