Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) runs with the ball against Florida during the second quarter at EverBank Field.
(Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Georgia running back Todd Gurley returned after missing the last three games with an ankle injury to score two touchdowns in the first six minutes then hold off a second half rally as the Bulldogs beat Florida 23-20 on Saturday.
It was the third consecutive win in the series for Georgia (5-3 overall, 4-2 in SEC play). The last time the Bulldogs won three in a row in the annual clash was 1987-89. Florida (4-4, 3-3) has a three-game losing streak the second time in Will Muschamp's three-year tenure as head coach.
Though neither team had more than 70 penalty yards, the game was noted for its chippiness. The second-to-last play of the game, a kneeldown by Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, was marked by pushing, shoving and slapping that resulted in three unsportsmanlike penalties on the Bulldogs and one on the Gators.
Gurley, who finished with 17 carries for 100 yards and caught three passes for another 87, had 151 yards total offense on just seven touches, finishing off Georgia's opening drive of 75 yards in 7 plays with a 5-yard run just 2:45 into the contest. Gurley then caught a short pass over the middle from Murray and turned it into a 73-yard score.
Marshall Morgan had field goals of 49, 27 and 32 yards in the first half as well. Florida's only points came on a 31-yard field goal by Frankie Velez with 9:54 left in the second quarter. It was 23-3 at the half.
Georgia averaged almost 10 yards a play (with 335 yards total offense on 35 plays) in the first half.
Florida failed to score a touchdown in the 2012 17-9 loss to the Bulldogs and last scored a TD in the series on a 99-yard kickoff return by Jeff Demps early in the second quarter of the 2011 contest, a 24-20 defeat.
In the second half, Leon Orr recovered a backward pass by Murray to give UF the ball at Georgia' 14. The Gators scored two plays later on a 5-yard run by Mack Brown - the first touchdown by Florida since the third quarter of the Missouri game - to cut the margin to 23-10 with 6:21 left in the third quarter.
After a punt pushed UGA back to its own 3, Loucheiz Purifoy came clean on a corner blitz to sack Murray with 1:19 left in third to make it 23-12. It was Florida's first safety since 2011 against UAB in the second game of the season when a snap went out of the end zone.
A 16-yard return by Marcus Roberson on the ensuing punt gave Florida the ball at midfield. A Tyler Murphy 25-yard run got the ball to the Bulldogs' 14 on the first play of the fourth quarter and he scored on the next play. Murphy completed the two-point conversion to Clay Burton to make it 23-20.
Florida stopped Gurley short of a first down on fourth-and-1 in the biggest potential turning point of the game but the Gators' Neiron Ball and Antonio Morrison were flagged 15 yards for taking their helmet off to give Florida the ball at its own 46 with 11:20 to play in the game.
That penalty proved to be huge, keeping the Gators from getting close enough to kick a field goal - after missing a pair earlier.
Florida couldn't do anything with that drive so couldn't get close enough to kick. But after a pair of time outs, Georgia was hit with an illegal substitution penalty to give the Gators a first down at the Bulldogs' 41 with 9:41 remaining and what proved to be one final shot at pulling the game out.
Murphy was sacked on third down, however, for a loss of 14 yards to kill the final scoring chance. Georgia then took over with 8:17 to play and converted three straight third downs, as the Bulldogs moved from their own 17 to the Gators 25.
A personal foul on defensive tackle Darious Cummings on an illegal hands to the face call gave Georgia a first down when it appeared UF had finally stopped Georgia on third down at the Gators' 26.
The half the distance penalty put the ball at the Florida 13 and gave Georgia an automatic first down - and the game.