Florida 20, Georgia 13
Georgia fans had this arrogant attitude before the annual fight with Florida tonight: No Steve Spurrier, no chance.
But the Gators kept their dominance under first-year coach Ron Zook and likely spoiled fifth-ranked Georgia's chance to win the national championship with an error-filled, 20-13 victory.
Florida won for the 12th time in 13 meetings even though it failed to score three times inside the Georgia 20-yard line, turned the ball over four times and missed an extra point. But quarterback Rex Grossman led an 89-yard drive early in the fourth quarter that ended with a 10-yard pass to Ben Troupe for the winning touchdown.
"This is fun," said Grossman, who completed 36 of 46 for 339 yards. "To be underdogs in a rivalry game and to spoil their season is huge."
The Bulldogs (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) entered the game ranked fourth in the Bowl Championship Series and could still win the SEC East Division title. But tonight, they saw their last best opportunity squandered by a dropped pass by wide receiver Terrence Edwards at the Florida 35 with two-plus minutes left. It was a lovely contrast to a so-so season so far for the Gators (6-3, 4-2).
"With all that's happened, they could have shut [it] down," said Zook, who constantly has been under fire since replacing Spurrier. "But they did exactly what I wanted."
This was the first time in the 70 years the so-called World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has been held at night here, and much of the crowd belted late toasts and arrived inside the alcohol-free stadium at the last possible moment. Concern about the extra hours of tailgating was such that up to 100 police were stationed around the field.
Both sides fretted about injuries entering the game, and it didn't get easier for the Gators, who lost leading wide receiver Taylor Jacobs to a knee injury early in the game.
Jacobs injured his medial collateral ligament and is expected to miss four games, according to Zook, but less-heralded Kelvin Kight and Carlos Perez picked up the slack.
Kight, who had caught 14 passes all season, had nine receptions for 115 yards tonight. Perez had 12 catches for 76 yards.
Still, it was the defense that gave Florida a 12-7 lead late in the second quarter when strong safety Guss Scott returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown. Scott stepped inside Edwards for an easy theft of D.J. Shockley -- who alternated with David Greene -- and scampered down the left sideline untouched. The two-point try was required because of an earlier point-after miss.
Errors or wonderful defense, depending on one's prejudice, filled the entire first half, with Florida getting to the Georgia 17-, 10- and 5-yard lines and failing to score a point. Leach also hooked a 27-yard field goal, and the second of two Grossman interceptions was by David Pollack on third and three from the 5.
Pollack then erred by handing the ball forward to speedier safety Sean Jones near midfield. The Bulldogs could not take advantage of that turnover, but they did on the next one and gained a 13-12 lead on Billy Bennett's second field goal.
With 71 seconds left in the second quarter, Florida backup fullback Ron Carthon fumbled after a hit by defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan, and cornerback Bruce Thornton recovered for Georgia at the Gators 5. Tailback Musa Smith bulled to the 1, but a motion penalty and loss of a yard by Smith for the Bulldogs to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Bennett.
"As seniors we've never beaten Florida and we don't have another chance for the rest our lives," Georgia offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb said.
Georgia took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter with the help of a tipped Grossman pass that cornerback Tim Jennings returned 44 yards to the Florida 48. After a 26-yard completion from Greene to Tony Milton and roughing-the-passer penalty, Greene found J.T. Wall in the end zone.