Florida 14, Georgia 10
For nearly nine minutes at Alltel Stadium on Saturday, Florida's offense resembled the high-octane, pass-happy, spread offense that Coach Urban Meyer used at Utah last season, when the Utes finished 12-0 and crashed the Bowl Championship Series party.
The No. 16 Gators scored two touchdowns early in the first quarter and then sputtered the rest of the way, like they had during most of the first seven games of the Meyer era. But against No. 4 Georgia, which played without starting quarterback D.J. Shockley, those were all the points Florida needed in a 14-10 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 84,501.
Georgia backup quarterback Joe Tereshinski III, making his first career start after Shockley sprained his left knee last week in a victory over Arkansas, threw three incomplete passes and was stuffed for no gain on a quarterback draw during the Bulldogs' last futile drive. Kicker Brandon Coutu missed two field-goal attempts in the second half -- the second, a 52-yard kick, bounced off the right upright -- and the Bulldogs scored their only touchdown on tailback Thomas Brown's nine-yard touchdown pass to Tereshinski on a trick play.
"The bottom line in this business is we lost," said Tereshinski, the grandson of former Washington Redskins defensive end Joe Tereshinski. "I can't describe the hurt right now. We were undefeated and looking at a lot of great things."
If Georgia had won, the Bulldogs would have clinched the Southeastern Conference's East division title and would have earned a spot in the Dec. 3 SEC championship game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Instead, the Bulldogs are left with a one-game lead over the Gators and will have to beat Auburn and Kentucky, unless Florida loses one of its last two SEC games.
"It's no fun to lose," Georgia Coach Mark Richt said. "We haven't lost in a while and now we get to remember what it feels like. Everybody wants to be undefeated and that's what we wanted. There are no excuses."
Florida knocked Georgia from the ranks of college football's unbeatens for the second time in four seasons. In 2002, the Bulldogs were 8-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country. Florida won, 20-13, but the Bulldogs won their next three games, won the SEC East and beat Arkansas, 30-3, in the SEC championship game.
Florida beat the Bulldogs for the 14th time in 16 seasons.
"This was a tough win against a tough football team," Meyer said. "I'm not sure I've been associated with a group of young men who've gone through what they went through the last three or four weeks."
Tereshinski made one of the biggest plays in the game late in the third quarter. With the Bulldogs trailing 14-3, he completed three consecutive passes to move the Bulldogs to the Florida 12. After Kregg Lumpkin ran for three yards on first down, Tereshinski tripped over center Russ Tanner's feet on the next play. But he pitched to tailback Thomas Brown before falling down, and then got up and ran down the right sideline.
Brown, a left-hander, threw a pass back to Tereshinski, who leaped over linebacker Todd McCullough to make the catch and then lunged for the goal line for a nine-yard touchdown. Officials reviewed the play to determine whether Tereshinski's knees were down before he pitched to Brown, but they upheld the touchdown and Coutu's extra point cut Florida's lead to 14-10 with 3 minutes 43 seconds to play in the third.
"It wasn't quite the way we designed it with Joe stumbling," Richt said. "That's not the way it was supposed to go. I'm sure people would have been talking about that play for years if we'd won."
The Florida offense produced two quick touchdowns against the Bulldogs. Meyer used his team's off-week to find the formations and plays that quarterback Chris Leak was most comfortable running, and also put more emphasis on the fullbacks and tight ends.
On the Gators' first possession, Leak completed three third-down passes to move from the Florida 20 to the Georgia 27. Bulldogs cornerback Tim Jennings was penalized for pass interference in the end zone, moving the Gators to the 12, and they faced third and one at the 3. Leak rolled right and leaped over safety Greg Blue for a touchdown, and Chris Hetland's extra point made it 7-0 with nine minutes to go in the first.
After Georgia punted on its first possession, Leak threw a 20-yard pass to receiver Dallas Baker on first down, and then DeShawn Wynn ran for 19 yards on the next play. On second and goal from the 1, Leak threw a touchdown pass to tight end Tate Casey in the back of the end zone for a 14-0 lead.