JACKSONVILLE – 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 sixth-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 35-17.
The Bulldogs head to Lexington, Kentucky next weekend to face off with the Wildcats.