Feleipe Franks couldn’t fumble from his own one-yard line, but he did. Georgia recovered, looking to put Florida to bed with two unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter.
However, the Gators made a goal-line stand for the ages.
They stuffed the Bulldogs on first and second down from the one. Then cornerback C.J. McWilliams drew a pass interference on third down to give UGA new life from the same spot.
Georgia still couldn’t punch it in three plays later. Florida forced a field goal and responded on the next drive with three points of its own, cutting the deficit to six.
The Gators were resilient in Jacksonville despite losing 36-17. They responded to their struggles with some outstanding displays of perseverance.
“There's a lot of things in the course of this game that showed we can be an excellent football team,” coach Dan Mullen said. “Goal-line stand, we get there, and they have six opportunities inside the 1-yard line, and they don't score. That's what we expect to be.”
Georgia raced out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. It scored a touchdown on a blown coverage by McWilliams on third-and-13, an opportunity which came off a Jordan Scarlett fumble on UF’s first possession. Franks threw an interception on the Gators’ next drive, but the defense held firm, forcing a three-and-out after the pick. Florida came back with a 14 play, 76-yard touchdown march that used up over seven minutes of clock.
Florida was down 13-7 at halftime, but it re-emerged out of the locker room seemingly a new ball club. Kadarius Toney took the second-half kickoff 51 yards. Three plays later, Franks threw a dart to Freddie Swain for 36 yards. It was UF’s only passing touchdown, and it gave the team its first and only lead of the contest.
The loss of corner C.J. Henderson - knocked out of the game with a back injury - plagued the Gators throughout the game. UGA quarterback Jake Fromm took advantage of a diminished UF secondary (neither corner Brian Edwards nor safety Brad Stewart Jr. played) for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Two of the scoring strikes came against Henderson’s replacement, McWilliams.
Fromm marched the Georgia offense down the field and capped the ensuing drive with a touchdown pass of his own, picking on McWilliams in the exact same manner he did in the first quarter.
But the Gators’ defense played hard, and nothing was more exemplary of this than the six-play goal-line stand that held Georgia to a field goal.
“I feel like on defense, we kept a level head,” linebacker David Reese said. “We stood tall, and we created a stop on the goal line, giving us a chance.”
However, UF continued to struggle defensively on third down, and that ultimately did it in.
Georgia’s two fourth-quarter touchdowns both came on third downs - a 24-yard reception by Terry Godwin and a 33-yard scamper by D’Andre Swift - and caused Gators fans to head to the exits early.
“There isn’t moral victory in anything, but I think there's a lot we learn from this game as team and as a program moving forward,” Mullen said. “That's the whole key… we gotta make sure that lessons there to learn are learned from this game."
The Gators' defense held Georgia to a six-play, 0-yard drive that started at Florida's 1-yard line. The drive lasted nearly four minutes and ended with a Bulldogs field goal.