Sunday, October 28, 2007

Georgia 42, Florida 30

In my post of August 26, in which I offered my preseason predictions for every Georgia Bulldogs 2007 football game, which was a pretty audacious undertaking to say the least, I wrote the following:

Georgia 27, Florida 24. This will be an upset, as the Gators will likely come in undefeated and ranked in the top 5, but Georgia is due for a win in this series. Matthew Stafford will outplay Tim Tebow.

I was wrong about several things. First, I did not foresee that both teams would come in with two SEC losses. Florida was highly ranked at #9 but was not in the top 5. While a case could be made that Stafford outplayed Tebow, they were really pretty even. To be fair, Tebow was hampered by a right (non-throwing) shoulder injury, as the CBS announcers never tired of reminding us, which limited his running. Still, Stafford really stepped up in this big game.

It was an upset and UGA was due for a win. The Dawgs had last won one against the Gators in 2004, in the senior season of such stalwarts as David Greene and David Pollack, and had won only twice since 1990. This was a sweet victory.

The tone was set on Georgia’s opening drive. Redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno carried the ball eight times and scored on a one-yard run. When he did, the entire Georgia team rushed into the end zone to celebrate. That demonstration led to thirty yards in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties but it made a statement about the emotional intensity of the Georgia team in this game. Some Florida players were quoted as saying after the game that the demonstration was not proper and they probably have a point. Still, Georgia teams during the Mark Richt era have been pretty low key and undemonstrative, so perhaps we witnessed a significant change in the program. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs clearly came prepared to take it to the Gators.

This game was a coming out party for Moreno. He rushed the ball 33 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns. As I have said before, this kid is the real deal. He has great maturity and brings flash and excitement to the tailback position that UGA has not had for a long time. It is unfortunate that Georgia’s senior running backs Kregg Lumpkin and Thomas Brown have suffered serious injuries this year but we have seen the future and it is the young man from New Jersey. Stafford should have two more years and Moreno three more with the team; it makes you salivate with anticipation.

It was significant that UGA turned the ball over only one time. That one time was a big one because a Stafford pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. I read this week that while Georgia turned the ball over five times in 2006’s 21-14 loss to the Gators, they had this year suffered only five turnovers in the seven games they had played. That’s right: they are averaging less than one turnover per game. That’s amazing.

One thing that had troubled me this season was UGA’s inability to mount much of a downfield passing game. Stafford has a cannon for an arm but it seemed that every time they tried to go downfield they misfired. But in this game, the Dawgs connected on two long touchdown passes: Stafford to Mohammed Massaquoi for an 84-yard touchdown in the first quarter and Stafford to Mikey Henderson for a 53-yard score in the fourth quarter. Let’s hope we see more of that in future games.

All in all, it was a great game.

Now we begin to worry about the letdown. Next week, the Dawgs play Troy in the Georgia homecoming game. Let’s hope that our guys don’t get to thinking that they’re better than they are.

Goodness, what a season!

Next week’s game to watch: LSU vs. Alabama.

Significant score of the week: Tennessee 27, South Carolina 24 in overtime. At 6-2 and with a 4-2 SEC record, the Bulldogs find themselves back in the hunt for the SEC East title. While Georgia and Tennessee are technically tied for the SEC East lead, it will be an uphill claim for the Dawgs to claim the title. They must defeat Auburn and Kentucky while Tennessee must lose to Arkansas, Kentucky, or Vanderbilt. That is because UT holds the tiebreaker over Georgia due to their defeat of the Dawgs earlier this season.

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