To say it wasn’t pretty would be an incredible understatement. Florida barely moved the ball. Quarterback Luke Del Rio averaged just 5.2 yards per pass attempt, part of a 231-yard offensive effort for the Gators. Georgia’s defense is decent; it’s not that good.
But every time the Gators struggled, the defense was there to bail them out during a 24-10 win Saturday. Del Rio threw an interception on the game’s first drive that was returned to the Florida 25-yard line. The Gators held Georgia to a field goal. When Florida missed a field goal in the second half, the defense forced a three-and-out.
In fact, 75 of Georgia’s 164 yards — nearly half — came on one drive at the beginning of the second quarter. UGA quarterback Jacob Eason completed passes of 38 and 13 yards to set up a 14-yard touchdown pass to WR Riley Ridley.
But outside of that drive, Florida’s defense completely shut down Georgia. The Bulldogs averaged just 1.9 yards per play the rest of the game, including 1.1 yards per rush despite having star running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Florida had 8 tackles for losses and a pair of sacks on Eason. Linebacker Jarrad Davis led the way with 2.5 tackles for losses, while the Gators had 16 QB hurries.
For whatever shortcomings Will Muschamp had as a head coach, he recruited incredible defensive talent to Gainesville. Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins has one of the most disruptive stables at his disposal. Florida coach Jim McElwain has to be thanking his lucky stars that the defense has stayed dominant.
Thanks to the win in the bitter rivalry game, Florida sits on top of the SEC East with a 4-1 conference record, which is largely due to a defense that Football Outsiders ranks best in the SEC and No. 3 in the nation. But while Florida has proven its worth on the defensive side, the Gators face a tough task down the stretch if they can’t get anything going on offense.
Del Rio made several mistakes against Georgia, including a brutal interception by safety Dominick Sanders on the game’s opening drive. Florida was without perhaps its top two running backs and averaged fewer than 2.1 yards per rush.
Ultimately, Florida’s longest scoring drive was just 56 yards. Nine of 13 total drives went for 26 yards or worse.
Having this level of defense might be enough to win the SEC East, but it sure won’t be enough to handle the brutal schedule ahead. Florida has road contests against No. 19 LSU and No. 12 Florida State on the horizon; win those, and the Gators are back in the playoff conversation. A date with Alabama in the conference title game could be the deciding factor.
But look at the best teams in the SEC — Alabama and Texas A&M. It’s woefully obvious that the Gators need a whole lot more on the offensive end to get where they want to go. Twenty-four points just isn’t enough against the class of college football.