JACKSONVILLE, FL.—The wind was whipping off the St. John's River as a trickle of fans began to filter into the sparse parking lots outside TIAA Bank Field. Tailgates dotted what appeared more to be the World’s Largest Empty Outdoor Cocktail Party Venue.
Even with the small crowd and restrictive COVID-19 policies that made this unlike any other Florida-Georgia game in recent memory (the smallest crowd since 1938 when the stadium held 17,000 people) the anticipation was still heavy, the nervousness was still felt in every fan who quietly walked towards the gate.
After the No. 8 Florida Gators won the toss and deferred, the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs used their first play to motion four men to the left and hand the ball off to Zamir White who went that direction behind a wall of blockers.
The tone seemed to be set for the day the moment White hit the edge. For 14 years, whoever has controlled the run game has won this matchup. Georgia made it clear early they would be the team to do so on Saturday. And they did. Technically, the Bulldogs out rushed the Gators 165-97 yards. It wouldn’t matter, but more on that in a bit.
Back to the first play. White hit the edge and went 75-yards, untouched to the endzone. The vaulted Gators offense went three yards on a three-and-out and a bad punt gave Georgia the ball back at the UGA 46-yard line.
In six plays, Georgia made quick work of the short field and Stetson Bennett (5-16, 78 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) found Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint over the middle for the 32-yard touchdown. Brad Stewart, attempting to make a touchdown saving tackle, dove for Rosemy-Jacksaint’s ankles as defenders are now taught to do in order to avoid head injuries. The cart came out before the redshirt freshman could even roll over. Everyone in attendance could see he’d suffered a gruesome injury. Don’t watch the replay.
The score put Georgia up 14-0 and could easily have put Florida into panic mode. Instead, it did the opposite.