Georgia’s offense, which hardly seemed to miss star tailback Todd Gurley in the first two games of his suspension, appeared out of sync and perhaps short of weapons in the third game of his absence Saturday.
Freshman tailback Nick Chubb had his third consecutive 100-plus-yard rushing game, running for 156 yards on 21 carries, but he got most of his carries and yards in the first quarter and lost a costly fumble in the third quarter. And Georgia, which had scored an SEC-leading 43.4 points per game previously, was held to its fewest points of the season and less than half of its average in a 38-20 loss to Florida.
Chubb had 101 rushing yards on 14 carries in the first quarter, but he added only seven yards on three carries in the second quarter as Florida largely kept the ball and claimed the momentum. After the Gators took the lead at 14-7 with 5:06 remaining in the second quarter, Chubb had only five carries the rest of the game.
Florida built its lead to 24-7 in the third quarter and 31-7 early in the fourth, Georgia’s offense turned to the pass.
“Football is a game of momentum, and when you’re playing behind by 20 or 21 in a rivalry game, that’s hard to come back from,” Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason said. “It just felt like we couldn’t ever get anything going.”
The Bulldogs’ best chance to get back in the game was squandered by a Chubb fumble with 4:34 remaining in the third quarter. The turnover came after Chubb broke loose for 35 yards to the Florida 39-yard line.
The fumble, Chubb said, “definitely” deflated the Bulldogs. He noted that Florida led 24-7 at the time, and Georgia could have made it “a 10-point game” by scoring on that drive.
“Chubb is a tough kid. I think he is a heck of a ballplayer,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said after the game. “I know he fumbled that ball, (but) he’s very good in ball security as far as his habits are concerned.”
Richt was asked if several weeks of speculation about Gurley’s status — finally resolved Thursday when the NCAA rejected Georgia’s appeal of a four-game suspension —might have affected the team.
“I don’t think we were thinking about that during the week or during the game,” Richt said. “We knew the situation, and we knew we needed to go play a game. I don’t think there’s any excuse in that at all.”
Mason, who completed 12 of 19 passes for 104 yards through the first three quarters, wound up 26-of-42 for 319 yards.
“I’m not going to sit here and say we lit them up throwing the ball because they had the lead and were perfectly happy to let us methodically move it down the field and grind as much clock as possible and secure (their) victory,” Richt said.
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