Before Saturday, Georgia’s defense was the second best in the SEC and 13th best nationally at stopping the run, allowing 105.1 rushing yards per game.
That defense was nowhere to be found at EverBank Field.
Florida piled up 418 rushing yards against Georgia, the second most allowed by the Bulldogs in school history. (Auburn ran for 430 against Georgia in 1978.) Two Florida backs approached 200 yards rushing in the Gators’ 38-20 victory: Kelvin Taylor ran for 197 yards and Matt Jones for 192, each on 25 carries.
Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt attributed the numbers to Georgia not matching Florida’s physicality.
“To me, I think coach (Will) Muschamp’s (teams) have been like this since he’s been there — I feel like they’ve been very physical,” Pruitt said. “You’ve got to be able to stand up; you’ve got to be able to tackle; you’ve got to get off blockers. There’s no trick in that, and we just didn’t do a good job of that today.
“It was a choice today: Florida had more fight than Georgia, and that’s on the defensive coaching staff.”
Pruitt said he saw nothing during the week to suggest such a performance might happen.
“No, absolutely not,” he said, “but we’re still dealing with 18- to 21-year-olds and you’ve got to kind of keep the hammer down at all times. You can’t ever get comfortable.
“The big thing that we’ve got to do is, first of all, just give Florida credit. They whipped our tail today. They outcoached us. They outplayed us. … Each individual has got to make a choice: Do they want to look reality in the face and (say), ‘Hey, we didn’t play very good. We’re going to do something about it.’”
Florida ran the ball 60 times in the game, averaging 6.97 yards per carry. The Gators threw only six passes, completing three for just 27 yards.
“With the success they had, I would have run the ball every down, too,” Georgia defensive back Damian Swann said.
Asked if he would’ve thought a team could run for 418 yards against the Bulldogs — almost four times as many as they had yielded on average in the previous seven games — Swann said: “Absolutely not. But it happened. So I was wrong.”
The key, Georgia noseguard Mike Thornton said, “was us as a team not executing and doing the things I know we can do, getting off blocks and knocking guys back.”
The most rushing yards Georgia had allowed in a previous game this season was 176 against South Carolina.
The Gators entered Saturday’s game eighth in the SEC in rushing, averaging 169.5 yards per game. Their previous best: 259 against Eastern Michigan.