Florida gave Georgia a taste of its own medicine on Saturday.
With everyone counting them out ahead of time, the double-digit-underdog Gators ran the football down the throats of the No. 11-ranked Bulldogs en route to a 38-20 victory.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak in this storied series for Florida and its beleaguered coach Will Muschamp. The victory was just the fourth of the season for the Gators (4-3) and evens their SEC record at 3-3.
The loss effectively kills the Bulldogs’ chances of playing their way into the first College Football Playoff. While Georgia (6-2, 4-2 SEC) can still win the East and make it to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta, its doubtful they could make the Final Four even with the league title in hand.
The game turned on a single play. Georgia led 7-0 and had just missed on an opportunity to expand their advantage to 10 points via a field goal when the Gators lined up to attempt a 38-yard field goal of their own in the second quarter.
They never kicked it.
Florida holder Michael McNeeley — a seldom-used receiver slipped in to hold just for this one play — took the snap and ran through a thin opening at right tackle for a 21-yard touchdown. The point-after tied the game at 7-all with 8:25 to remaining in the second quarter.
It was the second time in the past two seasons the Bulldogs were victimized by a fake field goal. Vanderbilt also scored on off a fake on the way to upsetting Georgia in Nashville last year.
That play seemed to open the floodgates for Florida’s offense, which came into the game ranked as the third worst in the SEC. With freshman Treon Harris making his first start at quarterback, the Gators rushed for a season-high 418 yards. Matt Jones (25-192-2) and Kelvin Taylor (25-197-2) became the first Florida tailbacks to run for more than 100 yards each since Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey did it against Kentucky in 2011.
It was the second-most rushing yards Georgia has ever given up. The Bulldogs allowed 430 to Auburn on Nov. 13, 1978. It was the fifth-highest Florida rushing output since 1989.
The Gators entered the game eighth in the SEC in rushing offense at 169.5 while the Bulldogs led the league at 265.9. Playing without suspended starter Todd Gurley for the third straight game, freshman Nick Chubb had another productive day filling in. He had his third straight 100-yard game with 156 yards on 21 carries and scored another touchdown.
But Chubb also fumbled the ball twice, losing one at the end of a 35-yard run in the third quarter. It was the Bulldogs’ first lost fumble since the first quarter of the first game of the season.
Georgia had a chance to make a game of it with about six minutes remaining. It had goal-to-go on third down at the 1. But quarterback Hutson Mason fumbled a snap, and then his fourth-down pass for Michael Bennett was raked away at the last second by defensive back Marcus Maye.
The Gators’ offensive line took over the game from the midway point of the second quarter on. On their next possession after the fake field goal, Taylor — son of former Florida All-American Fred Taylor — busted a couple of tackle attempts and broke loose on a 44-yard run down the Bulldogs’ 15 yard line. Three plays later, Taylor plunged in from two yards out to give Florida a 14-7 lead with 5:06 to go.
Georgia would get the ball just one other time — it ran only nine offensive plays in the second quarter — but let the first-half clock run down facing a third-and-six at its own 22.
After rushing for 101 yards on 14 carries in the first quarter, Chubb had seven yards on three carries in the second.