Second-quarter outburst sends Florida on its way in win over Georgia

On No. 8 Florida’s first drive of the second quarter at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon, quarterback Kyle Trask threw an interception that Georgia defensive back Eric Stokes returned for a touchdown.

That maybe was Trask’s only big mistake of the second quarter — or the game.

Things quickly turned ugly for No. 5 Georgia, which entered the game with the SEC’s best defense. In the second quarter alone, the Gators scored 24 points, outgained the Bulldogs 253-25 and had the ball for almost 11 minutes.

It didn’t take Trask long to rebound from the pick-six. On the first play of Florida’s next possession, running back Nay’Quan Wright broke a wheel route loose for 50 yards. One play later, tight end Kyle Pitts made a highlight-reel catch to tie the score at 21-21. By the end of the second quarter, the Gators led 38-21 on their way to a 44-28 win.

“If somebody beats you man-to-man and you’ve got him covered and you can’t get the ball out, that’s gonna happen with the way we play defense,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “But when you let people score with nobody around, nobody there, it’s not good. We had too many of those today where they didn’t beat us, we gave it to them from our defense.”

The Bulldogs' defense was banged up coming into the game, particularly in the secondary, which showed as Trask finished with 474 passing yards. Among other injuries on defense, safety Richard LeCounte was out because of a motorcycle accident after last weekend’s game against Kentucky. Safety Lewis Cine missed the Kentucky game with an ankle injury but returned against Florida, only to appear to suffer another injury midway through the second quarter after a helmet-to-helmet hit.

While attempting to tackle Pitts after a reception, Cine and Pitts collided violently. Both clearly were shaken up, and Cine was ejected for targeting. It’s no longer required for players who are ejected to leave the sideline, but Cine headed to the locker room shortly after, which implies he wouldn’t have returned to the game regardless of the ejection. Pitts also did not return.

“It hurt us when Lewis went out,” Smart said. “Lewis is a really good player. He’s a good eraser, but the guys that come in have to step up and play. Just made too many silly mistakes on defense. You can’t give people those kinds of points.”

Two plays later, Trask found tight end Kemore Gamble on another wheel route, this time for a 24-yard touchdown. After trailing 14-0 just over five minutes into the game, the Gators led 28-21.

“What I can’t live with is leaving a guy wide-open on a wheel route,” Smart said. “... Those were the breakdowns that we had.”

A 50-yard field goal stretched the lead to 10, and Trask executed his fifth touchdown drive of the game with just 39 seconds left in the half. It took the Gators only four plays and 28 seconds to score and head to the half with a 17-point lead.

While Georgia’s defense tightened up and allowed the Gators just six points in the second half, the deficit created by Florida’s 24-point second quarter simply proved too big to overcome.

“Florida out-executed us,” Smart said. “They did a really good job. I’m not making it about injures. I’m not making it about anything. I’m making it about, they beat us and we’ve gotta get better.”