JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Carson Beck threw two touchdown passes in his hometown, Daijun Edwards ran for two scores and No. 1 Georgia dominated Florida 43-20 Saturday to extend its winning streak to 25.
The two-time defending national champion Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) have now won three in a row and six of seven in the rivalry known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
Georgia could have cracked open celebratory drinks at halftime. Coach Kirby Smart’s team scored on its first four possessions and stuffed the Gators (5-3, 3-2) early and often.
The Bulldogs sniffed out two trick plays, including a fourth-and-inches pass at the Florida 34-yard line that proved to be the turning point. Florida faked a quarterback sneak and snapped the ball through Graham Mertz’s legs to running back Trevor Etienne.
Etienne was trying to throw but got tackled for a 3-yard loss. The play highlighted a mismatch at the line of scrimmage, one Florida clearly saw coming because coach Billy Napier didn’t feel comfortable trying to run when his team needed to gain a foot or two.
Edwards scored three plays later for a 17-7 lead. Mertz fumbled on the ensuing possession, and Georgia turned that into another touchdown by Edwards.
The outcome was decided at that point, hardly uncommon in this series. Six of the last seven meetings have been decided by 16 or more points.
Georgia’s three-game streak over Florida has been by a combined score of 119-47, an indication of how significant the gap is between the two Eastern Division foes.
Beck, a Jacksonville native who led Mandarin High School to its first state title in 2018, completed 19 of 28 passes for 315 yards. He was not sacked and rarely pressured.
Edwards ran for 95 yards and now has four TDs in the last two games in the series. Ladd McConkey had six receptions for 135 yards and a score, helping fill the void left by injured star Brock Bowers (ankle).
Florida’s Mertz ran for a touchdown late and threw for 230 yards and two scores, including a 25-yarder to Tre Wilson on the opening drive. It was the first time the Gators have scored first in the series since 2015. But they managed just a yard on their next 18 plays, which included two turnovers and four sacks.
Georgia should extend its No. 1 streak to 20 consecutive weeks in the next AP College Football Poll, which will be released Sunday. The 20-week streak would rank third in poll history, one behind Miami (2001-02).
Georgia: The Bulldogs looked ready to quiet any doubters. Plenty of pundits had them on upset alert considering they had looked vulnerable at times this season and now were without Bowers. But they dominated the Gators for the third consecutive season.
Florida: Napier’s team showed signs of progress while beating Vanderbilt and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks. But it came against two of the worst teams in the East. This was a reality check for the Gators and for Napier’s rebuild, which is still a years-long project.
Jacksonville’s re-sodded field was the subject of some criticism, mostly because the seams were noticeable from the field and on television. But league and stadium officials insisted the edges of the sod rolls simply burned in transit and were not an issue.
“While the sod faced a week of warm Florida weather and was dry upon arrival, the field was tested and passed prior to the game and there is no safety issue for players,” the city said in a statement.
The spotlight on the field intensified when Florida linebacker Shemar James appeared to tweak his left knee during pregame warmups. He ended up putting on a brace and playing before leaving in the fourth.
Georgia: Hosts No. 16 Missouri next Saturday, the start of a three-game stretch against ranked teams.
Florida: Hosts Arkansas next Saturday, a chance for the Gators to become bowl eligible for the second time in as many seasons under Napier.
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