JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Raise a glass to Florida’s defense. Maybe even the whole bottle.
The 14th-ranked Gators used a dominant defensive effort — maybe their best of the season — to dismantle Georgia 24-10 on Saturday.
The unit stuffed Nick Chubb, holding him to 20 yards on nine carries, and rattled freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. The Bulldogs finished with a season-low 164 yards — about 239 below their average.
“Defensively, what do you say?” Florida coach Jim McElwain asked.
Playing just their second game in four weeks, the Gators won their third straight in the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” It was Florida’s 21st victory against the Bulldogs in the last 27 years.
McElwain toasted his defense after the latest one.
“We wanted to try to make them as one-dimensional as possible, and the dimension we wanted was to try to make them throw the ball,” he said. “Our gap control in the run game was pretty spot on.”
The Gators (6-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) forced seven three-and-outs and stopped two fourth-down plays on Georgia’s final two drives.
The biggest mismatch was up front, where Florida’s defense controlled the line of scrimmage. That’s nothing new for Georgia (4-4, 2-4), whose O-line has been a target for criticism all season.
The Bulldogs lost for the fourth time in their last five games, and first-year coach Kirby Smart fell to 1-6 in the series as a player and coach.
McElwain improved to 2-0, including a win against his former colleague and close friend . Smart and McElwain worked at Alabama (2008-11) together, and the Tide went 48-6 and claimed two national championships with them as coordinators.
Florida did nothing spectacular offensively, managing 231 yards on a warm, sun-soaked afternoon.
“People pick this team apart quite a bit and this and that,” McElwain said. “Guys, this is a good football team. The Florida Gators are a good team, all right? I’ll go with these guys against anybody and we’ll figure out a way to get it done, and that’s the way they are in that locker room.”
The Gators scored three touchdowns thanks partly to solid field position — Smart called his punt unit “a thrill a minute” — and that proved to be plenty for the defense.
“It’s just frustrating,” Chubb said. “We couldn’t really get things going. I felt like it was always three-and-out and we weren’t getting in a rhythm or anything, so it feels pretty bad.”
FLORIDA: Remains atop the SEC’s Eastern Division, but the road to Atlanta stiffens with games remaining against Arkansas, South Carolina and LSU. Win them all, and the Gators will return to the league title game.
GEORGIA: Continues to be a work in progress in Smart’s first season. The Bulldogs played well defensively for the second straight week but had nothing to show for it.
The Gators, who moved up one spot in the Top 25 despite not playing last week, could inch closer to the top 10 . The Gators haven’t been ranked in the top 10 since losing to in-state rival Florida State last November.
Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was in the stadium — and celebrating a win — for the second time in less than a week. Del Rio, who spent nine years as Jacksonville’s head coach before getting fired in 2011, was on hand to watch his son, Luke, play . Del Rio’s Raiders beat the Jaguars 33-16 last Sunday. Oakland spent the week in Florida and plays at Tampa Bay on Sunday. Del Rio attended the game with his wife and two of his three daughters.
WELCOME BACK, HBC
Retired coach Steve Spurrier attended his first Florida-Georgia game in 15 years. The Head Ball Coach, who won the 1966 Heisman Trophy while playing for the Gators and later spent 12 years coaching his alma mater, watched the game from retiring athletic director Jeremy Foley’s suite. New AD Steve Stricklin was there, too. It was Spurrier’s first time at the stadium since his final season at Florida in 2001. Spurrier, who stepped down as South Carolina’s coach in 2015, is now serving as an ambassador to his alma mater.
FLORIDA: Plays at Arkansas for the first time since 2008. The Gators are 9-1 against the Razorbacks, including nine consecutive wins since Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992.
GEORGIA: Plays at Kentucky. The Bulldogs have won six in a row and 17 of 19 in the series.
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