Associated Press Photo
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Sports Network) - In the latest installment of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, the Florida Gators experienced a hangover.
Todd Gurley put up 118 yards and a touchdown on the nation's 10th-ranked rushing defense, while Georgia's unit dominated from start to finish as the No. 12 Bulldogs upended the No. 3 Gators by a 17-9 score at EverBank Field to take over control of the SEC East race.
Led by three sacks and two forced fumbles by standout linebacker Jarvis Jones, a Georgia defense that allowed 436 rushing yards in its last two games -- a lopsided loss at South Carolina and a narrow win over Kentucky -- racked up six turnovers and stifled Florida's potent ground game to hand the Gators their first loss of the season.
The victory in turn placed Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC) in the driver's seat for a berth in the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs need only to win their two remaining conference matchups, a home date against Ole Miss next week and a trip to Auburn the following Saturday, to capture the division.
Florida (7-1, 6-1), which entered averaging 212.7 rushing yards per game, mustered just 81 yards on the ground, while quarterback John Driskel threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles in a 14-of-26, 185-yard performance.
"I had a great game, but it's about what we did as a defense," said Jones. "All of us did what we came here to do. We beat the No. 2 team in the nation [in the BCS standings] and it's a great feeling."
The six giveaways were two more than the Gators had during their entire seven- game win streak to begin the season.
"That's the end of the game in my opinion - six turnovers," said Florida head coach Will Muschamp, a Georgia graduate and former safety for the Bulldogs.
Georgia's Aaron Murray threw three first-half interceptions of his own while completing only 12-of-24 attempts for 150 yards, but came through with a 45- yard touchdown to Malcolm Mitchell that gave the Bulldogs a 17-9 lead with 7:11 left.
While Gurley, who tallied a yeomanlike 27 carries, became the first to eclipse the 100-yard mark on a Florida defense that also owned a No. 7 overall ranking in total yards allowed, it was Georgia's members on that side of the ball that set the tone in an error-marred first half.
The Bulldogs imposed their will right from the start, as Driskel fumbled on a corner blitz by Damian Swann and Jones recovered for on the Gators' 20-yard line. Following a completion from Murray to Alexander Ogletree, Gurley plowed through off left tackle and into the end zone from 10 yards out to give the Bulldogs a quick 7-0 advantage less than three minutes in.
Georgia had a golden chance to pad the lead on its third drive, as four Gurley runs totaling 43 yards moved the Bulldogs to the Florida 9 after Driskel again fumbled after being sacked by Jones. However, Murray threw behind Rantavious Wooten on a crossing route and Josh Evans picked off the deflected pass to end the threat.
The Florida offense responded with its first sustained effort of the day, a 15-play, 70-yard march highlighted by a 29-yard screen to Mike Gillislee that put the ball inside the Georgia 20. But the series would stall thereafter and the Gators settled for a Caleb Sturgis 38-yard field goal near the midway mark of the second quarter.
Murray would be intercepted again on the ensuing drive, with Matt Elam returning the miscue 31 yards to the Bulldogs' 11. The Georgia defense held once more, however, forcing Sturgis to convert from 22 yards away to bring Florida within 7-6 late in the first half.
The Gators then caused a swift three-and-out to obtain possession near midfield, and an 18-yard catch by Quinton Dunbar and a defensive pass interference penalty on Branden Smith later brought them to the enemy 5-yard line in the waning seconds of the half.
With five seconds remaining, Driskel rolled right and threw across his body into traffic, where the Bulldogs' Bacarri Rambo snared the ill-advised pass to preserve the one-point lead at intermission.
"Right before the half, getting the pick in the red zone was huge," Georgia head coach Mark Richt stated. "It killed their momentum they had created."
The mistakes continued for Florida after the break. Driskel was hit by Cornelius Washington and got off a wobbly pass that was intercepted by Swann and returned deep into opposing territory on the Gators' initial drive of the third quarter, and a bad exchange between Wildcat quarterback Trey Burton and Omarius Hines resulted in a fumble that Jones pounced on at the Florida 26.
Georgia could only come away with three points off the two turnovers, however. Marshall Morgan hit a 29-yard field goal to extend the margin to 10-6 with 8:34 to go in the third quarter, but misfired on a 37-yard try following Jones' recovery.
The Gators' defense continued to keep it close, and a 20-yard scamper by Driskel put Florida into scoring position early in the fourth quarter. Another Jones sack would back the offense up, but Sturgis knocked home a 50-yard attempt to trim the deficit to a point with 9:41 to go.
Florida nearly had a 3-and-out on the subsequent possession, but a Murray incompletion on third down was negated by a holding call on Gators' lineman Dominique Easley.
Taking advantage of the penalty, Murray finally caught fire, completing four of his next five passes for 80 yards. The last one, a short out to Mitchell, wound up being a critical 45-yard touchdown after the Georgia receiver broke free from a defender and raced down the near sideline with just over seven minutes left.
The Gators would not go down easily, though. A 15-yard connection from Driskel to Jordan Reed followed by two Gillislee runs accounting for 20 yards brought Florida inside the Georgia 30.
Three plays later, Driskel found Reed for a 13-yard gain, but Jones and the Bulldogs still had one big play left in them.
Jones' 13th tackle of the game jarred the ball loose from Reed as he was nearing the end zone, with Sanders Commings falling on the fumble in the end zone to squash Florida's final scoring chance.
Georgia took over with 2:05 left, and a 23-yard burst from Gurley enabled the Bulldogs to run out the clock.