I was at the Florida-Georgia game last year, sitting there in my Gator attire smack in the middle of the Georgia section. I weathered four quarters of abuse, thinking that FL would come back and win in the end. They didn’t, but thankfully this year’s game was never in doubt–and from my couch I enjoyed every minute of it.
From the Orlando Sentinel and Mik Bianchi:
Once again, there was an excessive celebration.
Actually, there was an obsessive, expressive and impressive celebration.
Except this time it was after the game, and it was the No. 5-ranked Florida Gators who romped, stomped and chomped their way around the field after a message-sending, statement-making 49-10 victory over the eighth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.
Welcome to the World’s Largest Outdoor Payback Party.
The last time we saw dog abuse like this, the Feds were issuing a warrant for Michael Vick‘s arrest.
“Before the game, our coach reminded us they did something last year we didn’t really like; that they disrespected us,” Florida quarterbackTim Tebow said after accounting for five touchdowns and taking a jubilant victory lap around the stadium. “It doesn’t get any sweeter than this.”
UF Coach Urban Meyer and his players refused to address the incident last year in which Georgia Coach Mark Richt ordered his players to intentionally get an excessive celebration penalty after Georgia scored its first touchdown in a 42-30 victory over the Gators.
They didn’t address the controversy in the media all week, but they certainly addressed it on the field Saturday. Meyer wrote in his recently released autobiography that Georgia’s celebration “wasn’t right. It was a bad deal. It will forever be in the mind of Urban Meyer and in the mind of our football team. We’ll handle it and it’s going to be a big deal.”
After the Gators dealt Richt the worst loss of his career and handed the Dawgs their second-worst loss in the history of this storied rivalry, consider it handled. And — oh my — was it a big deal.
So big, in fact, that Meyer stopped the clock with two rub-it-in timeouts with less than a minute left on the clock. The message to the beaten and battered Bulldogs was clear: “You’ll leave when we tell you to leave!”
Florida fans roared their approval. Georgia fans, the few that were still left in the stadium, just sat in stunned silence. Meyer attempted to explain away the timeouts by claiming he was trying to give reserve running back Emmanuel Moody a couple of carries. Nobody bought his story. When asked again if the timeouts were meant to send a message, he responded with a one-word answer: “No.”
But then he paused for a few seconds and broke out in a huge smile.
He didn’t need to say anything else. His offense, defense and special teams provided the unspoken response to last year’s Georgia end-zone party.
“It’s the only way to answer,” Meyer said. “The only way.”
Unlike Georgia last year, Florida’s players didn’t show much emotion during this game. Their victory was cold-blooded, calculating and ruthless. They dismantled one of the top teams in the country with all the stony-eyed sentiment of an assassin squeezing the trigger.
“This was strictly business,” Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes said.
“They had last year thrown in their face by a lot of people,” Meyer said.
Like UF’s own strength and conditioning coaches. They hung pictures of Georgia’s end-zone celebration in UF’s locker room. They had UF’s players do 188 crunches, pull-ups and sit-ups every day as a reminder of the 188 yards Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno shredded them for last year.
This time Moreno ran for only 65 yards and quarterback Matthew Stafford was picked off three times. Florida’s defense made the stumbling, bumbling Dawgs look like helpless puppies playing on linoleum.
The Gators, it seemed, figured out the perfect way to keep Georgia from celebrating in the end zone. They kept them out of it until the Dawgs scored a meaningless touchdown with 3:09 left in the game.
For Florida to record a lopsided victory like this in the most monumental game in the history of the series is cathartic for UF fans and followers everywhere. Especially coming on the 40-year anniversary of Georgia’s rainy-day, rub-it-in 51-0 victory in 1968.
Never has a game between these two teams been so big and meant so much. Never have both teams come into the game with such serious national title hopes. The Gators can now clinch the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division next week against Vanderbilt and they are certainly in the conversation for the national championship.
In fact, a case could be made that Florida is the hottest team in the country right now. Since the shocking loss to Ole Miss, the Gators have won their last four SEC games by a score of 201-43. They aren’t just beating teams; they are annihilating them.
Just ask the Dawgs, who trudged hopelessly off the field as the Gators celebrated.
“The best way to celebrate, ” Tebow said with a grin splashed across his face, is after the game.”