Retaliation has never been this classy.
Last season, the Georgia Bulldogs brought the entire team out on the field at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in this contest, a move that shook the world, and had many Gators fans, such as myself, up in arms.
This year, Florida is the only team doing the dancing, following a 49-10 rout of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Penalties, Penalties and more Penalties
Yellow flags aplenty were expected to be thrown in this contest, as Georgia, the most penalized team in college football, faced Florida, who’s the 9th most penalized team in the nation.
And the officials didn’t disappoint, as both teams drew up a total of 16 flags in the game, 8 apiece. Half of Florida’s penalty flags came in the 1st quarter, and Georgia’s were spread out throughout the game.
I’d call Florida’s penalties statement penalties. The first quarter showcased a lot of chatter between players, and Florida certainly had a bitter taste in their mouth from last season.
If Florida’s penalties were statements, than Georgia’s were senseless. A lot of Georgia’s penalties kept drives alive for the Gators, one even gave the ball back to Florida following an interception which was negated. (Which would have been Tebow’s 3rd interception thrown on the year, so he doesn’t make many mistakes)
Officiating Was a Bit Questionable
Although I am a Florida fan, and am very pleased with this victory for the University of Florida football team, I must admit that the officiating in this game was a bit spotty at times, and ultimately had a big impact on how the game ended up.
If you watched the game, you knew Florida’s consistent pressure on Stafford was nagging, and caught up with the Georgia gunslinger. Stafford’s first injury, which caused him to limp off of his left leg somewhat considerably, appeared to have happened from a late hit from a Florida defensive lineman.
That call was missed.
The game-shifting call, though, probably occurred after halftime. The Bulldogs stopped Florida on their first drive, got the football back, and Stafford drove the Dawgs down to Florida’s 30 yard line, looking in control to begin Georgia’s first drive of the second half.
But Florida defensive back Joe Haden didn’t like that thought, as he intercepted Stafford, returning it all the way to the 1 yard line.
Replay evidence firmly shows that Joe Haden held the Georgia wide receiver before making the play, however, no call was made. This was certainly a game changer because if Georgia was to score, it would have been 14-10 Florida, and the momentum would have shifted right into Georgia’s hands.
The call that ended it all, though, was on a 44 yard touchdown pass from Tim Tebow to Louis Murphy. Georgia’s best corner back, Asher Allen, pleaded his case on the sideline after Murphy marched into the endzone, and with good cause, too.
Replay evidence also confirmed this time that Murphy had grabbed Allen’s jersey, throwing him out of position to possibly break up the pass, or maybe even intercept it. The touchdown made the score 28-3 Florida, and it was all downhill from there.
I do give the officials some credit, though, as the plays did seem to happen so fast that they couldn’t have been noticed at first glance. I didn’t see the facts mentioned above until they went to the replay screen and showed all the things Florida had “gotten away with”.
Florida DID Retaliate Part I
Urban Meyer might have told his team not to mention the dance from last season, not to respond to any questions about it, or not to take any anger out from last season against the Bulldogs… but at some point, Florida stopped listening.
There were certainly plenty of cases in which Florida retaliated, although they were small things that many ignored and overlooked.
However, I sat glued to the television, notebook in hand, jotting down all things suggestive done by my Gators to the opposition, and let me tell you, there were several things of relevant note to mention.
There was the play in which Matthew Stafford was knocked down on Georgia’s second drive, and, without looking, Stafford stuck his hand out to the first jersey he saw for some help off the ground.
The nearest jersey wasn’t red, it was an enemy all-white Florida Gator, #92, Terron Sanders. In the average game, Sanders probably would have helped Stafford up off the ground, but it was something in the grass of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, I’m sure, that possessed Sanders to act in the following way.
Instead of helping Stafford up, Sanders simply gave Stafford a high-five, and trotted right back over to the defensive huddle.
Another thing that was rather obvious to happen in this contest was the constant chatter between both teams, and during the first quarter, as I mentioned previously, it was rather obvious.
However, one player-player duel occurred throughout this game, all 60 minutes of it, in fact. Florida’s middle linebacker, Brandon Spikes, was constantly jawing with Georgia’s running back, Knowshon Moreno.
It started on Georgia’s first drive, where Spikes disrupted an early rushing attempt by Moreno. Spikes palmed both sides of Moreno’s helmet, and sat on Moreno for what probably seemed like an eternity for Knowshon, yelling something towards Knowshon that probably as sportsmanlike as it should’ve been.
Then, late in the 4th quarter, when the game was clearly over, Georgia kicked off to Florida running back Chris Rainey following their first touchdown of the game.
Chris caught the ball and proceeded to walk a couple yards. After Jacksonville Municipal Stadium’s Florida side, which, I must point, was still fully populated and lively, grew so quiet that you could hear a pen drop, Rainey faked a kneel down and took off for a big return.
While the return was negated, it was still an obvious hotdog play to the Georgia Bulldogs. In the words of CBS announcer Gary Danielson, in an array of words that summed up the return in the fullest, Danielson proclaimed “That was pretty cool”.
Indeed it was Gary, indeed it was.
Florida DID Retaliate Part II
As if the list of paybacks against the Georgia team wasn’t long enough, Florida decided not to stop there. Several different gestures and moves were noteworthy to myself, as the Gators decided to move on from bullying the Dawgs, and to get back at the Georgia fans.
Amidst the choreography of last year’s Georgia team, which had a lot of the bigger Georgia players dancing, it’s always been easier to give a few Florida Gator related dance moves, the primary one of course being the Gator chomp. The chomp was certainly on display today, and while it may not have been as flashy as the Georgia dance last year, it was still effective.
It all started on Florida’s first score, a pitch off of the speed option from Tim Tebow to wide receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin had nothing but grass in front of him, and he noticed it, obviously, as he strolled in from about 7 yards out, all the while giving the #1 gesture to the crowd.
As I mentioned above, the chomp was a well sought after taunt towards the crowd by Florida yesterday. You know the Gators are rubbing in a victory when the kicker, Caleb Sturgis, celebrates towards the Georgia side with a Gator chomp following a muffed kickoff.
The chomps didn’t stop there, oh no they didn’t. Offensive lineman Jason Watkins was seen giving the chomp following a Tim Tebow run for a touchdown.
Speaking of Tebow, towards the end of the game, he ran all the way down to the 10 yard line during a commercial break, just to give the Florida fans at the other side of the field a few words of appreciation, and a couple Gator chomps, too.
Florida also had some dance moves of their own, too, but on the sidelines.
The camera caught wide receiver Louis Murphy and Safety Ahmad Black breaking it down over on Florida’s sideline, and then caught a couple Gators defensive backs dancing to Florida’s band rendition of “Dragnet” following a Georgia penalty.
There was also a couple smaller gestures towards fans, too, such as Ahmad Black giving Bulldogs fans a crying gesture, and Cameron Newton, Gators backup quarterback, applauding Georgia after scoring their first, and only, touchdown of the game.
Urban Meyer’s Enthusiasm
If your a firm follower of the Florida Gators, or even a casual fan at that, chances are your aware that Florida head coach Urban Meyer seldom smiles.
Yesterday, however, the camera caught Urban cracking a couple smiles after a few of the gestures his boys made towards the Georgia players and crowd.
It become quite obvious that Urban Meyer was filled with pleasure after Rainey did his hotdogging on the kick return, and came back to the sideline without getting screamed at.
In Urban Meyer’s autobiography, he had this to say about the celebration last season: “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.”
It was a big deal.
Florida had the ball with the clock winding down, which would probably have been a time for the clock to wind down. However, after Emmanuel Moody picked up a first down, Meyer decided even the score in the slightest bit, as he called timeout.
Moody then proceeded to pick up 9 more yards, Florida called another timeout.
While it wasn’t the biggest way to pay the Bulldogs back, it was certainly one of the few ways that the Gators bit back at the Bulldogs for last season’s celebration. Without a doubt it was in the back of Urban’s mind, as well as the rest of the Florida players’ minds.
Well worthy of the smack on the behind in the 4th quarter by backup quarterback Cameron Newton, Urban Meyer greeted this game with an enthusiasm we as Florida fans have yet to have seen. He got the team fired up, and that’s without question, and gave Georgia the best payback he could give them, legally, of course.
Georgia’s Miscues and Bad Playcall
With Florida’s special teams being the X-Factor of this victory (Georgia’s kicker missed 2 field goals, Georgia wasn’t able to get anywhere in the first few kick and punt returns) Mark Richt felt that an onside kick in the 2nd quarter was necessary.
The onside kick, which gave the Gators great field position as they scored their second points of the game, wasn’t a bad call, it was just played well by the Gators. With the advantage on special teams clearly going to Florida, Richt had to mix it up somehow, and this was his way to do just that in a sense.
An apology to the defense was issued by Richt, and a thank you was issued by many Gators fans and players alike to Mark Richt for the excellent field position. Christmas came early for the Gators on this play!
Matthew Stafford, who was constantly referred to as the “Best Pocket Quarterback in College Football” throughout this game, didn’t look like it at times. Stafford threw 3 interceptions, was under constant pressure from the defensive line, and was also the probable cause of the fumble when the score was 28-3.
The constant pressure and blitzing from Florida, which made me reminiscent of Georgia’s pressure on Tebow last season, had Stafford go down twice, and had him receiving hits on every part of his body, as he was often forced out of the pocket.
Tim Tebow’s Heisman Re-Establishment?
Tim Tebow had a big game when it mattered most. The Florida quarterback accounted for 5 scores, 3 on the ground and 2 through the air, against an exceptionally strong Georgia defense.
Tebow surpassed former Florida leader Emmitt Smith in career rushing touchdowns, and now has 22 total touchdowns on the season, 14 through the air and 8 on the ground. But is the reigning Heisman winner back in the Heisman discussion after a slow start to the 2008 campaign?
I don’t think the numbers are Heisman-esq, but there’s one thing for sure, and that’s the fact that Tebow is fully playing the role of the position he plays, that being quarterback. He’s distributing the ball to the wide receivers, tight ends, running backs and full backs, and is putting Florida in position to win each game.
That, in my opinion, holds a bigger bearing than winning the Heisman. He’s giving it his all to win a National Championship.
Following his exit in this contest to a wonderful standing ovation from Florida, and from some of the Georgia fans still in attendance, Tebow was seen hugging and discussing his performance with several coaches, Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong (Offensive and Defensive Coordinator respectively) were seen on camera.
As Gary Danielson put it “Tebow has no one left to hug. He’s coming up to hug you, Verne”.
Tebow certainly put up a performance worthy of hugging Verne Lundquist.