JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With its head coach sitting on the hottest seat in college football, and with an offense that has been smell-bad awful for the better part of two years, the Florida Gators summoned a level of determination nobody expected Saturday in stunning 10th-ranked Georgia 38-20 at EverBank Field.
Was it enough to save coach Will Muschamp's job? That remains to be seen, but there is little question a loss would have sealed his ouster. Was it enough to keep Georgia out of the SEC Championship Game? That's uncertain as well, but for the second year in a row, Missouri now holds late-season control of the division.
What's absolutely certain is that the Gators dominated Georgia's defensive front with a power rushing attack that kept Florida in the game early and broke it open late. Kelvin Taylor, the son of former Jacksonville Jaguars star Fred Taylor, ran for 197 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. Matt Jones had a nearly identical day, rushing for 192 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns as the Florida rushing attack found its stride for the first time all year.
Florida freshman quarterback Treon Harris attempted only six passes on the day as the Gators rolled up 418 rushing yards, the highest total of the Muschamp era. And it became readily apparent early in the second half that Georgia wasn't up to the task of putting Florida in many obvious third-down passing situations.
Just what the Gators needed.
Florida DE Dante Fowler
Without a doubt, Fowler was the most impressive among the legitimate NFL prospects in this game. The 6-3, 260-pound junior defensive end was not only disruptive in the backfield but also looked good in occasional pass coverage assignments in the flat, usually on Georgia's freshman running back phenom, Nick Chubb. The Gators' most talented pass rusher will draw his share of scouting questions, in particular about his run-stopping mettle, but he is strong for his size and not unwilling to take on run blocks aggressively.
Meanwhile, his explosive first step was on full display Saturday against the Bulldogs. Fowler didn't play the entire game, instead taking a couple of series off as early as the first quarter, but if the goal was to keep him fresh, it was achieved, because he looked especially sharp late in the game. Georgia tight end Jeb Blazevich had a few one-on-one blocking assignments on Fowler that Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo would probably like to have back, one resulting in a tackle for loss and another in a six-yard sack of Hutson Mason. Fowler also dropped Chubb for a loss of four late in the game as Florida's defense began to stiffen.
Fowler finished with a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss among six stops, with a quarterback hurry.
Georgia DE Leonard Floyd
If it was a day to remember for Fowler, it was one to forget for Floyd. The Bulldogs' edge rusher had a woeful day as Florida rolled up its highest rushing total of the Muschamp era. It wasn't exactly a game that set up well for an edge rusher -- Florida ran the ball all day, and when it passed, the pocket was almost always moving with a rollout of some kind. But if Floyd, a speedy junior, is to improve his draft stock, he'll have to show more than he did Saturday as a run stopper. That's a little tougher from the stand-up stance Floyd uses (Fowler rushes from a three-point stance).
Nevertheless, Floyd was driven off the line of scrimmage often by Florida tackle D.J. Humphries. Even guard Trip Thurman, on kick-out blocks, and tight end Tevin Westbrook got the better of Floyd at times.
On the positive side, he did force a jet sweep out of bounds for a loss, and made his best play of the day on a third-down run for no gain, beating Humphries on a play run directly at Floyd. For the most part, however, this was a game Floyd won't want scouts to dig up. Floyd finished with nine tackles, but eight of those were assists and several were on runs that had already picked up solid yardage.
Florida DB Vernon Hargreaves
Just as it wasn't a game well-suited for Floyd, it wasn't well-suited for Hargreaves, either. Georgia stuck to its running game for most of three quarters, leaving Florida's star sophomore cornerback to deliver run support rather than do what he does best: man coverage.
Hargreaves missed an early tackle on Nick Chubb but played fairly well overall against the run. He stumbled in coverage to give up a square-in pass to Reggie Davis for an early first down. When Georgia began throwing more late in the game, quarterback Hutson Mason wasn't afraid to go to Hargreaves' man. He gave up a first-down catch to Malcolm Mitchell on the right sideline and, a play later, bit on a pump fake that allowed Jeb Blazevich to get open for a 34-yard reception. Near the end of the drive, however, he showed excellent instincts on a pass breakup in the Florida end zone on a short throw intended for Mitchell.
Hargreaves had eight stops and two pass breakups on the day.
Georgia LB Ramik Wilson
Georgia's second-leading tackler, now with 60 stops on the year, was arguably as disappointing as Floyd on a day the Gators rolled up 418 rushing yards. Unlike Floyd, who played the entire game, Wilson was off the field for a few series. But when he was on the field, he was catching blocks and reacting too slowly to the development of the play.
Wilson, a senior, finished the game with five stops, three of them assists, and didn't command the middle of the field like the Bulldogs needed him to.
Bryan Cox Jr., son of the former Dolphins and Jets star who is now an assistant coach with the Atlanta Falcons, picked up a sack of Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason for a loss of 10 yards. ... Georgia RB Nick Chubb netted 156 rushing yards, but lost a key fumble in the second half that gave Florida the momentum for the remainder of the game. ... Florida LB Antonio Morrison made a game-high 15 tackles, though 13 of them were assisted.