Three Takeaways from Georgia’s Win Over Florida at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

Georgia sits alone in first place in the SEC East standings after a 24-17 win over No. 6 Florida in Jacksonville, giving the Bulldogs another resume-building win and setting them up to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff if they win the rest of their regular season games.

Here are three takeaways from the game.

 

A massive difference on third down

It may be too simplistic to boil this game down to how each team’s offense performed on third down but it may not be that far off-base, either. Georgia was 12-of-18 on third down and Florida was 2-of-9.

Georgia’s offensive line kept quarterback Jake Fromm upright all day as Florida’s vaunted defensive line failed to sack him even once and the Bulldogs’ offensive possessions lasted 16, eight, 10, seven, nine, seven, seven and six plays, respectively, which means that their shortest drive in terms of number of plays run was their last possession when they were simply trying to run out the clock.

Georgia converted on 3rd & 6 (twice), 3rd & 7, 3rd & 8, 3rd & 11 and 3rd & 14 so half of its third down conversions came in 3rd & long situations.

To add some recent historical context to Georgia’s third down success, per The Athletic’s Jason Starrett, Georgia’s 12 third down conversions were the Bulldogs’ most against a ranked team since the 2014 Belk Bowl against Louisville. The defensive coordinator in both of those games was Todd Grantham. Yikes.

You know it’s bad when the phrase “3rd and Grantham” exists and it’s even worse when a national broadcast crew references it during a game, like the CBS crew did on Saturday.

 

Georgia’s acting chops

If you’re a Florida fan, you’re going to be talking about this Lawrence Cager catch (or “catch”) for a long time. On 3rd & 6 from Florida’s 22-yard line, Jake Fromm found Cager for a 12-yard gain and a first down.

Florida defensive back CJ Henderson sniffed out the potential back-shoulder throw but Fromm threw to the inside and Cager caught the ball, or at least played it off like he caught the ball.

The play was reviewed and the call was upheld, setting up 1st & Goal for Georgia at the Florida 10-yard line. Georgia scored a touchdown three plays later, giving the ‘Dawgs a 10-3 lead.

“Welcome to the world of college football,” CBS analyst Gary Danielson said after the review confirmed the call on the field.

If the play had been ruled an incompletion, Georgia would’ve settled for a 39-yard field goal – one that Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship likely would’ve made, and Georgia’s lead would’ve been 6-3.

Georgia didn’t win the game because of a controversial catch ruling and Florida didn’t lose the game because of it, but Cager’s effort – whether he technically caught the ball or not – was tremendous and it was rewarded.

On a lighter and less controversial note, Georgia tackle Isaiah Wilson, who’s listed a 6-7, 340 pounds – which is very important to establish the context here – flopped when Florida’s Jabari Zuniga jumped offsides. Not only was Wilson not touched but just think about the kind of force it would take to physically knock over a human being of that size like that.

Lawrence Cager’s impactful return

Cager had been dealing with a separated shoulder and he didn’t play in Georgia’s game against Kentucky but he returned to the field Saturday. The Bulldogs may not have won the game without him.

Cager finished with seven receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown, meaning he was on the receiving end of more than a third of Fromm’s completions and almost half of his passing yards.

We’ve already touched on the impact of Cager’s crucial third down catch in the first half and his 52-yard touchdown reception broke the game open.

Fromm faked the hand-off to running back Brian Herrien on the play-action pass and Cager took advantage of Florida’s blown coverage as he was streaking wide open down the sideline. It was a really smart play design as Cager lined up on the right side of the formation, started by running a shallow crossing route from right to left, then turned upfield and leaked behind Florida’s defense.

Somewhat similar to Georgia’s first touchdown pass, the Bulldogs utilized a wide receiver who was lined up on the left of the formation to draw the defenders out of the area, then they threw in the vacated part of the field.

Herrien was Georgia’s second-leading receiver with four catches for 46 yards – a massive drop-off from Cager’s production – and it shows the value of the grad transfer wide receiver for a team that had to replace its leading receivers from last season.

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