JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators (6-1, 4-1 SEC) defeated the Georgia Bulldogs (4-4, 2-4 SEC) 24-10 on Saturday. The Gators got off to a rough start, but their defense and special teams gave the offense good field position to score some points.

There was not a lot of offense in this game, as the two teams combined for only 395 yards. The Gators had 231 yards and the Bulldogs were limited to 164 yards.

The Gators average drive began at their own 41 yard line, while the Bulldogs average drive started at their own 29 yard line. That number is misleading, as Georgia started at the Gators 25 yard line on their its possession following an interception. 

The Gators are third in the nation allowing only 13.7 first downs per game. They tied their season low by holding Georgia to only 8 first downs the entire game. It was the fewest number of first downs for the Bulldogs offense in this millennium.

The Gators were missing running backs Mark Thompson and Jordan Cronkrite, so this was the first game Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine were getting almost all the carries. Scarlett and Perine both had carries on Florida’s first drive for three yards a piece. Fortunately for the Gators, on Perine’s run, Georgia safety Dominick Sanders had a facemask penalty. Sanders had a shaky game, but he got the best of Luke Del Rio on his first pass attempt.

Luke Del Rio rolled right and threw across his body to the middle of the field where Sanders jumped in front of receiver Antonio Callaway and took the ball 31 yards to the Florida 25 yard line. It was Sanders second interception of the year and the 11th of the juniors career. He is five interceptions away from tying Jake Scott and Bacarri Rambo’s school record.

Del Rio finished the game 15 of 25 with 131 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He did not win the game for the Gators, but he managed the game and let the defense and run game carry the load. While this style should help the Gators win some games and the SEC East, he may eventually be called upon to do more.

Following the interception return to the Florida 25 yard line, the Bulldogs managed to move the ball to the two yard line before a false start, and had to settle for a field goal.

Both teams then traded punts and Florida receiver-kick returner, Antonio Callaway fumbled yet another punt this year. Luckily, Gators cornerback Quincy Wilson recovered the fumble and Florida maintained possession of the football.

On the Gators third drive, tight end C’yontai Lewis showed his future potential, with an incredible catch on the sideline for 17 yards. Two plays later on third and six, he caught a pass from Del Rio and should have been stopped before the first down marker, that would have made the Gators settle for a field goal. However, he broke a tackle and took it 19 yards for a touchdown.

The next drive was the only one where Jacob Eason was able to complete passes against the Florida defense. He marched down the field in six plays and capped off a 75 yard drive with a touchdown pass to receiver Riley Ridley. 

Jordan Scarlett scored a touchdown late in the first half to put the Gators up 14-10. It was his sixth consecutive game with a touchdown. Scarlett finished the game with 26 carries for 93 yards. He shared the backfield with, Lamical Perine, who had 15 carries for only 33 yards.

The second half was all Gators. The Bulldogs had six drives in the second half, resulting in only one first down and a combined 47 yards. They held Nick Chubb to five yards on two carries in the second half, and a meager 20 rushing yards on nine carries for the game.

The Gators offense scored 10 points in the second half, and should have had three more points but for a missed 33 yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro. He did make a 38 yard field goal with four minutes left in the game to go up 14 points. Pineiro is 10 of 14 on the year on field goals in his first season at UF, but he has missed kicks from inside 33 yards in each of the last two games.

Antonio Callaway added a rushing touchdown in the second half. It was his first rushing attempt of the season. He became the first University of Florida player to score a rushing, receiving, passing, punt return and kick return touchdown in a career.

The Gators are now the favorite to win the SEC East after the Tennessee Volunteers (5-3, 2-3) lost to the South Carolina Gamecocks (4-4, 2-4) 24-21.

The Gators could lose one more SEC game and still win their division. They have three remaining SEC games: at Arkansas on 11/5, home against South Carolina on 11/12 and at LSU on 11/19 in a rescheduled game. The current number 11 College Football Playoff ranked Gators finish off their season against their in-state rival, the Florida State Seminoles on 11/26 in Tallahassee.

With linebacker Jarrad Davis, defensive tackle Joey Ivie IV and defensive ends Jordan Sherit and Bryan Cox Jr. one week healthier, the Gators defense should wreak havoc against the Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC) offensive line this coming weekend.

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