No. 1 Georgia, defense dominate Florida in Cocktail Party

Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Raise a glass to Georgia’s defense. Or three, actually – one for each second-quarter turnover that turned the rivalry known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” into another lopsided affair.

The top-ranked Bulldogs and the nation’s No. 1 defense dominated Florida, scoring three touchdowns off miscues in a 12-play sequence that carried them to a 34-7 victory Saturday, their fourth in five years in the neutral-site game.

Georgia (8-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) later clinched the league’s Eastern Division thanks to Kentucky’s loss at Mississippi State.

Coach Kirby Smart‘s team won its 12th straight since getting steamrolled in Jacksonville a year ago. The Bulldogs’ injury-riddled defense allowed 571 yards in that one, the most in Smart’s six seasons.

Georgia vowed to not let it happen again and responded with another demoralizing effort that might be their most impressive all season.

“It was real personal,” linebacker Nolan Smith said.

Florida (4-4, 2-4) managed no points, 11 first downs and 214 yards through three quarters and looked like its decades-old, NCAA-record scoring streak might be in jeopardy down the stretch. But the Gators finally got on the scoreboard with 2:49 remaining, extending the streak to 418 games. They have scored in every outing since getting shut out by Auburn in 1988.

Emory Jones‘ late touchdown run, though, did little to negate Georgia’s mastery for three-plus hours on a cool, sundrenched afternoon. All the empty seats on Florida’s side of TIAA Bank Field told the real story.

This one was over by halftime.

And Georgia’s defense deserved a toast for making it happen.

“It was a whole bunch of momentum,” Smart said. “You get momentum like that, it can be an over-swell.”

Smith started the onslaught by ripping the ball out of Anthony Richardson‘s arms at the end of an 8-yard run. James Cook sliced his way through Florida’s defense for a 10-yard touchdown run on the ensuing play.

Richardson was making his first career start, getting the nod over turnover-prone Jones. But he wasn’t the difference Florida fans expected.

“The talent’s there,” Gators coach Dan Mullen said. “We’ve just got to get him coached up on the intangibles.”

Two plays later, Travon Walker tipped Richardson’s pass over the middle and Smith intercepted it. Stetson Bennett, who started his fourth consecutive game in place of JT Daniels, found Kearis Jackson for a 36-yard score on first down.

Trailing 17-0, Richardson had Florida on the move before throwing a pass that Nakobe Dean picked off and returned 50 yards for a touchdown.

“It was just momentum swings,” Smith said. “Anybody could have done it.”

Getting turnovers was the Georgia’s lone weakness all season. Smart said an assistant coach ran down the statistics in the locker room and showed the unit it was in the top three in every category expect turnovers; the Dawgs were 68th.

“That offends our guys,” Smart said. “I can’t say that’s why we got turnovers. But that challenged their pride.”

The Bulldogs scored three times in 2:09. The last team to score three TDs in that little time at the end of a half was Utah State, which did it in a 52-26 win over Boise State in 2015.

Florida never recovered, losing for the seventh time in its last nine games against Power Five opponents.

“In the final third of the season, it’s on my to get this fixed,” Mullen said. “And I certainly plan on doing that, of changing where we’re at right now.”


Georgia: Smart’s defense looks every bit capable of carrying the Bulldogs to their first national championship since 1980. The unit is hard to run on, tougher to block and has enough depth to overcome injuries.

Florida: The Gators opened the season thinking they had two quarterbacks. It’s looking more and more like they don’t even have one. Richardson struggled all day. He completed 12 of 20 passes for 82 yards and added 26 more on the ground before leaving with a head/neck injury of which Mullen said “we’ll get it evaluated.”

Jones was better late, finishing 10 of 14 for 112 yards. He also ran for 22 and the team’s lone score.


Georgia will surely retain its spot atop the AP college football poll and probably will begin the season’s first College Football Playoff rankings at No. 1 on Tuesday night.


Florida went 0 for 2 on trick plays, throwing incomplete passes both times.

The first one came with Richardson and Jones on the field together. Jones lateraled to Richardson, who threw into double coverage. Jacob Copeland failed to make the catch.

The second one was a halfback pass by Malik Davis, who threw incomplete to Xzavier Henderson.

Walker hurried both plays.


Georgia hosts Missouri next Saturday. The Bulldogs have won seven straight in the series.

Florida plays at South Carolina next Saturday. The Gators have won three in a row and five of the last six.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

florida gators
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:


The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.


The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.


The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.


The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.


After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.