JACKSONVILLE -- This year’s game between Florida and Georgia was devoid of the championship implications that laced last season’s meeting with bitter intensity, but the event itself, now a Southeastern Conference staple, carried on strongly.
Before kickoff, the streets of Jacksonville were filled with dueling cheers of “Go Dawgs!” and “Go Gators!”
Most of the pregame chatter was about the mechanical alligator outside EverBank Field. Fans of both teams, surely aided by some early afternoon beverages, took turns attempting to stay atop the flailing gator. Inevitably, every failure was attributed to the rider’s team preference.
“That’s what you get when you let a Dogs fan try.”
The stadium was surrounded for blocks on all sides by the usual ocean of RVs, cocktail dresses, live bands and tailgating sites.
But the undertone never gets forgotten. The game is even forced to use two official logos, one that names the game “Georgia-Florida” and one that names it “Florida-Georgia.”
There’s heat in this rivalry, and the chirping and shoving between plays Saturday can attest to that, as well as the 84,693 fans who filed into the stadium.
But if last year’s game saw the rivalry reach raging-inferno intensity, this year’s was more like smoldering coals. The heat is still there, but it needs championship stakes as fuel to once again draw national attention.
While Florida’s offense continued to stall, freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor showed promise as the team’s feature back moving forward.
Making his first career start in the same stadium his dad, Fred, starred in the NFL, the freshman rushed for 76 yards on 20 carries.
The holes weren’t always there for Taylor, but he showed his potential by showcasing his daddy’s old stutter-step, some quick feet and solid vision.
“He’s a good player,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “He continues to improve every week. He has natural running instincts.”
Muschamp also highlighted Taylor’s solid pass protection, a major concern entering the freshman’s first start.
In a close game, the Gators left six points on the field, connecting on just 1 of 3 field goals. Walk-on kicker Frankie Velez pushed a 40-yard attempt wide right in the first quarter, his first career miss.
“We need to get points out of the [first drive],” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to convert those situations.”
In the third quarter, redshirt freshman Austin Hardin — UF’s designated long kicker from the 30-yard line and out — whiffed on a 47-yard kick that fell several yards short into the end zone.
“Very disappointed we didn’t get points in either situation,” Muschamp said.
THIS AND THAT
• For the first time since 1987 to ’89, Georgia beat Florida three times in a row. Muschamp is now 0-7 in the series — 0-4 as a player and 0-3 as a coach.
• Tyler Murphy’s 83-yard completion to wideout Quinton Dunbar was the longest pass play of his career.
• Mack Brown’s 5-yard touchdown run was Florida’s first offensive touchdown against Georgia in nine quarters (2011, first quarter).
• Florida alums Jevon Kearse and Lindy Infante were inducted into Jacksonville’s Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame in a ceremony Friday.
• The Gators totaled 70 yards on seven penalties.