It was the exact start to the game that the Florida Gators had hoped to avoid.
Cornerback CJ Henderson suffered a lower-back injury on the Gators’ first defensive drive. Cornerback CJ McWilliams drew a delay-of-game penalty after taking the field with his uniform pants not covering his knees. Running back Jordan Scarlett fumbled the ball on Florida’s first offensive drive. And quarterback Feleipe Franks threw an interception the very next drive.
The No. 9 Florida never established a rhythm and fell to the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs 36-17 on Saturday in Jacksonville.
The Gators’ (6-2, 4-2 SEC) dreadful first half culminated in just 23 rushing yards and 49 passing yards with two turnovers. And Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC) carried a 13-7 lead.
Franks performed about as bad as he has all season, missing several throws and finishing with 105 yards — his lowest total this season — on 13-for-21 passing.
The redshirt-sophomore quarterback turned the ball over three times. He had the first-quarter interception and two fumbles.
He had a wide open Lamical Perine in the flats but sent the ball sailing right into the hands of Georgia’s Tyrique McGhee for his first interception.
And he coughed up the ball at the UF 1-yard line in the third quarter. It only yielded three UGA points, however. A goal-line stand by the Gators’ defense forced Georgia to kick a field goal after six plays went zero yards.
Franks did make several good throws. He zipped a 36-yard pass to receiver Freddie Swain in the third quarter to give the Gators a 14-13 lead, their first of the game.
It wasn’t held for long, however, as Georgia answered immediately with a 24-yard touchdown pass from UGA quarterback Jake Fromm to receiver Terry Godwin.
Florida knew stopping the run would be key entering Saturday’s matchup, and the Gators seemed to do a good job early of containing the dangerous Georgia backfield in Elijah Holyfield and De’Andre Swift, outside of surrendering 63 yards to the backs on the Bulldogs’ first drive of the contest.
The duo came alive along with Georgia’s offense during the second half, and Georgia rode 23 second-half points to victory.
Holyfield and Swift combined for 175 on the afternoon, and the Bulldogs outgained Florida on the ground 189-170.
Lamical Perine led Florida’s rushers with 62 yards on 14 carries, and Scarlett finished behind him with 56 yards.
The Bulldogs took advantage of Florida’s thin secondary. Henderson never returned, and Georgia went at the redshirt-sophomore McWilliams for the entire game.
Mistakes on both sides of the ball ultimately doomed the Gators as they suffered their first loss of the season since Week 2 against the Kentucky Wildcats.