If it wasn't for bad luck, we would have no luck in Jacksonville at The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. At least that has been the case since 1990. We had some luck prior to that if you are old enough to remember any of it.
We didn't play terribly, but we made too many mistakes to win and the weird shit kept happening to us. To wit:
- First half, Florida fumbles inside their own ten yard line, we could easily recover it but instead we try to pick it up and bobble it right back to Florida.
- Twice Florida has big negative yardage plays nullified by penalty... their own freaking penalties. Since when does a team get saved twice by their own penalties. Argh!
- One of Murray's interceptions was a gift from Aron White's hands straight to the defender. But when Brantley tries to return the favor later by nailing Rambo in the numbers, we drop it. Argh!
- Fourth quarter, Brantley under pressure, fumbles, we pick it up and then, of course, fumble it back to Florida and all the while none of this really matters because we get called for defensive holding from about 20 seconds earlier. I will assume that our DB did hold (though I have not seen a replay) but this is just a perfect example of the weird shit that happens to us in this game.
The benefit of hindsight won't change the outcome from this game, but I hope Mike Bobo will at least take away one nugget of experience and use it in the future. In a game featuring a hot shot shut down corner back and the best receiver in the conference in which the cornerback feels confident enough to play man-to-man... DO NOT throw and hitch to that receiver on the first snap of the game. Instead, if you want to throw to that receiver on the first play... use the corner's aggression and desire to make a statement against him and try a double move. Jenorris Jenkins was coming so hard on that first play that a pump fake and double move would have left Jenkins hitting the brakes so hard he wouldn't have stopped until he reached the Matthews Bridge. We probably only have a few more games with AJ Green, but if any of our remaining opponents want to prove that their corner can cover AJ in man-to-man, give the double move a shot on the first play. Give their guy a reason to play timid, not ours.
To be fair, it was Florida's ball hawking secondary and the Burton/Rainey combination that did us in. But in a game that we can never afford to make any errors, we again made too many to overcome. I am proud of the way our offense got going in the second half and we had a chance to win, which is better than the past two bloodlettings in the series. I have to give huge hand to Aaron Murray and Tavarres King for the hustle they showed on our final offensive play in overtime in which Murray ran the length of the field and blew up a blocker to impede Will Hill just enough to allow King to force him out of bounds just short of a game winning TD. Despite the fact that the Gators were able to win with their FG in OT does not diminish the effort from Murray and King to prevent the TD and at least giving us a chance to stop Florida on their OT possession.
Neither Florida or Georgia is a special team this season, but this was a golden opportunity to capture a rare victory in JAX that slipped away like so many others have in the past two decades. For a rivalry game, this one does not have the give-and-take that most rivalries have (Georgia-Auburn, OU-Texas, Lehigh-Lafayette). No, it is mostly give give give from Georgia. In most of Florida's 18 wins since 1990, the Gators were the better team on paper and on the field. In all of Georgia's 3 wins in that same stretch, the Dawgs were the better team on paper and on the field (you could argue 1997 if you like.) There are definitely a few games we have lost in which we were clearly the better team on paper (mostly during the Zook years) but not once since 1990 has a better Gator team surrendered a win to a lesser Dawgs team. They may have booted a few games against teams from Mississippi, but they haven't botched a game at the Cocktail party since 1985. Hats off to them for that, but still, that is uncanny. Sadly, this must be how it feels for Georgia Tech every Thanksgiving weekend.
History, logic and good money says that we will win a couple games in JAX this decade. But I will bet you they won't come easy.