3:30 PM ET, October 29, 2005
3:30 PM ET, October 29, 2005
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- This Cocktail Party might have been a savory setup for Florida's real celebration. And once again Georgia's national title hopes were sunk in the River City.
Chris Leak threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score as the Gators used an impressive defensive performance to take down the previously unbeaten Bulldogs 14-10 on Saturday at the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
No. 16 Florida (6-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) defeated its rival to the North for the 14th time in the last 16 meetings and kept alive hopes of winning the SEC East and returning to the league title game for the first time since 2000.
The Gators need to beat Vanderbilt and South Carolina and have Georgia lose one of its remaining games against Auburn and Kentucky to win the division.
"A lot of people counted us out after that devastating LSU loss," Florida defensive tackle Marcus Thomas said. "Now, we're back in the race for the SEC."
The fourth-ranked Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1) don't require help in the SEC. They need to win out to advance to the conference championship game for the third time in four years. In the national title race, however, Georgia is all but done.
"We've still got a lot to play for," Bulldogs quarterback Joe Tereshinski III said.
The annual game played out a lot like it did in 2002, when the three-loss Gators handed Georgia its first loss of the season and temporarily prevented the Bulldogs from securing a spot in the SEC title game.
This one wasn't an upset, though.
Playing without injured quarterback D.J. Shockley, Georgia was an underdog in a series dominated by Florida since former coach Steve Spurrier took over in 1990.
Spurrier's successor, Ron Zook, beat Georgia twice in three years. On Saturday, it was Urban Meyer's turn to extend the Bulldogs' heartbreak.
But it wasn't easy.
Defensive end Jeremy Mincey made three huge plays on Georgia's final two drives. He tackled Thomas Brown for an 8-yard gain that prevented points early in the fourth quarter. Georgia had to settle for a 52-yard field goal attempt, which hit the right upright.
Mincey also affected two passes by Tereshinski on the last drive. He batted one down one at the line of scrimmage and nearly sacked the quarterback on fourth down. Tereshinski's desperation pass fell incomplete, and the Gators ran out the clock.
Tereshinski finished 8-of-21 for 100 yards in his first college start. The junior also ran for 37 yards. Brown and Danny Ware combined for 125 yards on the ground.
Leak finished 15-of-20 for 108 yards for the Gators. DeShawn Wynn ran 19 times for 109 yards.
"This game came down to heart and hustle," Mincey said. "We had more heart, and we outhustled them."
It was a huge victory for the Gators. Meyer spent the bye week retooling his much-maligned offense -- limiting the use of four- and five-receiver formations and the option -- and the results showed. At least early.
Florida scored on its opening possession for the first time this season and made it 14-0 after two drives.
Georgia fans were stunned. Florida fans may have been, too.
The Gators struggled mightily to string together long drives and score points in conference games against Tennessee, Alabama and LSU.
But in the first quarter, Florida's offense looked more like the version fans envisioned when Meyer took over.
"We knew that we needed to have this win," Florida center Mike Degory said. "That was the big focus this week. Those 14 points held up for our defense. Our defense played lights-out."
Wynn ran five times for 33 yards, Leak completed three third-down passes and Georgia had a costly pass interference penalty on a deep ball. Leak capped the 13-play, 80-yard drive with a 3-yard scamper around the right end.
Leak dived headfirst into the end zone and then showed the kind of emotion the Gators have missed since beating Tennessee in Gainesville in September. He jumped up and down and into the arms of teammates before continuing continued to celebrate on the sideline.
It got even better for the Gators.
Vernell Brown returned Georgia's first punt 29 yards, giving Florida the ball at the Bulldogs 41. Leak connected with Dallas Baker for a 20-yard gain and then Wynn ran 19 yards. Leak rolled out two plays later and found Tate Casey in the back of the end zone.
Florida could have added to a 14-3 lead just before halftime, but Wynn fumbled on first-and-goal at the 6.
The Bulldogs scored on a trick play in the third quarter to gain the momentum. Tereshinski handed off to Thomas Brown as he was falling to the ground. The running back started right and then threw back across the field to Tereshinski, who made a nice catch in front of Todd McCullough and stretched into the end zone.
But that was the lone highlight for the Bulldogs.
"I hope no one is beating themselves up over this," coach Mark Richt said. "Everybody has to look within themselves and say, 'What could I have done better?' It's not just one guy, and no one is pointing fingers. The guys are just hurting because we didn't win the game. Now we've got to regroup and get ready to play the next game.
"When you lose it hurts. Certainly it doesn't feel good when you lose to your rival, but when you lose, it just hurts no matter who," he said.
It was over when... Georgia quarterback Joe Tereshinski's desperation pass on 4th and 11 fell incomplete with 1:24 left in the game. Florida ran three plays to run out the clock.
Gameball goes to... Florida QB Chris Leak. He accounted for both Gators TDs (one rushing, one passing) and was a very efficient 15-of-20 for 108 yards.
Stat of the game... 14-2: Florida's record versus Georgia since 1990 (the year Steve Spurrier took over in Gainesville).