FOOTBALL

Whitley At The Half: Torrence's interception set up a major meltdown

David Whitley
Gator Sports

Gainesville Sun sports columnist David Whitley provides first-half analysis of Saturday's Florida vs. Georgia game in Jacksonville:

The half was shaping up to be a pleasant surprise for Florida fans. Then the Gators did the one thing they can’t afford to do – turn the ball over.

Three times

In the final 2:06.

And that’s how a competitive 3-0 game turns into a 24-0 gut punch.

The avalanche started almost imperceptibly. Rashad Torrence intercepted a Stetson Bennett pass at Florida’s 2-yard-line, and his momentum carried him into the end zone.

Torrence apparently thought he had to run the ball out to avoid getting called for a safety, and he was stopped at the 2-yard-line. That’s not where you want to be against Georgia’s defense.

On third down, Anthony Richardson plowed into the line. The Gators will his forward progress had stopped, and he should have been ruled down at Georgia’s 11-yard line. That’s where Georgia’s Nolan Smith stripped the ball out of Richardson’s arms.

One play later, James Cook scored to make it 10-0 with 2:16 left.

Florida got the ball back, and on the second play Richardson was intercepted at the 36-yard line.

One play later, Bennett hit Kearis Jackson for a TD. That made it 17-0 with 1:35 left.

Florida got the ball back, and Richardson threw a pick-six to Nakobe Dean. That made it 24-0 with seven seconds left.

* Let history record that at 3:47 p.m., Richardson trotted onto the field for Florida’s first offensive possession. Thus ended two weeks of semi-suspense over whether Dan Mullen would tap Richardson or Emory Jones to start.

It would have been interesting to hear the crowd reaction had Jones started. The way fans have been clamoring for Richardson, the orange-and-blue half of the crowd might have pulled a Tennessee and started throwing beer cans, mustard bottles and a golf ball at Mullen.

As it was, Gator fans watched Malik Davis gain five yards, Richardson complete a 2-yard pass to Kemore Gamble and then Georgia stopped Richardson for a 1-yard loss on a quarterback draw.

So, let history record Richardson’s first offensive possession as starter ended at 3:51 p.m.

* How good has the Bulldogs’ defense been? Georgia came in as the only Power Five team that had not allowed a run of 20 yards or more in conference play.

How good has the Bulldogs’ defense been? Georgia came in as the only Power Five team that had not allowed a run of 20 yards or more in conference play. That distinction barely survived the first half as Dameon Pierce had a 19-yard run.