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A night to celebrate

Pat Dooley
Gator Sports
Florida coach Dan Mullen, center, celebrates with fans in the stands Saturday after the Gators defeated Georgia in Jacksonville.

Trevon Grimes was like a lot of Gators. He didn't want to celebrate too soon. 

He didn't have to know about the history of this rivalry. He knows enough about college football to understand that a game isn't over until you know it's over.

He knew after the last interception allowed Florida to go into the victory formation.

"You never know," he said. "But once we started the victory formation, people started throwing ice and water was being sprayed. It was an enjoyable moment."

This was the kind of moment that made him want to come back for another year at Florida and his world-class catch in the end zone at the end of the first half was the punctuation mark on one of the great quarters in Florida history.

That led to a second half where Florida gave its fans a few anxious moments, but in the end it was about celebrating.

Nobody celebrated harder than Dan Mullen. To say his legacy was on the line might be overstating things, but the Florida coach needed this win for a million reasons. 

And so he celebrated by jumping into the stands with the students and waving a state of Florida flag wildly in the Jacksonville night.

"I may be 48 years old, but I'm really young on the inside," Mullen said. "So I've got to enjoy some of that stuff. Some of our players went up there so I went up there with them."

This was vindication of sorts after a rough week for the Florida coach and as we all know, the SEC East has not been won and the College Football Playoffs are light years away.

But to get where these guys want to go, they had to beat Georgia.

"Just to be able to celebrate with the seniors, guys who have been here four years and never beaten Georgia," said sophomore cornerback Kaiir Elam. "They deserved it."

Certainly, they all earned it.

In a physical game that seemed to last forever because of all of the stoppages for inured players, Florida went the second half without star tight end Kyle Pitts and just kept finding other ways to move the ball. 

Florida's three running backs — Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis and Nay' Quan Wright — caught 212 yards worth of passes.

"Instead of people saying the team that runs for the most yards wins, maybe it should be the running backs who get the most yards," Mullen said.

At first, it looked like Georgia was going to show that not only does the East go through the Bulldogs, but they still had control of it.

That start was hardly ideal, Zamir White doing untouched 75 yards on the first play and the Bulldogs getting another touchdown on a third-and-long.

Mullen even said his team appeared to be "shell-shocked." But when you have an offense like this team and a quarterback like this one and a play-caller like this one, well, the first four minutes are exactly that — the first four minutes.

"We have such an explosive offense, and we are such a great team (from the) top down," Trask said. "We just have a lot of offense, a lot of energy. We went down 14-0 early and had no panic. It just shows the character of this team.

"We’re never going to get down or panic in any situation. We’re always going to fight, take it one play at a time, and that’s what we did.”

Trask put himself squarely in the middle of the Heisman Trophy race even though Georgia sold out to stop Kadarius Toney and he had to go without Kyle Pitts after a vicious targeting play knocked him for a loop late in the second quarter. 

Fine. Who wants to be the hero? Davis, who has looked like a different player this year and has shaken off the trauma of the late fumble at Texas A&M, has turned into a ball magnet when Trask sends the ball his way. Who has Davis catching 100 yards worth of passes in the game?

But this Gator offense takes what you give and you have to give something. 

There is still a lot of football to be played and you can only celebrate a won like this one for so long.

But it is a celebration that deserved to be an all-timer. 

Georgia had issues with injuries. Georgia's quarterback got banged up on the second Bulldogs touchdown. Georgia's two quarterbacks missed a lot of receivers and the Bulldogs dropped some key passes.

Doesn't matter.

Florida took its game to that next level. Georgia could not match it. Mullen told his team before the game he was looking forward to watching the Gators play.

Gator fans probably stayed up late watching it again.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

Florida running back Malik Davis bolts up the field after making a catch out of the backfield Saturday against Georgia at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.