The Smart money seems to be Georgia going on a Dooley-like run against the Florida Gators

Bulldogs' 42-20 victory over UF is Kirby Smart's fifth in six games. Is he on the verge of rivaling former UGA coach Vince Dooley or former UF coach Steve Spurrier for dominant streaks in the series?

Garry Smits
Florida Times-Union
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart (lower right) celebrates Saturday's 42-20 victory over the Florida Gators with his players, at TIAA Bank Field.

JACKSONVILLE — The day after Vince Dooley passed away, the University of Georgia football team paid tribute the best way they could: extend their streak of domination over the University of Florida that is starting to rival the best run Dooley compiled in his 25 years as the Bulldogs coach. 

The Dawgs’ 42-20 victory over the Gators on Saturday in front of 75,868 at TIAA Bank Field was the fifth in six years under Kirby Smart and a 60-minute statement about the direction of the two programs. 

More Georgia-Florida coverage

A dominant first half in which the Bulldogs piled up 346 total yards and 15 first downs, and held the Gators to two first downs, 13 yards rushing on 13 attempts and 88 total yards, gave way to a sloppy third quarter in which Florida at least kept its half of the stadium interested. 

But the Dogs re-asserted themselves in the final 18 minutes with two impressive scoring drives and won their 19th of 27 games since the second half of the 2020 season by three or more touchdowns. 

“To the Dooleys back home in Athens, I know they’re together and it meant a lot for us to win that game for them,” Smart said. “I know he was looking down on that one. He would have really enjoyed the first half.” 

Georgia tight end Brock Bowers reaches back for a batted pass by Florida linebacker Amari Burney. Bowers caught the ball and completed a touchdown in the second quarter of the Bulldogs' 42-20 victory.

Georgia (8-0, 5-0 in the SEC) will remain the No. 1-ranked team in the nation when both polls are released Sunday and almost assuredly will be ranked first when the first College Football Playoff rankings are released Tuesday.  

Unless the Tennessee Volunteers (coming to Sanford Stadium next week) or the SEC West opponent in the conference championship game have a say in the matter, the Bulldogs are on a clear track to have a chance to defend their national championship. 

In the meantime, the Gators (4-4, 1-4) are trending the other way under first-year coach Billy Napier and will have to squeeze out two victories from among Texas A&M, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Florida State to have a shot at a bowl game, whose main purpose will be getting younger players a few more practices. 

Since only the South Carolina game is at home, good luck with that. 

Dooley started slow vs. UF

Dooley used to poor-mouth and downplay his team’s chances against UF squads coached by Ray Graves, Doug Dickey, Charlie Pell and Galen Hall, perhaps by design, to make those 17 victories he stacked up (against seven losses and a tie) between 1964 and 1988 all the more impressive. 

Dooley would have everyone believe his team was just a scrappy bunch of underachievers — the undersized Junkyard Dogs defense and game-managing quarterbacks who were asked nothing more than to not botch handoffs or pitch-outs to Herschel Walker, Lars Tate, Willie McClendon, Rodney Hampton and Kevin McLee. 

After starting 3-3-1 against Florida, Dooley won 14 of his last 18, nine of his last 11 and once rattled off six victories in a row over the Gators. 

Perhaps because his offense was the epitome of the old SEC toss-sweep mentality, Dooley’s Dawgs didn’t post that many routs against Florida. There was the 44-0 victory in 1982, a 33-10 decision in 1979 when the Gators were going through their winless first season under Pell, and a 26-3 victory in Dooley’s final game against UF in 1988. 

Most were methodical, grind-it-out affairs. Dooley won eight one-score games against Florida and was 9-4-1 when the outcome was by a touchdown or less. 

UGA dominating under Smart

The Smart Dawgs have beaten UF by 22, 27, seven, 19 and 35 points during their current run, and they’ve done it by jumping out to quick starts. The average halftime score in Georgia’s last five victories over UF is 22-3 and Saturday’s 28-3 edge at the break was even bigger than the margin indicated. 

Georgia had 15 first downs to two for Florida, and the Gators didn’t move the chains the first time until nearly 20 minutes of clock time had elapsed. 

Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh (6) celebrates a fourth-quarter touchdown on Saturday that sealed the outcome in a 42-20 victory over Florida.

Tight end Brock Bowers, on four receptions for 125 yards, outgained the Gators on his own and finished with five for 154 yards. He gained 73 of those yards on a second-quarter touchdown off a fluke bounce of linebacker Amari Burney's hands.

Senior quarterback Stetson Bennett doubled the number of interceptions he had for the season with two, but threw for 316 yards and tossed away enough passes to avoid a sack. 

More than numbers was Georgia’s physical play on both lines of scrimmage. 

“We pride ourselves on being physical on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” Bowers said of the team’s practices. “That carries over to the game.” 

Gators fought back

To Florida’s credit, there was no quit. The Gators scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter, beginning with a 75-yard TD drive that ended in a 5-yard touchdown by Trevor Etienne, in the same end zone where his brother Travis scored last week in the Jaguars’ 23-17 loss to the New York Giants. 

Then the Gator defense, maligned all season, started producing big plays. First was a fumble recovery by Trey Dean III (by Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh, forced by Burney), paving the way for a 26-yard field goal by Adam Mihalek. 

Burney then picked off a Bennett pass and Anthony Richardson completed a 78-yard TD pass to Xzavier Henderson, the longest TD pass for the Gators in the series since Kerwin Bell’s 96-yard play to Ricky Nattiel in the 1984 game. 

Suddenly, it was a one-score game, after it appeared Georgia could have named the final outcome. 

McIntosh wanted the ball

Smart said the catalyst was McIntosh, who begged for a chance to redeem his fumble. He went on to gain 54 yards on five carries after that, capped by a 4-yard run for the Dawgs final score. 

McIntosh had 90 yards on 16 carries and scored twice, and Daijun Edwards had 106 yards and two TDs. Georgia had 555 yards of total offense, 239 on the ground. 

“Kenny showed something tonight,” Smart said about McIntosh, a senior from Fort Lauderdale who has patiently waited his turn for four years and posted his career-high in rushing yards. “He came out after that fumble and had that ‘eye of the tiger’ look,’ He was running the ball hard and physical and getting yards after contact.” 

Smart said he told McIntosh on the sideline after his fourth-quarter touchdown, “you’re a bad MFer.” 

Smart can't poor-mouth

Georgia has a lot of those. So many that the one thing Smart can’t do in this series is poor-mouth like Dooley.  

For one thing, no one could top Vince for snow jobs about his poor, hapless puppy dogs going against seemingly invincible opponents. 

“I remember him going on and on about somebody’s onside-kick coverage one time,” Dooley’s son Derek said in 2010. “[I was] thinking,] these guys must be pretty bad if Dad had to dig down all the way to their onside-kick coverage to say something nice about them.” 

For another, with the emphasis on recruiting and its visibility (college fans know what four-stars like for breakfast), Smart can’t hide his five top-five recruiting classes in a row, and another on the way that currently is ranked second by 247Sports. 

He knows he’s got the goods and so does everyone else. The Bulldogs aren’t sneaking up on anyone. 

They are, however, dominating everyone except for losing to Alabama in last year’s SEC Championship game. Georgia has won 26 of its last 27 games, all but three by double-digit margins. 

When asked if he approaching a level of domination against the Gators that Dooley was in the 1980s -- or perhaps Steve Spurrier's seven-game winning streak for the Gators from 1990-1996 -- Smart said the trick is thinking of in terms of one-game winning streaks. 

“It’s hard to win any series in the SEC, especially when you’re talking about a top program in the country,” he said. “I don’t look at it as runs as I look at it as each individual year.” 

On the other hand, Saturday’s game was one more glaring example of the mountain Napier has to climb. He’s feeling the effects of six UF recruiting classes in a row of ninth or lower, and his first class was 18th. 

Napier is still playing catchup ball and his current list of commits is barely cracking the top-10 according to most services. Losing out on cornerback Cormani McClain of Lakeland to Miami last week didn’t help but at least McClain didn’t go north to Athens. 

Smart said he’s not about to get complacent. 

“Billy’s going to do a great job and he already is,” Smart said. “He’s recruiting hard.” 

But so will Smart. And he’s got a six-year head start. 

Contact Garry Smits at and follow him on Twitter @GSmitter