Georgia’s Aaron Murray will be seeking a third career victory this Saturday over Florida, something no Bulldogs quarterback has accomplished since Buck Belue in 1979 to ’81.Photo by University of Georgia photo
ATHENS, Ga. -- The Florida Gators handed Georgia its biggest loss of the Mark Richt era in 2008 with a 49-10 rout on their way to the national championship.
Georgia had an open date before the 2009 matchup in Jacksonville but couldn't capitalize, losing 41-17. The gap closed significantly in 2010, with Florida winning 34-31 in overtime, but that loss was the 18th for the Bulldogs in 21 series meetings.
"What Alabama is now is what was going on there back then," Georgia fifth-year senior tight end Arthur Lynch said Tuesday. "My first year in '09, coaches were like, 'Why not us?' They were undefeated and we had a couple of losses, but their talent wore us down throughout the game. In the past three years, we've been like, 'Their reign is done, and now it's up for grabs.'
"Credit them in 2010 for beating us with [quarterback John] Brantley in overtime, and fortunately for us we've won the last two. They've been ugly wins, but they've been wins nonetheless."
Richt is 122-43 midway through his 13th season with the Bulldogs, and the only Southeastern Conference program he has a losing record against is Florida. His record is 3-2 against Alabama, and he improved to 4-4 against LSU this season, but Richt is just 4-8 against the Gators even with the two straight wins.
Georgia's two SEC titles under Richt in 2002 and '05 occurred despite losses to Florida, but now it's third-year Florida coach Will Muschamp having to field questions about the rivalry after dropping the past two. The Bulldogs prevailed 17-9 in last year's meeting, when Florida was ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings.
"It's nice not to have to hear that question," Richt said.
Turning around a rivalry is no easy thing.
Just last week, Tennessee coach Butch Jones decided that he along with his players would refer to Alabama as the "red team." The thought was that discussing Alabama by name could leave Volunteers players at a mental disadvantage before stepping foot inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, but several Crimson Tide players after their 45-10 win said they were motivated by the tactic.
Richt has used tactics against the Gators, most notably an end-zone celebration after Knowshon Moreno's opening touchdown in the upset triumph in 2007. The Bulldogs wore black helmets in the '09 matchup, which didn't work as well for them.
"We never called them the blue team or the orange team," Richt said. "I think you've just got to plan the best you can and practice the best you can and just get after it the best you can and believe. Try and win the turnover battle, because that's number one, and kind of go from there.
"Everybody has their way of doing things, and if I was an expert at it or the best at it, everybody would be asking me what to do. We would have a better record against Florida, too."
The biggest turnaround in the Georgia-Florida rivalry, which the Bulldogs lead 49-40-2 according to their records, was orchestrated by former Gators coach Steve Spurrier in 1990. Spurrier won his first seven games against Georgia, lost one and then won four more before leaving after the 2001 season for a two-year stint with the NFL's Washington Redskins.
Florida had not won consecutive games against Georgia before Spurrier took over since the early 1960s.
"I remember Georgia had won 15 of the last 20, but we had a much better team than they did," Spurrier said. "It was sort of interesting that the Georgia coach [Ray Goff] said, 'We've been underdogs before,' but we came into that 1990 game first in the conference in offense and first or second in defense, and they may have been 10th in both categories, so all we had to do was play ball to win that one.
"We had better teams than them in most of those years, and we were able to get rid of the psyche of losing to them after maybe two or three in a row. Now there is a little psyche on the Gators, I guess. Coach Muschamp hasn't won that game yet, so it's a big one for him and the Gators."
Georgia this Saturday will be seeking its first three-game winning in the series since 1987-89, the last three years before Spurrier's arrival. Bulldogs fifth-year senior quarterback Aaron Murray will be making his fourth start in the rivalry, and he could become the first Georgia quarterback with three wins over the Gators since Buck Belue in 1979 to '81.
Of course, beating Florida is the only thing Georgia's "Dream Team" signing class in 2011 has ever known.
"We tried to turn everything around," junior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. "That's what we said that we were going to do. We were going to come in here and start winning more games."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...