Aaron Murray celebrates the 2012 victory over Florida.
Oct. 29, 2013
ATHENS, Ga.---Georgia’s annual game against Florida in Jacksonville has become one of the Southeastern Conference’s seminal moments every year. Despite both teams coming into this year’s game unranked and needing help to reach the SEC Championship game in Atlanta, the atmosphere heading into the game hasn’t fluctuated from previous years in the Georgia camp.
Both the Bulldogs and the Gators head into Saturday missing several key players due to injury and sporting matching 4-3 records. The winner will almost certainly be eliminated from the race for Atlanta.
“I think you just have to plan the best that you can and practice the best that you can. You just have to get after it the best that you can. You have to try to win the turnover battle, that’s number one, and we kind of go from there,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “Everybody has their way of doing things. If I was an expert at it, everybody would be asking me what to do, but we’d have a better record against Florida, too.”
The Bulldogs have won the last two contests in Jacksonville, defeating the third-ranked Gators 17-9 in 2012 and unranked Florida 24-20 in 2011.
Despite Georgia’s current two-game winning streak, senior quarterback Aaron Murray said it is important for the Bulldogs to ignore previous year’s results.
“We just have to go out there and play ball and have fun,” Murray said. “You can’t be worried about whether you’ve lost this many in a row, or won this many in a row, because every year is different. It’s a new team, new players, and new circumstances when it comes to injuries or how the season is going for each team, so we just have to go out there, play ball, and have fun.”
Murray could become the first quarterback since Buck Belue between 1979-81 to win three straight games against the Bulldog’s big rivals.
Richt said that one of the big reasons for the intensity of the rivalry between the Bulldogs and the Gators is the amount of players that cross the state line both ways. Georgia currently has 16 players from the state of Florida on the roster including Murray (Tampa), starting kicker Marshall Morgan (Ft. Lauderdale), and starting right tackle John Theus (Jacksonville).
“Somebody said that we had about 16 Florida guys on our team, and they have 19 Georgia guys on their team. That’s going to happen,” Richt said. “They’ve got too many players in their state, as far as they have more than they can gather up, and we’re the same way in our state. Obviously guys are going to cross those boundaries and there are a lot of different factors that go into it. A lot of it has to do with playing time or what they grew up thinking. There are so many things, and there’s a lot of those battles every year.”
While the Bulldogs try to look at Florida as nothing more than another SEC game in the grind that is the conference schedule, linebacker Armarlo Herrera said it doe’s have a different feel to it.
“We go out there and play hard and we’ve been able to win. I wasn’t here when they were beating us so I couldn’t say if it was a mental thing,” Herrera said. “We just look at them as another SEC team, but it is a rivalry game so it is a big one.”
Safety Connor Norman said that the Georgia-Florida experience begins long before the Saturday of the game.
“It is a special week. This is always a fun game and it’s fun to play a great team like Florida in the atmosphere down there,” Norman said. “It’s just another football game though. We have to continue to get better and win games. You can’t get caught up in the whole atmosphere of it though; because once the ball gets kicked off it’s just another football game. It’s very impressive down there. I think it’s just a cool thing for the players of Georgia, Florida, and the fans to get to experience something like that. It’s split down the middle and it’s such an electric atmosphere. It’s about as close to the SEC Championship as you can get with the atmosphere like that.”