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Florida Gators defense keeps it close before faltering to Georgia Bulldogs

Florida lineman Dante Fowler (Lakewood High) hits Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (Plant) before his pass is intercepted during the second quarter.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Florida lineman Dante Fowler (Lakewood High) hits Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (Plant) before his pass is intercepted during the second quarter.

JACKSONVILLE — For most of Saturday, Florida's defense made the most of the poor hand it was dealt.

But it wasn't quite enough to win.

"Till the last touchdown drive, we played very well defensively," Gators coach Will Muschamp said.

Trailing 10-9, Florida forced Georgia into a third and 10 on its 25 with just under nine minutes remaining in the game. End Dominique Easley sniffed out a screen pass to running back Todd Gurley in the backfield. But he made the play too soon. Easley was called for holding as he wrapped up Gurley before the pass arrived.

What could have been fourth down ended up being a second chance for Georgia.

"I have zero comment on that one," Muschamp said of the call.

Five plays later, on third and 5 from the Gators 45, Aaron Murray, a former Plant High quarterback, found Malcolm Mitchell on a curl route. Cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was on the coverage but failed to tackle Mitchell, who took it to the end zone to extend the Bulldogs' lead to the final score of 17-9.

"Loucheiz was in good coverage," Florida cornerback Jaylen Watkins said.

"He just tried to make a play on the strip and the guy got away from him."

Turnovers by the offense repeatedly forced the Gators to defend a short field. After scoring a touchdown on a 20-yard drive following quarterback Jeff Driskel's fumble on the game's first series, Georgia kicked a field goal, missed a field goal and threw an interception on three subsequent possessions that began in Florida territory following turnovers.

The defense also held Murray, who entered seventh in the nation with a passer rating of 168.63, in check. Before the final touchdown drive, he was 8-for-19 for 70 yards, three interceptions and no touchdowns.

In light of the final score, tackle Omar Hunter downplayed the defense's early success.

"We played all right," he said. "Not good enough to win. Obviously, we didn't get the win."

Florida's defense entered third in the SEC, allowing 97.3 rushing yards per game. But Gurley had 97 through three quarters and finished with 118 on 27 carries.

Linebacker Jon Bostic said he was encouraged with some of what he saw.

"Defense played very well," Bostic said. "There's still things we can definitely clean up on … in the run game, getting in the passing lanes a little bit more. It's things all over."

Florida Gators defense keeps it close before faltering to Georgia Bulldogs 10/27/12 [Last modified: Saturday, October 27, 2012 10:44pm]

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