JACKSONVILLE — John Brantley came out early, before most of his teammates, to test his badly sprained ankle to determine if it would hold up for four quarters. Then he skipped the normal warmups, still listed as probable for Saturday's game.
But by the time Florida's captains walked onto the field for the coin toss for the annual showdown with rival Georgia, Brantley was with them — determined he was going to play no matter what.
Brantley and the Gators jumped to a 17-3 lead, then watched as No. 22 Georgia rallied for a 24-20 victory in front of 84,524 at EverBank Field Saturday afternoon.
"I wanted to be back out there with the guys," Brantley said. "As a Gator fan growing up, this is the one game you always want each year. And we had our opportunities. That's it."
The Gators (4-4, 2-4 SEC) have four consecutive losses for the first time since 1988. Florida is also officially out of the race for the SEC East title.
Saturday's win was the first for Georgia (6-2, 5-1) over Florida since 2007. Georgia coach Mark Richt improved to 3-8 against Florida.
"We tried not to make it a bigger deal than it was," Richt said. "Now that we've won it, it was a big deal. It was a big deal for me personally."
With his ankle heavily taped, Brantley completed five passes for 13 or more yards on Florida's second drive, culminating with a 31-yard touchdown to tight end Jordan Reed on fourth and 19 for a 7-0 lead.
"We started out fast; we started out good," said Brantley, who finished 12-of-34 for 245 yards. "We've just got to be able to finish the game. We had our opportunities. We've just got to be able to finish."
But with Brantley's limited mobility due to the injury, the Gators used a shotgun formation more than snaps under center. That affected everything from offensive linemen being able to hear over the raucous crowd to rendering Florida's running game completely ineffective.
Muschamp defended the decision to play Brantley, saying that even injured the senior gave the Gators their best chance to win.
"I'm very proud of him and his effort," Muschamp said. "He's a guy who really lays it on the line. We couldn't get him under center to do some of the things we wanted to do. We knew that going into the game. … We have to find some ways to run the football. We cannot be so one-dimensional."
Florida had minus-19 rushing yards against the Bulldogs — minus-32 in the first half — and had just one first down in the second half.
"I couldn't tell you (what went wrong), said senior running back Jeff Demps, who had a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown to give the Gators a 14-3 lead with 13:16 left in the second quarter and a 72-yard touchdown reception, but just 12 rushing yards. "We battled hard today, but things didn't go how we wanted them to at the end of the game. It was tough (to run), especially when you're in shotgun it's kind of hard to get the holes."
Georgia sacked Brantley six times, including four by sophomore Jarvis Jones, who said Brantley's injury contributed to the sacks.
"He just wasn't mobile," Jones said. "He couldn't really move around in the pocket."
Georgia trailed nearly the entire game before taking a 24-20 lead with 13:18 remaining when junior tailback Richard Samuel scored on a 4-yard run. It was the first touchdown Georgia scored without the benefit of a Florida mistake.