In 2002, Georgia would win the SEC for the first time in 20 years. For the Bulldogs that season, however, there was a drought that they could not end.
On this day 20 years ago, Georgia’s hopes of a perfect season came to an end. It fell to rival Florida for the fifth straight time, 20-13.
Setting the Stage
Georgia was a perfect 8-0 as it arrived in Jacksonville for the rivalry contest then known as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” on Nov. 2, 2002. Ranked No. 5 in the country, the Bulldogs owned a pair of wins over ranked teams in Alabama and Tennessee.
Under first-year head coach Ron Zook, Florida was in the midst of a disappointing 5-3 start. The Gators, however, had won four straight and 11 of 12 against Georgia.
Florida Prevails Again
For football fans, the contest in Jacksonville was hardly a thing of beauty. For Florida fans, beating Georgia always is.
Both teams let a multitude of opportunities slip away. For Florida, they came early as the Gators failed to finish drives. In Georgia’s case, it turned the ball over three times and went 0-for-13 on third down.
Entering the final quarter, Florida had scored two of the three touchdowns. Rex Grossman threw a second-quarter touchdown to Aaron Walker and Guss Scott returned a D.J. Shockley interception 47 yards for a score, but Georgia led 13-12.
That’s when Grossman led the best march of the night for either team.
On an evening where he passed for 339 yards, Grossman methodically led the Gators 89 yards in 10 plays. Grossman capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ben Troupe before running in the 2-point conversion.
Georgia had opportunities late, but the theme of not being able to take advantage continued. Terrence Edwards dropped a long pass from David Greene with just over two minutes left. Three plays later, Greene’s pass on 4th-and-1 was incomplete as the Gators took over on downs to seal the win.
The only Georgia touchdown of the night came early on a 10-yard toss from Greene to J.T. Wall. After Florida roared back with a pair of touchdowns, followed by unsuccessful conversions, two field goals from Billy Bennett gave the Bulldogs a 13-12 halftime lead. Neither team scored in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs bounced back to win their final three regular season games before topping Arkansas in the SEC Championship and Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia finished 13-1 and ranked No. 3 in the final polls under second-year head coach Mark Richt.
Following the victory, Florida would notch two more wins, but closed the year with losses to Florida State and then Michigan in the Outback Bowl. With an 8-5 record, the Gators suffered their highest loss total since 1989. It was also the first time since then that Florida finished unranked in the AP Poll.
Although the 2001 season would fall well short of expectations, Florida maintained its bragging rights over rival Georgia. It did so with a 20-13 upset on this day two decades ago.
Featured image courtesy of Associated Press
Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.