JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel delivered the pass to tight end Jordan Reed and watched him work his way toward the goal line, moving closer to giving the Gators a chance at catching Georgia late in the fourth quarter.
What followed felt like a replay of the entire game Saturday.
Another lost opportunity.
A season that had gone so perfectly came undone with so many imperfections. The third-ranked Gators lost more than their first game of the year, 17-9, to one of their biggest rivals. No. 12 Georgia now as the inside track to the SEC East division by beating Florida in back-to-back years for the first time since 1989. Worse yet, it held the Gators without a touchdown for the first time since 1988.
"When you make that many errors, it's hard to win the game," Driskel said.
The final blow came with just over two minutes remaining, Georgia leading 17-9, and Florida trying to finish off its longest drive of the game. Reed tried to hurdle a pair of Bulldogs at the 5-yard line, only for Jarvis Jones to strip the ball, which Sanders Commings scooped up in the end zone for a touchback.
"I'll take Jordan Reed in the open field any day," Driskel said. "When I saw him make the first guy miss, I thought he was going to score. He didn't take care of the ball, just like the whole team didn't all night."
The Gators had six turnovers, and while it led to only 10 points for Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC), they couldn't move the ball well enough to make up the difference. Florida (7-1, 6-1) had only 266 yards, with 81 yards on the ground.
"No one play loses the game," Florida coach Will Muschamp said.
Trouble is, he had a long list from which to choose.
The tone was set on the opening series, when Driskel held the ball too long on a delayed handoff and fumbled deep in Florida territory. He recovered, but two plays later, Damian Swann came on a cornerback blitz and hit Driskel as he was trying to pass, with Georgia recovering the fumble and setting up its first touchdown.
The Gators came into the game having turned the ball over just four times in seven games. Driskel had that many turnovers himself early in the third quarter. Someone suggested to Driskel that every young quarterback eventually has a bad game.
"It was a bad night to have it," the sophomore said.
On a night hardly anything went right for the Gators, their frustration might have been best captured late in the first half. On third-and-4 from the Georgia 5, running back Trey Burton slipped out of the backfield on a blitz with no one around him. Driskel had to scramble to catch a bad snap, and with Georgia defenders in his face when he finally got his grip, he lofted it in Burton's direction — but to the wrong side, and it fell a few yards to the right of his feet.
Florida got the ball back one last time in the opening half, trailing 7-6, and moved quickly into scoring position. On second-and-goal from the 5, Driskel was chased to the sideline when he saw Burton come open at the last minute. He threw the ball across his body, but by the time the ball arrived, Bacarri Rambo stepped in front of it for a pick. Instead of taking the halftime lead with at least a field goal, Florida got nothing.
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