Caldwell, defense lead Florida past GeorgiaOct 28, 2006 - 11:44 PM JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Ticker) -- Good thing for Florida this wasn't a beauty pageant, because it wasn't pretty.
After Andre Caldwell helped Florida get off to a fast start, the ninth-ranked Gators stalled offensively in the second half but received enough from their defense to post a 21-14 victory over Georgia in their annual Southeastern Conference showdown.
Caldwell scored on a 12-yard run in the first quarter and a 40-yard pass from Chris Leak in the second to give the Gators a 14-0 lead at the half.
"I'm back and ready to play ball," Caldwell said. "I'm out here making plays and trying to help my team. I've got everything back, confidence and all."
Florida (7-1, 4-1 SEC East) extended the lead to 21-0 on the first play of the third quarter thanks to its defense.
Georgia running back Kregg Lumpkin was caught in the backfield and fumbled. Ray McDonald scooped up the loose ball and stumbled eight yards for a TD to give Florida what seemed to be a comfortable lead.
The Gators have won 15 of the last 17 games against the Bulldogs but this one was because of their defense. Florida's second-half possessions resulted in two missed field goals, an interception, a fumble and a punt. Their most impressive drive of the final two quarters - eight plays for 20 yards in the fourth quarter - burned the final 3:31 as they ran out the clock.
"Today was a great effort by our defense," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "The penalties, turnovers - championship teams don't do that and we have a lot of work to do. The defense was just out there playing and playing, and they won the game for us."
Georgia (6-3, 3-3 East) pulled within 21-14 with 8:17 to play on a nine-yard TD run by Lumpkin. The Bulldogs got the ball back just once and went three-and-out.
The Bulldogs were kept in this one by their defense as freshman quarterback Matthew Stafford was given a rough baptism into the rivalry. He completed just 13-of-33 passes for 151 yards and was sacked four times and intercepted twice as the Bulldogs committed five turnovers.
"It comes down to this: We turned it over five times again and you just won't beat anyone doing that," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I don't feel good about this. I don't enjoy losing to the Gators. But I will say this: When most teams would lie down and die, this team didn't. We've got some guys with great character. I'm proud of them and proud to be a Bulldog."
Stafford did run for a 13-yard TD with 4:40 left in theb third quarter to finally get the Bulldogs on the board and make it 21-7.
"I am proud of the way our team played today and how we fought back," Stafford said. "Our defense did a great job today and kept us in the game. We only had the ball one time when we were down 21-14 and we did not capitalize on it."
The Gators now have won six straight meetings with their three chief rivals - Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State - to eclipse a school record set over the 1995-96 seasons.
Florida's only remaining league games are at Vanderbilt and vs. South Carolina.
"We are officially in the hunt for the SEC East title," Meyer said. "We need to get our mistakes fixed this week and then get out there and beat Vanderbilt next week."
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