It took 10 offensive snaps for Georgia RB Todd Gurley to lead his team’s fans to lament what might have been.
The player many consider to be the best tailback in the nation scored twice during that span. The first came on a 5-yard run (after his 25-yard rush put the ball at the 5) and another on a 73-yard pass with about 68 yards after catch.
Florida made it a game on Saturday, but could never catch up, falling to the Bulldogs, 23-20 in Jacksonville.
Gurley, who missed the last three games – two of which were losses – with a sprained ankle, played the biggest role in the win.
Neither the win nor Gurley came without some drama, though.
Shortly after the sophomore’s 73-yard run, trainers began to examine him, ultimately leading Gurley to the locker room. All reports were that he was fine, simply winded from the combination of his early-game heavy workload and lack of conditioning.
The ankle sprain Gurley suffered left him largely unable to keep his cardio training in force.
What’s scary is Gurley showed he is better at 80-90 percent than just about any other running back in the league is at 100 percent. And there are some very good running backs in the conference.
A proud Florida defense rarely had answers for Gurley, who ran for 100 yards on 17 carries.
True, Gurley doesn’t play defense. He also doesn’t play special teams.
Those two weaknesses still would have been glaring for the Bulldogs even if Gurley took the field for their two conference defeats.
It’s worth the reminder that this is a new era. Offense is king. Defense and special teams are luxuries.
Would Gurley have prevented dropped punt snaps? Not on fourth down.
Might he have prevented the Bulldogs from being in those fourth-down punting situations? It certainly stands to reason that the value of Gurley – arguably the best tailback in the nation – over that of backups might make the difference.
This isn’t to say Georgia would be Atlanta-bound with a healthy Gurley. It’s simply to say Gurley’s return means the Bulldogs are a better team than the one that got blown out at home by Missouri and gagged away a 14-point lead to Vanderbilt.
It also served as a reminder that Georgia is getting healthy just in time for the stretch run – and its shot at No. 9 Auburn.
Florida’s anemic offense made at least one obvious change on Saturday, turning to true freshman RB Kelvin Taylor.
With RB Matt Jones out for the season, Taylor has performed like the best back on the roster, regularly out-playing Mack Brown.
However, in extended action, Brown actually averaged more yards per carry (4.6 to Taylor’s 3.8) and scored one of the Gators’ 2 TDs.
The biggest problem for Florida remains the passing game. If Saturday, coming off a bye week, is any indication, the issue is not about to change.
QB Tyler Murphy completed just 13 of 29 passes despite continuing to get numerous calls for short throws.
Injuries have left a decimated Florida roster to fend just for a bowl appearance – something that seemed implausible when the Gators opened the season ranked in the top 10.
Some are even calling for coach Will Muschamp’s job.
Such an overreaction seems laughable considering Muschamp led the Gators to the Sugar Bowl just last year and because of the myriad injuries facing Florida.
The biggest concern surrounds the woeful offenses under Muschamp, especially after Urban Meyer’s dynamic attacks. (It’s worth noting, though, that the offensive talent Meyer left behind hardly resembles that the program had in 2008.)
Since beating LSU with a remarkably resilient performance, Georgia’s second-half efforts have fallen flat.
This week, following the Bulldogs’ bye, provided the most recent example even though they beat Florida, 23-20.
Georgia took a 23-3 lead into halftime. It then promptly allowed a poor offensive Gators team to make it a game by scoring all 17 points.
Not only did Georgia’s offense fail to score in the second half, it actively hurt the team’s chances, starting with the absurdly thoughtless turnover when the Bulldogs assumed a lateral was a forward pass.
Starting at the Georgia 14-yard line, the Gators needed just two plays to punch the ball into the end zone.
After the two teams traded punts, another Georgia offensive miscue hurt the team again. QB Aaron Murray dropped back for a pass in his own end zone and never felt the pressure from blitzing CB Loucheiz Purifoy, who sacked Murray for a safety.
Before the Bulldogs ran out the clock on an 8-minute, 17-second drive, they managed just one first down in the second half.
It is, of course, worth mentioning that Georgia racked up six first downs on the final soul-crushing drive, though.
If Saturday’s second-half struggles marked an isolated incident for the Bulldogs, that final possession might validate the quarter-and-a-half of awful offensive play.
Instead, it falls perfectly in line with the previous three games.
Just two weeks ago, Vanderbilt rallied from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat the Bulldogs.
Georgia’s third-quarter performance against Missouri actually put the team back in the game, but the Tigers seized control with a mid-fourth quarter score and put the game away with a pair of interceptions.
Murray’s final-drive touchdown prevented Tennessee from scoring an upset victory over Georgia just a week earlier.
Bottom line: It’s not just the offense, but rather the entire team, struggling in the second halves of games. Georgia has been out-scored 75-33 in the second halves of the last four games.
Keep it up and a season that started with BCS championship dreams could end in Nashville.