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Dawgs not taking Appalachian State lightly

Georgia Bulldogs defensive end Garrison Smith (56) sacks Florida Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy (3) during the second half at EverBank Field. Smith finished the game with three sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Florida Gators 23-20. (USA TODAY Sports: Kim Klement)

Georgia Bulldogs defensive end Garrison Smith (56) sacks Florida Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy (3) during the second half at EverBank Field. Smith finished the game with three sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Florida Gators 23-20. (USA TODAY Sports: Kim Klement)

A big win over rival Florida kept Georgia alive in the SEC East division race.

The Bulldogs (5-3, 4-2 SEC) will now turn their attention to Saturday’s nonconference matchup at home against Appalachian State

“You can’t look past any game,” Georgia receiver Michael Bennett said. “That North Texas game we didn’t play as good as we could have, and hopefully we’ll jump up on App State and not let up.”

Georgia can use the game to get Bennett and running back Todd Gurley back in the flow of the offense before closing out league play with games at Auburn and at home against Kentucky. Both played big factors Georgia’s 23-20 win over Florida. Bennett had a team-high 59 yards receiving on five catches, while Gurley accounted for 187 yards and scored two TDs.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said he expects Gurley, coming off a sprained ankle that sidelined him for month, to play again Saturday.

“If he’s healthy enough to play, he will, and we expect him to be healthy,” Richt said. “We still have to practice a couple of days, but it’s a game. Whoever our starters are, we’re going to play them. I think you get your conditioning in practice, mostly. We’re going to play him according to what is best for the team at that time.”

Georgia’s much-maligned defense also put a strong effort against the offensively-challenged Gators. Georgia finished with four sacks and held the Gators to 319 yards of offense. Florida averaged just 4.6 yards per offensive play.

“We were handling the run game pretty good,” Richt said. “The goal, obviously, is to get them off the field and force kicks and things of that nature. We’ve done a better job of that the last few weeks, and I think that’s why it’s all starting to come together. Hopefully we can continue that momentum.”

Junior linebacker Amarlo Herrera also thinks Georgia’s defense is starting to come together.

“We’ve started getting the other team off the field quicker and giving our offense better field position,” Herrera said. “We still have a long way to go. The excitement will get here sooner or later but we’re still just working hard.”

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NCAAF Team Report - Georgia - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

GAME BREAKDOWN

Scouting the running game: The return of Todd Gurley helped spark Georgia’s running game against Florida. The Bulldogs averaged 4.5 yards per carry against the Gators and were able to pick up key first downs on a 15-play, 67-yard drive in the final 8:17 that closed out the game. RB Brendan Douglas also did a nice job spelling Gurley in the Florida game, finishing with six carries for 36 yards. On one 21-yard run, Douglas broke three tackles.

Scouting the passing game: Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray had another efficient game against Florida, passing for 258 yards while spreading the ball to seven different receivers. Georgia worked the ball to TEs Jay Rome (two catches for 24 yards) and Arthur Lynch (one catch for 31 yards before a game-ending rib injury) effectively. Murray just missed a TD pass to Rantavious Wooten, who juggled the ball in the corner of the end zone and couldn’t keep in bounds by the time he controlled the ball. Wooten had just one catch for six yards. Georgia did a strong job in pass protection, limiting Florida to just two sacks despite heavy blitz pressure from the Gators.

Scouting the run defense: Georgia limited Florida to 145 yards rushing on 3.5 yards per carry. But Georgia did give up a pair of rushing TDs to the Gators, one to Mack Brown (four yards) and another on a QB sneak by Tyler Murphy (14 yards). Georgia’s run defense will need to tighten up with big SEC matchups ahead against Auburn and Kentucky.

Scouting the pass defense: Coach Mark Richt said that CB Sheldon Dawson is starting to emerge as a dependable cover corner. Connor Norman and Quincy Mauger also are starting to play better at S. There was a blown coverage early against Florida which resulted in an 83-yard pass play from QB Tyler Murphy to WR Quinton Dunbar. But after that, Georgia’s pass defense tightened up. It helped that Georgia pressured Murphy throughout the game. The Bulldogs finished the game with four sacks and three more quarterback hurries.

Scouting the special teams: PK Marshall Morgan went 3 for 3 in field goal attempts against Florida to improve to 13 for 15 for the season. Georgia also cleaned up its long-snapping issues and allowed just one big return in kick coverage (a 41-yard return by Florida’s Solomon Patton). But Georgia giving away no points on special teams against the Gators was a marked improvement compared to previous weeks.