What a historic day in our nation’s history.
And what a euphoric day in Gator Nation’s history.
We found out on this earth-shaking, groundbreaking Saturday that not only do we have a new president of the United States, we also have a new king of the SEC East.
Except the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs aren’t disputing the outcome of No. 8 Florida’s landslide 44-28 victory at the World’s Largest Outdoor Social Distance Gathering. Joe Biden needed 270 electoral votes to defeat President Donald Trump and, after watching the game on Saturday, you came away thinking Florida’s Heismanesque quarterback Kyle Trask and the Gators’ offense could have scored 270 points on incumbent Georgia’s proud defense.
Maybe Dan Mullen dressing up in a Darth Vader costume at the end of last week’s Halloween night blowout of Missouri was some sort of football foreshadowing. After all, it was Darth Vader who overthrew evil Emperor Palpatine at the end of original Star Wars trilogy. Likewise, it was Darth Danny who vanquished Georgia coach Kirby Smart’s three-year stronghold on the SEC East.
Mullen was so ecstatic after the victory, he giddily ran over to the edge of the stands and jumped onto the railing to celebrate with Gator fans.
“It seemed like there were a lot of students there and they were juiced and trying to get me to jump up into the stands,” Mullen said. “I might be 48 years old, but I’m young on the inside. You gotta enjoy this stuff. It’s been a tough, difficult year for everybody in every aspect. When great things happen, you still have to be able to put a smile on your face and enjoy it.”
Mark my words, this won’t be the last time Mullen celebrates beating Georgia. What you saw Saturday was a passing of the torch in the SEC East.
I hate to say I told you so, but …
Georgia fans scoffed at me and sent nasty tweets and emails in 2018 after Mullen’s Gators were manhandled, 36-17, by Smart’s Bulldogs in the UF coach’s inaugural Cocktail Party.
Remember what I wrote then?
Let me remind you:
“Enjoy this, Georgia. Savor this victory over the Florida Gators. Relish your clear superiority over your rivals during Saturday’s 36-17 victory in the World’s Largest Outdoor Talent Discrepancy Party. Every Dog has its day. But your Dog days aren’t going to last as long as you once thought. In less than a season, new Gator coach Dan Mullen has at least put some chomp back in this rivalry after taking over a doomed, done-for, dysfunctional program that completely quit on former coach Jim McElwain during last year’s 42-7 loss to the Bulldogs.
“Cherish the 19-point victory, Georgia. Embrace it. Appreciate it. With Dan the Man in charge, you’re not going to be Dogging the Gators like this for very much longer.”
Florida has been quickly chasing down Georgia since Mullen arrived and inherited that dilapidated, dysfunctional program that went 4-7 in McElwain’s final season. After that 42-7 dismantling of UF in McElwain’s final game, Georgia beat the Gators by 19 in Mullen’s first season and then last season beat UF by just a touchdown, 24-17.
And then came Saturday when Mullen’s Gators not only caught the Dawgs, they blew by a Georgia program that Smart has built into a national power. Smart, one of the nation’s top recruiters, brought his collection of four- and five-star recruits to Jacksonville and got buried by Mullen’s magical play-calling.
Georgia’s defense, although banged up, came into Saturday’s game ranked No. 1 in the SEC, yielding an average of 300.6 yards per game. The Gators rolled up 411 yards and 38 points IN THE FIRST HALF ALONE. Playing at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Trask and the Gators made the Dawgs’ proud defense look more like the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense.
Trask and UF’s offense didn’t flinch even after the Dawgs scored on their first two possessions to take a 14-0 lead. Later in the first half, Trask tried to force the ball into tight coverage and was picked off by Eric Stokes, who returned it 37 yards for a touchdown and a 21-14 Georgia lead.
Unflappable as ever, Trask came right back and led the Gators on four consecutive scoring drives to end the first half. On the first possession after the pick-six, boom, it took two plays and 39 seconds for the Gators to score. Trask lofted a 50-yard pass to Nay’Quan Wright to set up a 25-yard TD pass to otherworldly tight end Kyle Pitts.
On the next possession, after Pitts was knocked out of the game on an illegal hit by Georgia safety Lewis Cine, it was no problem for Trask. He dropped back on the very next play and hit replacement tight end Kemore Gamble for a 24-yard touchdown, and the rout was on.
By the time it was over, Trask had thrown for the second-most yards in UF history (474) and became the first player in SEC history to throw at least four TD passes in five consecutive games. Florida’s offense finished with more yards (571) than Smart’s defense has ever given up at Georgia.
As for Mullen, he has received much criticism in recent weeks for some of his controversial comments and combustible behavior. On Monday, the UF coach was fined and reprimanded by the SEC for his part in a benches-clearing melee during last week’s win over Missouri.
But for Gator Nation, Dan the Man can do no wrong.
Not after this historic, euphoric Saturday when he was inaugurated as the new king of the SEC East.
©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)