JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Carson Beck and dozens of teammates ran toward one end zone, jumped into the stands and frolicked with the Georgia faithful. They danced, posed for pictures and waved red pom-poms long after coach Kirby Smart passed by and pointed in appreciation.
It was another “Cocktail Party” celebration for the Bulldogs, one that's become a familiar scene in the series.
Carson Beck threw two touchdown passes in his hometown, Daijun Edwards ran for two scores and the top-ranked Bulldogs dominated Florida 43-20 Saturday to extend their winning streak to 25.
“It’s a great feeling, nothing like I’ve ever felt before," Beck said. “This is a very emotional moment for me. ... To go out and play the game like I can, there’s no better feeling than to come out with a win like that.”
The two-time defending national champion Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) have now won three in a row and six of seven in the rivalry known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
“Getting better, but we’re still not where we need to be,” Smart said.
Maybe so, but Georgia could have cracked open celebratory drinks at halftime. The 'Dawgs scored on their first four possessions and stuffed the Gators (5-3, 3-2) early and often.
The Bulldogs sniffed out two trick plays, including a fourth-and-inches pass at the Florida 34-yard line that proved to be the turning point. Florida faked a quarterback sneak and snapped the ball through Graham Mertz’s legs to running back Trevor Etienne — turning a short-yardage situation into a much more difficult conversion.
Etienne was trying to throw but got tackled for a 3-yard loss. The play highlighted a mismatch at the line of scrimmage, one Florida clearly saw coming because coach Billy Napier didn’t feel comfortable trying to run when his team needed to gain just a couple feet.
“Ultimately, I’ve got conviction about the call,” Napier said. “That’s one of many plays today that probably we’d like to have back. But it’s not necessarily about the plays at times. It’s about the players. It’s about the execution. We can certainly call better plays at times today, but ultimately it comes down to the execution of the play.”
Edwards scored three plays later for a 17-7 lead. Mertz fumbled on the ensuing possession, and Georgia turned that into another touchdown by Edwards. Georgia later added a safety when it blocked a punt through the end zone.
The outcome was decided at that point, hardly uncommon in this series. Six of the last seven meetings have been decided by 16 or more points.
Georgia’s three-game streak over Florida has been by a combined score of 119-47, an indication of how significant the gap is between the two Eastern Division foes.
“I’ll tell you right now it’s not going to snowball,” Mertz said. “They’re a great team. They got after us today. We made a few mistakes. ... We know what this team has, and we know that our best is still out there."
Beck, a Jacksonville native who led Mandarin High School to its first state title in 2018, completed 19 of 28 passes for 315 yards. He was not sacked and rarely pressured.
Edwards ran for 95 yards and now has four TDs in the last two games in the series. Ladd McConkey had six receptions for 135 yards and a score, helping fill the void left by injured star Brock Bowers (ankle).
Florida’s Mertz ran for a touchdown late and threw for 230 yards and two scores, including a 25-yarder to Tre Wilson on the opening drive. It was the first time the Gators have scored first in the series since 2015. But they managed just a yard on their next 18 plays, which included two turnovers and four sacks.
“We made too many critical mistakes,” Napier said. “In particular, the two huge mistakes in the first half allowed the game to kind of get out of control to some degree.”
Georgia should extend its No. 1 streak to 20 consecutive weeks in the next AP College Football Poll, which will be released Sunday. The 20-week streak would rank third in poll history, one behind Miami (2001-02).
Georgia: The Bulldogs looked ready to quiet any doubters. Plenty of pundits had them on upset alert considering they had looked vulnerable at times this season and now were without Bowers. But they dominated the Gators for the third consecutive season.
Florida: Napier’s team showed signs of progress while beating Vanderbilt and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks. But it came against two of the worst teams in the East. This was a reality check for the Gators and for Napier’s rebuild, which is still a years-long project.
Georgia: Hosts No. 16 Missouri next Saturday, the start of a three-game stretch against ranked teams.
Florida: Hosts Arkansas next Saturday, a chance for the Gators to become bowl eligible for the second time in as many seasons under Napier.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll