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October 29, 2012

Curse Lifted?

 In a 17-9 momentous victory over Florida, Georgia's defensive unit finally flexed its collective muscle for an entire contest.  But, it was only a matter of time, right?  With all the talent on that side of the ball, some of us Dawg fans insisted the defense would eventually show up at some point this season.  
 
From midway through the second quarter of the Tennessee game through last week's disappointing defensive showing in Lexington, the Bulldog defense yielded 13 touchdowns in the opposition's last 31 offensive possessions (not interrupted by halftime or a game's end).  That's allowing a touchdown 42 percent of the time the opponent possesses the ball a downright dismal defensive rate.  However, on Saturday, Georgia defenders stepped up to hold the Gators completely out of the end zone in 13 possessions. 
 
Still, the primary manner, and particularly the number of them, in which the Bulldogs defeated the Gators was unforeseen by all; a defensive output not generated by a Georgia team in quite some time.
 
It was rather clear Georgia would have to force a few Florida turnovers if it had any chance for a win.  Still, no one could have predicted the Bulldogs would gather six (or likely even half that amount) by the end of the game... Not this Bulldog defense, against that Gator offense.
 
Consider how far fetched it was for Georgia to force six turnovers from Florida, four of which came via fumbles:
 
You don't have to go back too terribly far – "only" five years to find the last time Georgia gained as many turnovers as it did in Jacksonville.  In the Bulldogs' 41-10 rout over Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar Bowl, the Warriors also committed six turnovers.  However, as far as the last time the Bulldogs recovered as many fumbles, I had to go way back, like more than 20 years ago to discover Georgia recovered five fumbles in a 56-0 win over Cal State Fullerton in 1992. 
 
Here's the thing, though: that CSF squad fumbled a lot, against every opponent, setting a single-season Division I-A record with 41 lost fumbles during the year.  On the contrary, Florida ventured to Jacksonville as a team not to turn the ball over, and especially when facing a defense like Georgia's.
 
The 2nd-ranked Gators entered the game ranked ninth in the country in turnover margin, having committed just four turnovers in seven games.  Only one of the other 119 FBS schools (Ohio) entered Saturday having committed less turnovers.
 
On the other hand, Georgia had forced just 10 turnovers in seven games this year.  In recent seasons, the Bulldogs especially had a difficult time forcing fumbles.  Since the '08 Sugar Bowl, Georgia had recovered only 34 opposing fumbles in 60 games, including just two the entire 2009 season.  
 
What might be difficult to comprehend can be recognized as a miracle, as well.  Against a team that hardly loses a turnover, the Dogs recovered twice as many fumbles in a game as they did during an entire 13-game season in, by the way, a series in which Georgia had forced just three combined turnovers in the previous four meetings (2008-2011).
 
Finally, in a rivalry in which Georgia has been said to be cursed or suffering from a "Jacksonville Jinx" over the last two-plus decades, not only does it appear the curse has been lifted, but inflicted upon the opposing school. 

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