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Behind the Blistering 135 Seconds When Georgia Sunk Florida and Showed Off a Raging Talent Gap

The Bulldogs turned a 3–0 lead into a 24-point difference in the blink of an eye as their defense claimed its latest conquest in 2021.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two minutes and 15 seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time. But you can actually do a lot in 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

For example, you can microwave a hot pocket.

If you’re walking at a normal pace—about three miles an hour or 4.5 feet per second—you can walk about 550 feet in two minutes and 15 seconds.

The average time for an American to brush and floss their teeth is about two minutes and 15 seconds.

Have you ever played Mario Kart? Well, you can start and finish a race in about two minutes and 15 seconds.

On Saturday afternoon, in this lovely setting along the St. John’s River, Georgia showed the nation that it can do at least one other thing in two minutes and 15 seconds: win a football game.

Don’t worry yourself with the other 57 minutes and 45 seconds of Georgia’s 34–7 win over Florida. The top-ranked team in the country showed its potency in a remarkable 135-second stretch of time that will forever be remembered in this historic series: It scored three touchdowns off of three turnovers on just two offensive plays.

It’s O.K. to read that line again. In fact, we’ll write it again with emphasis this time.

Three touchdowns, three turnovers, two offensive plays.

All of it, of course, in two minutes and 15 seconds.

Georgia's Nolan Smith celebrates after an interception vs Florida

Nolan Smith (No. 4) celebrates with other defenders after grabbing an interception.

Try to keep up as we take you through what might be the worst two minutes and 15 seconds of Dan Mullen’s coaching career.

The first seven seconds: With Florida trailing 3–0 with about two minutes and 30 seconds left before halftime, Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith stripped the ball from quarterback Anthony Richardson at the end of what would have been a first-down carry. The Bulldogs needed one play—an 11-yard run from James Cook—to score.

The next 33 seconds: On the next series, Richardson, on second-and-15, threw a pass over the middle of the field that was tipped and then intercepted by, again, that pesky Smith. One play later, UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett threw a 36-yard touchdown.

The last 95 seconds: On the seventh play of the next drive, with seven seconds left in the half, Richardson—yes, him again!—threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, who then ran 50 yards for a touchdown.

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In two minutes and 15 seconds, Georgia went from leading 3–0, and not even having possession of the ball, to up 24–0 at the half.

UGA coach Kirby Smart says his team had been, to that point, controlling the game despite the score. The coach suggested he was waiting for his team’s discipline and aggression to emerge. It didn’t emerge—it exploded.

“Huge,” he characterized it.

Others might describe it as the result of a redshirt freshman quarterback making his first start against the country’s No. 1 defense. Either way, so it goes. The nation’s top-ranked team clobbered its fiercest rival and continues its march toward what could be its first national championship since 1980, buoyed by a defense that is downright nasty.

For a fifth time in eight games, a Georgia opponent didn’t crack the 10-point mark. UGA’s defense has allowed five touchdowns all year.

Consider this: Florida’s seven points actually raises Georgia’s scoring defensive stat. The Bulldogs (8–0) entered the game having allowed 6.6 points a game—eight points better than the next-best team, Michigan, which gave up 37 on Saturday in a loss to Michigan State.

Georgia has big, fast and athletic guys on its front, the kind of guys that quarterbacks see in their nightmares. The Bulldogs' front is scary enough that its members would perfectly fit in the haunted house erected just outside of TIAA Bank Field, supplying Saturday's belligerent cocktail party-goers with a place to celebrate the Halloween weekend.

It’s no secret why Georgia is No. 1 in the nation—its defense. And it’s no secret why Georgia’s defense is No. 1 in the nation—its talent.

How talented? Its membership features more than a dozen players who were rated five stars or better out of high school. In six years as coach, Smart has already developed into one of the nation’s elite recruiters. Advocates of Smart will say he is a relentless, aggressive recruiter who is only using what he’s learned from one of college football’s best recruiters, Nick Saban. Those from other schools—especially rivals within his own conference—will say his recruiting tactics are a little too aggressive (it is important to note here that Smart’s program has not been the subject of any significant NCAA penalties).

But back to that talent. It’s there. Big, strong, fast. It’s easy to see how all that talent got here—on signing day. Georgia leads all college football programs in five-star signees over the last four recruiting cycles. The Bulldogs have signed 20 prospects rated five stars by 247Sports’s composite rankings. Florida has signed two five-stars over that stretch.

The talent talk came up during Smart’s postgame news conference.

“There’s no coach out there that can out-coach recruiting,” Smart said. “No coaching is going to out-coach players. Anybody will tell you our defense is good because we have good players.”

Look at that two-minute, 15-second stretch in which the Bulldogs went from up 3–0 to up 24–0. You remember Smith, the one who ripped the ball from Richardson and intercepted the tipped pass? He’s a former five-star. And how about defensive lineman Travon Walker, the man who tipped Richardson’s pass so Smith could pick it off? Five star.

Finally, there’s Dean, the inside linebacker with the pick-six. Guess how many stars? Here’s a hint: You can count them on one hand, using all fingers.

“If you don't recruit, then you don't have a chance,” Smart said. “You should always be recruiting because if you don't, someone else is."

As they often say, A.B.C.: Always Be Croot’n.

Was Smart’s comment a shot at Mullen? Unlikely. Smart was specifically asked about recruiting and was only answering the question. However, a few seconds later, during Mullen’s own news conference, the coach was grilled about his own recruiting. But it’s not like Mullen is alone in struggling to sign five-stars. In fact, come with me as we go inside the numbers.

In the last four signing classes, 127 five-star prospects have signed with FBS teams. Only five teams have signed more than five five-stars during that stretch: Georgia (20), Alabama and Ohio State (16 each), Clemson (14) and LSU (nine).

UGA accounts for 16% of the five-star talent signed since 2018. It signed as many five stars in that time frame as Oklahoma (five), Oregon (four), Miami (three), Michigan (two), Notre Dame (two), Florida (two) and Auburn (two) combined to sign.

So here we are. In a shocking turn of events, the most talented team in the country is, get this, the best team in the country—for now at least.

And it showed the nation on Saturday what talent can do in a very short time frame.

Two minutes and 15 seconds.

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