UF defense struggles against potent Georgia rushing attack

Sony Michel cradled the ball and ran to his left.

Seventy-four yards later, after Michel skipped to the sideline and raced down the field, the Georgia running back dove into the end zone for a touchdown.

The run gave Georgia a 21-0 lead with just under eight minutes left in the first quarter, and dealt Florida’s defense a demoralizing blow.

“It was a shocker,” safety Chauncey Gardner said.

The Gators’ defense was gashed by Georgia running backs Nick Chubb and Michel during UF’s 42-7 loss on Saturday, giving up 292 rushing yards, a season high, and four rushing touchdowns. By the end of the first quarter, the tandem of Michel and Chubb had rushed for more yards (133) than UF had allowed in its entire game against Texas A&M (83) in its last outing on Oct. 14. The two UGA running backs finished with a combined 214 yards.

“It was all mental,” cornerback Duke Dawson said. “We just weren’t mentally prepared.”

While Michel had the longest run of the day, his teammates weren’t far behind. Four Georgia players had runs of at least 10 yards.

And the second half was more of the same.

Michel exploded for a 45-yard touchdown run on Georgia’s second drive of the third quarter, and sophomore Elijah Holyfield scored on a 39-yard run in the fourth quarter.

“It’s disappointing,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “We tried to make them one dimensional, and we didn’t.”

FRANKS STRUGGLES: Feleipe Franks’ up-and-down first season culminated in a disastrous outing on Saturday.

The redshirt freshman threw an interception, fumbled twice and was sacked five times, completing seven of his 19 passes for 30 yards.

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“I take all the blame,” Franks said. “I carry the weight on my back. I gotta move the offense and do a better job.”

Franks began the season as Florida’s starting quarterback before being pulled in favor of redshirt junior Luke Del Rio before UF’s game against Vanderbilt on Sept. 30. But after Del Rio suffered a season ending injury against the Commodores, Franks was given back the starting job.

And on Saturday, he may have had his worst game in a Florida uniform.

Franks’ rough day was summed up during a play in the third quarter. The quarterback backpedaled in the pocket and was soon swarmed by defenders, who forced Franks to fumble as he attempted to throw the ball away. Georgia recovered the fumble for a touchdown.

Franks was pulled in the fourth quarter for graduate transfer Malik Zaire.

Despite his performance, Franks said his confidence level was “good.”

“I’m not gonna fold,” Franks said. “I’m not the type to lose confidence.”

NOTEWORTHY: Florida freshman running back Malik Davis sustained a knee injury in the first quarter, McElwain said. After being helped into a tent on the sideline, Davis went to the locker room with trainers.

Davis is Florida’s leading rusher this season with 526 yards.