- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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Editor’s note: Each day this week, we will look back at a memorable moment or series of events from Georgia's 2012 season. In today’s final installment, we recall Malcolm Mitchell's touchdown catch against Florida that proved to be the game-winning score.
ATHENS, Ga. -- There might be a dozen plays from throughout Georgia's season that if the Bulldogs player didn't make the play he did, exactly when he did, the entire trajectory of the season might have been different.
We've covered some of them this week, including Jarvis Jones' key fourth-quarter takeaways in wins against Missouri and Florida and Connor Norman's heads-up onside kick recovery against Kentucky. But perhaps the greatest example of timely playmaking might have come in the Bulldogs' 17-9 win against then-unbeaten Florida, when Malcolm Mitchell turned a short pass into a 45-yard touchdown play.
Mitchell had been locked in a war of wills all afternoon with a fellow motormouth, Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and actually got himself briefly removed from the game by coach Mark Richt in the fourth quarter for drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a post-play incident with Purifoy.
Purifoy might have won that battle, but Mitchell won the war soon thereafter. Three plays after drawing the 15-yard penalty, Mitchell escaped from Purifoy to catch a third-and-5 pass from Aaron Murray just beyond the first-down marker at Florida's 38. A first down was not all Mitchell had on his mind immediately after shedding the Gators defender and looking at the wide-open swath of green grass in front of him as he turned upfield.
The speedster had sprinted to the Gators' 15 by the time he encountered his next defender, cutting inside a lunging Matt Elam to continue his trek toward the end zone. Next he blasted through tackle attempts by Jon Bostic and De'Ante Saunders at the 5 before high stepping into the end zone for a touchdown that pushed Georgia's lead to 17-9 with 7:11 remaining, with utter delirium breaking out on the Bulldogs' sideline and throughout Georgia's half of EverBank Field.
Jones and the defense still had to make one final stand before the Bulldogs' win was secure, but Georgia desperately needed a touchdown when Mitchell finally made the game's biggest offensive play. The Bulldogs and Gators finished with identical 7-1 SEC records at the end of the regular season, but Georgia's head-to-head win -- made possible by Mitchell's explosive skills with the ball in his hands -- was the difference between an appearance in the conference championship game and watching the game from home.
It also represented the hated Gators' only loss of the season -- and the first time since 1988-89 that Georgia has beaten Florida in back-to-back years -- and blocked Florida from BCS championship game consideration, which in hindsight might be the sweetest part about the victory for Bulldogs fans.
3dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
3dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
5dEdward Aschoff and Alex Scarborough
5dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
9dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf