A 23-point line on a top-11 matchup shows you how the oddsmakers viewed Kentucky as a threat, or lack thereof, to Georgia at home. The No. 1 Bulldogs had outscored opponents 229-30 in their last five games and had not faced much of a challenge, especially in the second half of games this year.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and Georgia players talked all week about Kentucky’s “physicality” in their impressive 6-0 start to the season. That was on display especially at the end of the first half.
Kentucky executed a 13 play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a one-yard touchdown pass from Will Levis to Justin Rigg. That cut Georgia’s lead to 14-7 and for the first time since facing Clemson, the Bulldogs headed into the half in a one-score game.
“We’re gonna have adversity guys,” said Smart after the game. “You’re not going to play in the SEC without adversity. It’s how you respond to it and I didn’t think our guys blinked, I didn’t think anybody was panicking. Every game is not going to just come out and jump all over people, they got good players too, they got good plans… We feel like if we keep chopping wood, we’ll make more plays than the other team.”
If by “chopping wood,” Smart means wearing the other team down, then it would be true that his team did that on Saturday. Georgia center Sedric Van Pran-Granger also echoed similar sentiments to Smart about the team “chopping wood.”
The Bulldogs came out firing in the third quarter with a familiar recipe to the one that led Georgia to a win over Auburn last week. The Bulldogs were able to find success in the run game by being physical up front. Kendall Milton, Zamir White and James Cook all had rushes of 24 yards or longer.
“That’s one of the pillars that this program is built on, physicality, strength and toughness,” said Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett. “When you know somebody is going to come in here to your stadium, to your turf, and challenge that, challenge you as a man, the guys were locked in. They knew Kentucky was a physical team, they knew what they were trying to do and they were ready for it.”
That then opened up the play-action pass game, where Bennett made the most of his opportunity. His favorite target today was freshman tight end Brock Bowers who racked up 101 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
“As far as the play-action game, it’s just a combination of when you get to running the ball well and you get a couple of pop runs, people start to crowd the box a little bit more,” said Van Pran-Granger.
Once Georgia scored to open the second half and then forced Kentucky to a three-and-out, all the momentum had again swung back to Georgia’s side. The Bulldogs marched down the field again but had to settle for a field goal.
Still, the 24-7 lead was more than enough for the Bulldogs to get back into their fourth-quarter control mode. With the way Georgia can run the ball, they are not an ideal team to try to mount a comeback on.
It was important to see how Georgia would respond to some adversity as they head into the bye week at 7-0, (4-0.) The win almost guarantees the Bulldogs a spot in Atlanta for the SEC championship but perfection is what they should be gunning for.
“I’m never satisfied,” said Smart. “I hate to say it. I hate that word. Satisfied is arriving, I’m not satisfied, I’m pleased with the effort.”