The Bulldogs got a much-needed victory against the Kentucky Wildcats with a field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship as time expired. The Bulldogs improved to 5-4 on the season and are looking for this victory to give them a boost and finish out the season with three more victories. The Bulldogs did not play a complete game in every facet of the game, but things are looking up for this team.
The Bulldogs rushing attack was dominant throughout for most the game and seemed to be able to run efficiently throughout. Chubb and Michel both had great games and gave the Kentucky defense fits almost every time they had the ball in their hands. Chubb ended his day with 85 yards on 21 carries and Michel ended with 127 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown. Chubb did have two costly fumbles that did not cost the Bulldogs too many points but could have if the Wildcats were able to capitalize. However, besides these two turnovers the Bulldogs rushing attack played a huge part in the success of the offense.
The offensive line played a huge role in the running backs success and seemed to be getting a better push than they have all season in the running game. They also gave Eason a much cleaner pocket than last week, which gave him some time to make a few big time throws. The offensive line’s ability to open up more holes for the Bulldog running backs got the running game going, which gave Jacob Eason some more time to pass the ball. This game marks one of the offensive lines’ better performances and it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up against a much more stout Auburn defensive line next week
Eason started off strong and was able to limit any big mistakes and complimented the running game of the Bulldogs pretty well for the majority of the game. However, Eason did have his share of overthrows and misreads that although they did not get him in trouble they will need to be corrected in the future. Eason has a ton of arm talent but as he develops more and more in practice and in game, he will grow to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
The offense had its struggles in finding the end zone, but did a good job of moving the ball efficiently on the ground and threw the air. However, they will need to work on getting the ball in the end zone for six rather than having to settle for a field goal.
The Bulldogs young defensive line was most impressive and one of those younger guys was able to lead the team in tackles. Julian Rochester was tied for the lead with Reggie Carter in total tackles and had one of his best games yet. Three of the Bulldogs freshman defensive linemen were able to register a tackle for loss, which was a huge boost with players like Daquan Hawkins-Muckle and Trenton Thompson missing from the majority of the game. Those three freshmen were Julian Rochester, David Marshall, and Tyler Clark. Marshall and Rochester both registered a sack, with Rochester’s play being a strip sack. The contributions from these young defensive linemen continue to increase and played a pivotal role in the Bulldogs win over Kentucky.
The Bulldogs secondary and linebacker did a decent job of coming up and helping out in stopping the run, but did have some breakdowns in this area as well. The Bulldogs pass rush mixed with their coverage did an overall good job of forcing Kentucky to be one dimensional on offense. The Bulldogs defense held Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson to a whopping 103 yards passing and one interception. Johnson was never able to find any rhythm passing the ball and the Bulldogs effort on defense can be largely attributed to his struggles.
Overall, I believe the offense did a great job, but has some work to do in locking up tackles and not letting guys break loose. The defense played consistently good football once again and has showed improvement each and every week.
Rodrigo Blankenship is the MVP of this game and there should be no question why. Blankenship went 4/4 with his field goal kicks with a long of 49. Blankenship’s confidence continues to increase each and every week and the staff is gaining more confidence in him, as well. However, Blankenship is still a bit shaky on his kickoffs and needs to consistently take away the option of a return from the opposition by kicking it deep in the end zone. Blankenship played his best game of the season and if his success continues, he may end up being a big-time weapon for the Bulldogs.
Marshall Long also had a much better day punting the ball and pinned the Kentucky Wildcats inside their own 20 on two separate occasions. Long’s punts averaged about 41.2 yards with a long of 50. If Long can find a way to consistently punt this well in the future, then he should have the punters spot locked down.
The Bulldogs punt return game was their biggest struggle and Isaiah McKenzie muffed a crucial punt in the earlier portion of the game that gave the Wildcats some much-needed momentum. McKenzie has to learn when to call a fair catch and prevent these plays if he wants to keep his job as the Bulldogs punt returner.
The Bulldogs had a much more well-rounded game this week in comparison to last week and will need to build on the improvements made in this game if they wish to beat Auburn.