Kevin Butler’s Players of the Game: Georgia 19 – Texas A&M 13

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Kevin Butler’s Players of the Game: Georgia 19 – Texas A&M 13

Kevin Butler
Kevin Butler

Kevin Butler, former Georgia legendary kicker and a member of the Georgia radio broadcast team, will each week during the 2019 football season select his offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week for Bulldawg Illustrated. And this season Butler has added a new category to his superlative awards, “The Kicker” (Unsung Contributor to the Game). Here are Butler’s selections and reasons why for the Bulldogs’ 19-13 win over Texas A&M Saturday.

Compiled by Murray Poole

UGA senior wide receiver Tyler Simmons (87)

OFFENSE

Georgia’s senior players on offense, who have been instrumental in the Bulldogs’ outstanding accomplishments over the past four seasons.

“In the final SEC game for a senior class that combined for a 42 and 11 record, as it stands at this moment D’Andre Swift again led the way with his determination and his emotion,” said Butler. “But he did not do it alone as the seniors, who aren’t many, continued to make a difference for the Georgia offense that struggles to find an identity. Led by Tyler Simmons, D’Marcus Hayes, Charlie Woerner, Lawrence Cager, Brian Herrien and Eli Wolf, these senior offensive leaders have helped this team build a culture under Kirby and have the success to prove it and back it up. As the offense continues to establish its real identity, a great challenge lies ahead and winning the state championship is always the best way to finish any season. My offensive players are the seniors that have led this offense through a spectacular career at the University of Georgia. It will be fun to watch them lead this team towards an SEC championship.”

UGA senior linebacker Tae Crowder (30)
UGA senior linebacker Tae Crowder (30)

DEFENSE

Georgia’s senior defensive leaders, who have helped shape the Bulldogs’ defense into the best unit in the SEC and one of the top defenses in the nation this season.

“Georgia has a rich history that many great defenses are a part of but the 2019 defense will go down as one of the best of all time,” said Butler. “We have seen many players play on defense this year and we always talk about the youth of our defense, but the most important part of this defense is the senior leadership. My defensive player of the week goes to all the seniors on this spectacular defense … J.R. Reed, Tyler Clark, Michail Carter, David Marshall, Michael Barnett, Tae Crowder, Ty McGhee, and Antonio Poole. As you can see this is a young defense but the leadership is invaluable. Tae Crowder and J.R. Reed have been mainstays at Georgia since they got here and their fellow seniors have made this one a special group. From a national championship game to the SEC championship game in one week, these young men have an opportunity to set the bar very high for the University of Georgia and its future defenses. Congratulations on a great career and close it out strong!”

UGA senior placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship (98)
UGA senior placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship (98)

SPECIAL TEAMS

Senior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, whose field goals of 41, 49, 37 and 31 yards proved the difference in the Bulldogs’ 6-point win over the Aggies. With the four field goals plus an extra point after Georgia’s lone touchdown, Blankenship became the leading career scorer in UGA history with his total of 418 points.

“There isn’t much I have not said about Rodrigo,” said Butler. “As a fan told me this past week, his nickname to Wendy Kahn is ‘Rescue Rod.’ Rodrigo continued his stellar season going 4-for-4 with field goals of 41, 49, 37 and 31 yards to provide the margin of victory over a tough Texas A&M team. Not only was Rod the difference in the game, but he separated himself and Georgia history by becoming the leading scorer in Georgia Bulldogs’ history. Rodrigo started as a walkon and will end up as an All-American and All-SEC. I could not be prouder to call Rod a friend and tell him, “job well done — you are one of the best kickers Georgia has ever had!”

UGA seniors J.R. Reed (20) and Tyrique McGhee (26) celebrate the 19-13 Texas A&M win with fellow senior teammates on Saturday, November 23, 2019
UGA seniors J.R. Reed (20) and Tyrique McGhee (26) celebrate the 19-13 Texas A&M win with fellow senior teammates on Saturday, November 23, 2019

THE KICKER 

“Between the Hedges” of Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium, which inspired Georgia’s 2019 senior players to many great wins over the past four years concluding with the victory over Texas A&M Saturday in their final game in the stadium.

“The hedges were the kicker this week as many seniors played their last game on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium,” said Butler. “As a young man you grow up dreaming about playing between the hedges, then all of a sudden you’re playing your last game between the hedges. Only seniors know what that feeling is like and the seniors at Georgia listened to the ghost of hedges past and understood you never want to lose the last game between them. The University of Georgia has many traditions but the one tradition that lives on forever are championships and you only get to a championship by taking care of business at home between the hedges. This senior class used the hedges as well as any players that I’ve had the opportunity to know before. Everybody on the 2019 team will remember a great victory over Texas A&M between the hedges.”

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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.