Beauty is in the eye of the beholder they say. Many, and I mean many, that are involved with and, or support the University of Georgia football program would likely describe the win over Kentucky as ugly. Other, name those like Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, found the gritty performance of the Dawgs in Lexington on Saturday as, “pretty.” Smart was asked if there is such thing as an ugly win, to which the 5th year head man for the Dawgs responded in the affirmative, however, he seemed to allude that for him this effort against Kentucky did not fit that description.
Georgia came into the Kentucky game banged up on offense with George Pickens (pectoral) and Kenny McIntosh (knee) not traveling with the team due to injury. Kearis Jackson once again proved reliable in Pickens’ absence and James Cook picked up the slack for McIntosh, but both injured players were missed. Combine those injuries with the ones that Georgia sustained on defense during the game and Kentucky’s style of play and the truth is that this game was never designed to be “pretty”. However, some of the play by those that stepped up for Georgia, particularly on defense seemed to please the UGA head coach and was encouraging to others as well.
People need to get healthy for Georgia. Execution must be better going forward, especially with the Cocktail Party on Saturday. The matchup versus Florida will undoubtedly determine if Georgia gets a rematch with Alabama in the SEC Championship. But, for now, it’s time to examine stats that told the tale against the Wildcats in the Bluegrass State this past Saturday.
Georgia ran the ball 30 more times than they passed it in the game versus Kentucky. We at Bulldawg Illustrated had both extrapolated from Georgia press availabilities during the bye week and the week leading up to Kentucky and heard from sources that there was a going to be a commitment to running the football. By gracious was there! Georgia scored on the first drive of the game by marching 86 yards on 12 plays and not attempting a single pass. Setting the tone is an understatement.
Yes, Georgia wants more balance out of their offense, and Lord knows that the Georgia faithful want to see more balance and effectiveness through the air, but sometimes you take what the defense is giving you. When you are rushing it for 5 yards a clip, and Georgia finished with exactly 5.0 yards per carry, then you do not need to throw the football very much. While the game could have easily been 28 or 35 to 3 and the fact that it finished 14 to 3 frustrates people is understandable, literally at no point in time in that game was the outcome ever in question. Georgia’s rushing attack was a big reason.
Saturday versus Kentucky marked the 2nd consecutive game that James Cook eclipsed the century mark for total yards. Cook’s 62 yards receiving led the team, and he averaged 6.5 yards per carry running the football. Georgia needs to continue to find ways to get Cook the football. Georgia must be able to sustain drives against Florida and they are going to need their share of explosive plays. Cook can provide those and let’s face it, hardly anybody cover the running back in college football today. Georgia needs to feed Cook and see if this streak can climb to three in Jacksonville on Saturday.
10.1 yards per completion was what Stetson Bennett IV and the Dawgs averaged on Saturday in Lexington. Listen, Kirby Smart, Todd Monken, and company know their football team better than anyone. If the smash-mouth, run first type of offense is going to be the identity of the Dawgs going forward, well that is all well and good because that is what the staff thinks best fits their personnel. However, to go along with that potent rushing attack, Georgia needs to be able to take some shots downfield. I understand that George Pickens was out and that he often creates 1-on-1 matchups for other receivers to exploit down the field by being double covered. While Georgia did not really have to take shots to win this one, they will against Florida, and if they play against Alabama again. It would be ideal for the Georgia offense to see that average jump up in the high teens to low 20s range on about 15 to 18 completions next game.
Georgia was without seven key players at one point during the Kentucky game. Pickens and McIntosh have already been discussed. Also, Georgia’s defense only gave up three points despite the absences of Jordan Davis, Julian Rochester, Quay Walker, Lewis Cine, and Tyrique Stevenson. It’s impressive that Georgia had the depth to overcome the storm, but it’s imperative that they get healthy in a hurry to face Florida.