Georgia’s 6th-ranked Bulldogs, having squashed any championship hopes held by Kentucky with a 34-17 pummeling of the Wildcats on Saturday in Lexington, don’t have much time to savor their SEC East Division crown, what with the Auburn Tigers on tap this weekend at Sanford Stadium.
The Bulldogs, headed for their second consecutive SEC Championship Game appearance on Dec. 1 against West Division winner and No. 1-ranked Alabama, built a 14-3 halftime lead on the host Wildcats, built that advantage to as much as 28-3 in the third quarter and then overcame two late Kentucky scores to post the 17-point final decision … a win that lifted Georgia to 8-1 season and 6-1 in the SEC.
Against a Wildcat defense that ranked at the top of the NCAA stats in defense against scoring, the Bulldogs not only became the first team to score more than 20 points against Kentucky but, also, rocked that defense for 331 yards rushing behind D’Andre Swift’s 156 yards and Elijah Holyfield’s 115 total.
Plays of 20 plus yards (offense/defense)
Mecole Hardman got the Bulldogs going with a stirring 65-yard punt return, to the Kentucky 23. That enabled Georgia to score on its first possession, on a 4-yard pass from Jake Fromm to Isaac Nauta. The Bulldogs then went up 14-3 on Swift’s elusive 20-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. In the second half, there was Holyfield’s 30-yard run, an electrifying 83-yard touchdown gallop by Swift, a 34-yard run by Jayson Stanley and, a 20-yard pass from Fromm to Jeremiah Holloman. Illustrating the Bulldogs’ sterling defensive play, the Wildcats had only one play in this category, a 31-yard deflected TD pass from Terry Wilson to Asim Rose.
These kept the Bulldogs from putting up more points in the opening half as a high snap to Fromm by freshman center Trey Hill, filling in for the injured Lamont Gaillard, turned the ball over to the Wildcats at the UK 34. Then a botched handoff by Fromm and Swift at the Wildcat 26 near the end of the first half and a Cat recovery prevented the Bulldogs from going up by either 21-3 or 17-3 at intermission. Georgia was also assessed a pass interference call on Tyson Campbell, a holding call on Hardman and a questionable pass interference on Deandre Baker. But, overall, the Bulldogs only incurred four penalties for 45 yards on the day.
Special teams wins vs. miscues
There was the big 65-yard punt return by Hardman, two field goals of 23 and 38 yards by Rodrigo Blankenship and a 55-yard punt by Jake Camarda, on his only kick of the day. On the negative side, the only kickoff by Blankenship that didn’t go into the end zone for a touchback was returned 36 yards by the Wildcats.
With the Georgia defense holding SEC leading rusher Benny Snell to 73 yards and the Wildcats as a team to just 84 net yards on the ground, the Bulldogs were a gang-tackling, ball-swarming unit in this football game.
The Bulldogs had the two lost fumbles but Fromm didn’t throw any picks. And Georgia notched two fumble recoveries, by Tyson Campbell and Tyler Clark.
Red Zone (offense/defense)
A perfect 5-of-5 ledger for Georgia here with three scores inside the red zone coming via touchdowns and two by Blankenship’s right foot. The Cats drove inside the Bulldog 20 only twice, recording a touchdown and field goal.
Third down conversions
Almost identical here as Georgia was 7-of-12 converting third down tries while Kentucky was 7-of-13.
Run/pass attempts (total plays)
Once again, the Bulldogs dominated the stats sheet by running 70 plays for 444 yards of offense while the Wildcats had 64 plays for 310 yards, with Terry Wilson’s short passes accounting for 226 of those yards.