A large part of any good football team is the ability for one side of the ball to aid the other when things aren’t going well. Nothing exemplifies that better than No. 10 Georgia’s game Saturday night against Kentucky at rainy Sanford Stadium.
The Bulldog offense was stagnant for the entire first half and into the third quarter. But the defense dominated the Wildcats the entire night, and the offense cashed in a couple of Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 SEC) miscues to give Georgia (6-1, 3-1) a 21-0 win.
“It was going to be a field-position battle the whole game,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I was proud of the way our guys fought in what was a tough environment to play in. I told the team if they handled it best, they would probably come out on top.”
As the two teams remained stuck in neutral after halftime, the Bulldogs ran for a pair of touchdowns, one following a poor punt and the other following an interception, to take a 14-0 lead.
Kentucky had one drive deep into Georgia territory with a chance to keep things close, but a Bulldog goal line stand preceded a long touchdown drive that put the game on ice for good.
Offense silent through first half
For the third half in a row, the Georgia offense left a lot to be desired.
The Bulldogs mustered just 123 total yards in the first half, with 95 of that coming on the ground. Georgia also didn’t run a single play in Kentucky territory until the third quarter.
The offense did avoid turning the ball over and setting Kentucky up in good field position, but as the repeated boos raining down in the first half indicated, Georgia still has a lot to figure out on the offensive end.
But Smart, given the conditions, walked away pleased with the result.
“I feel really good about what our offense does,” Smart said. “To judge it based on that game is just not very smart. It’s hard to judge anything in that game.”
Kentucky gives the game away
The game still hung in the balance into the third quarter, but Kentucky committed a pair of huge mistakes to essentially give the game away.
First, a shanked third-quarter punt set the Bulldogs up at the Wildcat 39-yard line, the first time they had crossed midfield all game. Running back D’Andre Swift then scored the first points of the game on the next play with a 39-yard weaving touchdown run.
“I think the punt, I don’t know how far the punt was that he hit out of bounds, but that was the biggest momentum change and got our crowd into it,” Smart said.
On the next Kentucky drive, quarterback Lynn Bowden fumbled on third down following a big hit from safety J.R. Reed. The play set up a 31-yard touchdown drive that culminated in an 8-yard scoring run from Brian Herrien, making it 14-0 and putting the game out of reach.
Georgia defense stays dominant
For the second straight week, the Bulldog defense dominated as the offense struggled.
Georgia pitched its second shutout of the season and held Kentucky to just 177 total yards in the process. The Wildcats notched just 17 passing yards and didn’t complete a pass at all until their final drive of the night.
The Bulldogs were facing Bowden, a converted receiver, at quarterback, but they didn’t allow him to get loose in the running game and forced the Wildcats into the mistakes that helped Georgia come out on top.
Players who mattered
D’Andre Swift was about the only Bulldog to perform well in the first half, rushing for 81 yards on nine carries. But in the second half, the junior from Philadelphia took over the struggling unit.
He ran for 98 yards on 12 carries in the second half, scoring both the initial and final touchdowns of the game. He just missed his career high of 186 yards set against Auburn last season, ending the game with 179 yards on the ground and the two touchdowns.
It was far from a perfect night for Swift or anyone else on the offense, but when his team needed him, he came up clutch.
Richard LeCounte: The defense led the way on Saturday night, and LeCounte was at the forefront of the dominant unit. He tied for the team lead with 6 tackles, setting the tone with a big hit on one of Kentucky’s first drives of the game.
He also scooped up Bowden’s fumble in the third quarter, returning it to the Wildcat 31-yard line to set up Herrien’s touchdown that put the Bulldogs up by an insurmountable two scores.
Jake Fromm didn’t exactly rebound strong from his three-interception performance against South Carolina.
He passed for just 35 yards on 9-of 12 passing with no touchdowns. But in wet and sloppy conditions he also didn’t turn the ball over, avoiding the big mistakes and keeping Georgia in the game.
“Our offense did a tremendous job of protecting the ball,” Smart said. “To play in those conditions, not put the ball on the ground, not turn the ball over, was big for us.”