Bulldogs Beat

‘He needs to go to the NFL.’ How D’Andre Swift carried UGA’s offense to win over Kentucky

D’Andre Swift took the first carry and surged ferociously down the left sideline for a 14-yard gain. Georgia’s star running back started the week with comments about offensive execution, and finished it by allowing his legs to finish the chatter in a 21-0 victory over Kentucky.

A week prior, Swift felt frustrated after a loss in which South Carolina bottled up his rushing attack. He shook his head in disbelief during postgame interviews, but then took to social media to say “whoever counting us out can’t count.” Let’s try: 1 … 2 … 3 … 179?

With each yard gained, Swift gave Kentucky a counting lesson with his yardage total. He recorded a season-high 179 yards on 21 carries, topping a 147-yard performance to open the season at Vanderbilt.

“I think I did all right,” Swift said. “Offensive line did a great job in the second half. We were able to get the ball outside, and we got field position once we started to wear them down.”

On the occurrence that Swift didn’t receive a touch, Georgia’s offense struggled to gain traction — whether the elements played a factor or not — and recorded 91 yards on 34 plays.

Georgia’s offensive woes re-appeared in the ugliest of ways. Due to a steady rain, quarterback Jake Fromm struggled with grip of the football and his passing opportunities were scarce. He recorded 35 yards on nine completions. Multiple sequences of between-the-tackle runs on consecutive play calls drew a chorus of boos from the Sanford Stadium crowd throughout the first half. But through the gloomy weight that presides over Georgia’s offense, Swift provided a glimmer of hope.

He bleeds confidence from his shiny gold chain that says “SE7EN ERA” as Swift’s personal trademark to his constant desire to lead Georgia’s offense. Swift found himself in the spotlight and wanted to emerge in a then-scoreless game by taking over. Georgia has a formidable offensive line, so its chance to effectively lean on the run game was there.

Fromm threw one pass in the second half, but it didn’t matter. Once Georgia forced a defensive play to change momentum, Swift capped it off. After a shanked Kentucky punt, Swift won a track meet and flew past Wildcat defenders for a 39-yard score.

“Oh man, we knew D’Andre was going to start breaking those open,” cornerback Eric Stokes said. “He just started gashing them. It was only a matter of time before that happened.”

Georgia knew Kentucky had large bodies on its defensive line. The Wildcats shot gaps frequently, offensive guard Ben Cleveland said, and forced Georgia to change its approach. Once it made the Kentucky defensive ends move in space, the outside runs allowed for explosive plays — something the Bulldogs have waited for over a two-week span.

After a series of between-the-tackle runs didn’t work in the first half, Swift saw space and took advantage of it. Kentucky knew it could sell out on the run as the Bulldogs’ offense played conservatively — head coach Kirby Smart said the conditions played a factor in that and feels “really good about what the offense does” — and lined up in 11 personnel with one tight end and one running back. But against an overmatched opposing defense, Georgia’s strength finally worked.

“He runs hard every game,” offensive tackle Andrew Thomas said. “We love blocking for him, and he’s a special back.”

Swift finished his night celebrating Georgia’s sixth victory and greeting Kentucky players under a dreary Sanford Stadium sky. Wildcats’ head coach Mark Stoops found the feature running back and wished him well for the long haul, because he wants to see Swift in a different uniform next season and make Georgia find another playmaker.

“D’Andre Swift is an impressive player. I just gave him a ‘congratulations’ after the game and wished him ‘goodbye,’” Stoops said. “Because he needs to go to the NFL. He’s an elite player.”

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