Mark Stoops knew his Kentucky football team gave it everything they had against No. 1 Georgia on Saturday.
But the 10th-year SEC head coach also knew that the Wildcats’ best wasn’t going to be good enough without some luck, and that proved to be the case in their 16-6 home loss to the Bulldogs.
“They are the No. 1 team in the nation for a reason, they’ve worked extremely hard in all areas, and they are a complete football team,” Stoops said.
“Just watching people, I’d be hard-pressed to find a better team than that across the board.”
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Georgia’s defense came up big in the first half, stopping Chris Rodriguez on a fourth-and-1 at the UGA 31, and then picking off a Will Levis pass at the 2-yard line.
The Wildcats were down 16-0 and Georgia was threatening to add another score when Kentucky stopped Kendall Milton at the 1-yard line on fourth down.
The momentum carried over to the offense, which drove the length of the field and cut the Georgia lead to 16-6.
“We had a pretty impressive 99-yard drive and a great fourth down stop,” Stoops said. “It showed some guts, determination and personality of the way we play.”
Holding Georgia to just 16 points and shutting down Stetson Bennett and the Bulldogs elite tight ends was no easy feat.
“That is a physical football team that’s creative with their dynamic tight ends and run game, and the way they create explosives and score touchdowns,” Stoops said.
“I thought our guys competed and played hard. It was good coaching and good schemes by Brad (White), but ultimately the players showed some guts and determination in short-yardage plays against one of the most physical teams in the country, if not the most physical team.”
Stoops was also pleased with the big plays Kentucky hit, as Levis showed why he’s a projected first-round NFL pick by connecting on passes of 47, 42 and 31 yards
“You have to be careful as you know with drop-back, the way these guys can rush and pressure and get your quarterback under duress, so you have to pick your spots,” Stoops said.
“And we finally hit some big plays. We had that set up at the right time, the right moment, got the protections and good throws and hit them, and one P.l. also.”
Stoops said as much as teams have to be careful, it’s hard to score points on Kirby Smart’s defenses without taking some chances.
“We had our shots and hit some, and that gave us an opportunity,” Stoops said, “because you have to against a defense like that, because to constantly grind it out 3, 4, 5 yards at a time, it’s going to be difficult, so you have to try to create some explosives.”
But for all the good things and positive efforts, it was Kentucky’s 13th-straight loss to Georgia.
“We’re well beyond moral victories; we come to compete and win every game,” Stoops said. “But as I told the players, the result is the result. Sometimes, the ball bounces your way, sometimes it doesn’t.”
The Wildcats (6-5, 3-5) close their season at home against rival Louisville next Saturday.