Georgia left Athens on Friday missing two key playmakers on offense and returned Saturday down four more defensive starters.
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs won a slugfest, 14-3, with their inability to build a bigger lead on offense allowing the Wildcats to pound into the UGA defense.
On Saturday, Jordan Davis, the Bulldogs’ 6-foot-6, 330-pound preseason All-SEC nose tackle exited the game in the first half with an upper body injury.
Davis, who some projected as the most irreplaceable player on defense, returned to the sideline out of his equipment with his right arm in a sling in the second half.
Julian Rochester, a 6-5, 300 fifth-year senior with 19 starts, also was forced out of the contest with a knee injury, further weakening what has been a formidable defensive front the past two seasons.
“It was one of those games that was tough and hard-fought and probably costly in a lot of ways in terms of dinged-up guys and injuries,” Smart said. “Every time we play them, it’s a physical war.”
Georgia starting safety Lewis Cine was also injured in the first half — on the same play as Rochester at the 8-minute mark of the second quarter. Cine suffered a left ankle injury.
The Bulldogs also lost inside linebacker Quay Walker in the game.
Walker started in place of senior Monty Rice, who missed practice time during the bye week on account of a foot injury that had slowed him in the 41-24 loss to Alabama on Oct. 17.
Walker appeared to suffer a neck/shoulder stinger injury at the 9:38 mark of the third quarter. Walker walked off the field on his own power.
Later in the game, defensive back Tyrique Stevenson exited the game with injury, as well.
Smart did not offer any further updates on the players injuries in his post-game Zoom press conference.
“That’s what you have other players for, they give us 85 scholarships, you’ve got to use those, you have to get the next guy up and ready to play,” Smart said. “I certainly don’t know that those guys were ready for the physicality, but they better get ready, because they’re going to be playing in the SEC the rest of the way.”
Smart indicated that Pickens and McIntosh both practiced last week and were close to being able to play at Kentucky, but he chose to leave them in Athens.
“They are both just dinged up, and we’re hopeful both will be able to get back,” Smart said. “They practiced during the week, and we thought the would be able to go, and they just weren’t able to. They weren’t going to be able to be effective, so we took other guys.
“They got a lot of rehab and a lot of time spent getting ready, and we’re hopeful to get them back next week.”
Smart said he’s eager to watch game film to see how freshman Jalen Carter played in relief of Davis and Rochester, as well as freshman Nazir Stackhouse and freshman Warren Brinson.
“Naz got to play, he’s been working really hard on the scout team, I got to watch and see how he played, and Warren Brinson played more,” Smart said. “We’ve got to get some help in there.”
The Bulldogs return to action next Saturday with their designated home game against Florida being played in Jacksonville.
Georgia football injury list
NT Jordan Davis, (upper body)
NT Julian Rochester (knee)
LB Quay Walker (neck)
FS Lewis Cine (ankle)
DB Tyrique Stevenson (unknown)
WR George Pickens (upper body)
RB Kenny McIntosh (knee)
WR Dominick Blaylock (knee)
DB Kelee Ringo (labrum)
WR Tommy Bush (concussion)