ATHENS — For as much as the offense struggled on Saturday, the Georgia defense once again had a shined brighter than the Sanford Stadium LED lights.
The Bulldogs picked up their second shutout of the season, as they stifled the Kentucky offense for the entire night. It truly felt like Kentucky was never going to score on offense, no matter how long the two teams played into the rain-soaked night.
“We don’t control the conditions,” safety Richard LeCounte said. “We control what we can do and that’s playing hard, physical football and wearing guys down and playing four-quarter ball.”
The weather conditions were a huge factor for the Georgia offense, as quarterback Jake Fromm completed just 9 of his 12 pass attempts for 35 yards. So imagine how much a converted quarterback like Kentucky’s Lynn Bowdon was going to struggle to throw the football when it wasn’t already his forte.
The Wildcats passing offense was even worse than Georgia’s. Bowden didn’t complete his first pass of the game until there was 4:34 left in the fourth quarter. By that point, Kentucky was already trailing 21-0. On the day, Bowden finished just 2-for-15 for a total of 17 yards passing.
“It was wet, a little muddy and a little cold. You know, football weather,” Bowden said. “It was hard to throw the ball. I had to find the right grip on the ball.”
But Bowden’s athleticism forced the Georgia defense to play things differently. Given his ability as a runner — he finished the game with 99 yards rushing — the Bulldogs were going to have to commit more players to defend near the line of scrimmage. This meant that Georgia’s defensive backs were going to be put in one-on-one situations all night.
The defensive backs — who were still without Tyson Campbell as he continues to recover from Turf Toe — stood tall as they had five pass break-ups. While those aren’t interceptions, those do count towards the much talked about havoc plays.
“One-on-one situations all day outside and you’re one play away, in weather like that it’s a one-possession game most of the game,” Smart said. “It puts a lot of pressure on your defense to be able to play in those conditions against a guy like that. They did a good job of managing their quarterback because it’s tough on our guys and tough on theirs.”
The game’s one turnover was forced by the secondary, as senior safety J.R. Reed knocked the ball out of Bowden’s hand and LeCounte was there to scoop it up. The turnover gave the Georgia offense great field position and eventually led to Georgia’s second offensive touchdown of the game.
— Hiro Katsuki (@KatsukiFB) October 20, 2019
The 14-point cushion was more than enough given the way the Georgia defense has played in the second half of football games this season.
“We knew that eventually, our offense was going to pick it up,” cornerback Eric Stokes said. “We always motivate the offense. We know they’ve got our back and we’ve got their back.”
In four SEC games, the Georgia defense has given up a total of 3 points in the second half and overtime periods of the game. The Bulldogs have allowed just a single offensive touchdown after this season, with that coming in the win over Notre Dame. Georgia will enter the month of November as the only team in college football that still has not yet surrendered a rushing touchdown.
As LeCounte mentioned, Georgia wants to be a team that just wears you out by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. In the second half of games this year against Power Five foes, Georgia has outscored its opponents 70-10. Time and time again, the Georgia defense continues to lean on opponents until they just completely give out and Georgia pounds them into submission.
There are still many questions about Georgia’s offense, even if you do count for the fact the offense was trying to execute in a cold shower. But the defense, as it has all season, proved that it can hold up to the pressure of national championship expectations.
Kirby Smart raves about Georgia football defense in win over Kentucky
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