ATHENS — Georgia football is the No. 1 team in the country, and deservedly so after maintaining a perfect record in the SEC.
The Bulldogs are 7-0 overall and 5-0 in league play, the final unbeaten team in the nation’s toughest conference after their 30-13 win over previously undefeated Kentucky on Saturday.
Kirby Smart maintained his “never satisfied” mantra after the game, quickly putting his team’s shortcomings into perspective.
Yes, Kentucky landed the final punch with a 22-playing scoring drive.
And, yes, Georgia kick Jack Podlesny missed an extra point kick to snap UGA’s NCAA record streak of made PAT kicks (363) that had dated back six kickers to 2014.
But the hay was in the barn, the Bulldogs had won the game, and now Smart and his coaches have a bye week to make adjustments and allow injured players more time to rest before the next game.
Before moving on, here’s a review of the Kentucky game, an efficient, though as Smart said, “not clean” game
Stetson Bennett enjoyed a strong second half after Georgia dialed up a more aggressive mode of attack in the pass game, 9-of-10 passing over the final 30 minutes after a 5 of 10 first half. Bennett had some poor throws to miss some open receivers and fumbled on another play.
RUNNING BACKS (A-)
Kendall Milton’s 34-yard burst was UGA’s longest run of the season, but he only got 4 carries. Milton turned in what Smart said was the biggest play of the game falling on Bennett’s fumble. James Cook had 51 yards rushing on 6 carries, including an impressive dash through traffic. Cook also had a 19-yard TD catch. Zamir White is at his best running vertical and had 46 yards on 12 carries.
Brock Bowers, who had 5 catches for 101 yards and 2 TDs, and the tight ends are included. Darnell Washington looked good on his 2 catches for 37 yards, and his impressive leap over a would-be tackler. Bowers missed a block that cost UGA a touchdown however, John FitzPatrick had a nice 20-yard catch, but also, a holding call. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint cost UGA a timeout with his incorrect substitution. Adonai Mitchell and Ladd McConkey looked good, but Kearis Jackson appears to be struggling.
OFFENSIVE LINE (C+)
Kentucky’s defensive front had a lot to do with this, but Georgia is supposed to be a place with better players. A Justin Shaffer hold wiped out a 59-yard TD, and Xavier Truss’ ineligible downfield penalty took several yards off a Bowers’ catch. Smart was not pleased with the number of negative plays for the UGA offense, some stemming from front-line play.
DEFENSIVE LINE (A)
The anchor point of UGA’s championship hopes, Devonte Wyatt and Jordan Davis had 3 tackles each and Jalen Carter was in on 3 TFLs, a sack and a QBP the stats missed. Travon Walker had 5 tackles from his defensive end position and Nolan Smith had 4 stops.
Quay Walker’s team-high 9 tackles impressed, many in the open field. Slight downgrade for Walker’s pass interference penalty. Nakobe Dean’s ability to sniff out plays was on display, he had 7 stops including a beautiful TFL on a screen pass. Adam Anderson delivers when called upon, 6 tackles for the future first-round NFL pick on Saturday. Channing Tindall’s 4 tackles were not overlooked.
Plenty of tackles from this group thanks to Kentucky’s effective quick-strike passing game, and no big plays given up. But also, no turnovers forced. Derion Kendrick is strong at one corner, but Kelee Ringo’s sack can’t make up for defenses targeting the freshman as he works to improve. Lewis Cine quietly gets the job done at safety, while Latavious Brini is holding up well. Dan Jackson had 7 tackles and is adequate in the role he’s being asked to play.
SPECIAL TEAMS (D)
Georgia’s worst special teams performance of the season went deeper than Podlesny missing the extra point to snap the record streak. Even Jake Camarda, the nation’s top punter, had a shank that gave UK field position hear midfield. Kearis Jackson looked shaky on punt returns, juggling a couple and failing to get the corner on another return.
The halftime adjustments were key, but the coaching edge went to Kentucky even though Georgia won the game. The Wildcats’ had the scheme — but not the players — to score the upset. Smart’s conservative nature on offense and defense was not in line with the “elite” theme he preaches for his players to leave it on the line every play. Perhaps that’s not practical with coaching decisions, but it seems more of a killer instinct could be in store and would be appropriate after UGA returns from the bye week.
For all of the faults, and Smart mentioned after the game there were plenty, Georgia held up against an inspired opponent that was playing with nothing to lose. The Bulldogs still have to prove they can play with the weight of a No. 1 ranking, however. The commitment during the off-week will be pivotal to how the team finishes. The UGA fans made Sanford Stadium a winning edge in both games against ranked opponents and provided Smart with an incredible — and necessary — recruiting backdrop.