LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky football might still be learning how to win the big games, but the Wildcats at least proved they know how to handle defeat.
It’s a short but sometimes elusive list in the ultra-competitive SEC: Accept responsibility, keep the defeat in perspective,and give credit where due.
That’s what Coach Mark Stoops and his players did after Georgia scored a convincing 34-17 win at Kroger Field on Saturday in what amounted to an SEC East Division title game.
RECAP: How Georgia beat Kentucky 34-17, scoring plays, injury updates
“Really, you have to give credit to Georgia, they beat us in all phases,” Stoops said after No. 9 Kentucky fell short in its quest to make history as the first UK football program to earn a spot in the SEC Championship Game.
The Bulldogs out rushed the Wildcats 331 yards to 84 — taking over the game in the second half with an even more lopsided advantage on the ground, 244-17.
“I thought they moved us, made us miss, they did a nice job with their pinch sets, bouncing it,” Stoops explained, crediting the scheme of UGA offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. “What they do is complicated, and it’s difficult to defend with some of the athletes that they have in space.
“There’s a lot of one-on-one situations that happened out there, and the speed and with the speed they have, it’s difficult to defend. It’s one of the reasons why they have been a Top 5 team the past two years.”
Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift looked healthier than he has been all season, apparently over the groin injury that slowed him through the first two months. Swift rushed for a career-high 156 yards including an 83-yard TD burst that made it 28-3 in the third quarter.
“The long run,” Stoops said, “That one broke it open.”
Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen, an All-American candidate and shoo-in first-team All-SEC pick, missed Swift in the open field on the Georgia tailbacks first TD run, a 20-yarder.
“They were just making good plays, backs made a lot of good cuts, as you can tell,” Allen said. “They were just finding holes, and they found a weakness in the defense and they were just going with it and made a lot of explosive plays.”
Georgia was a 9-point favorite, but the Wildcats’ players indicated the Bulldogs played like they were the underdogs.
“Georgia has a great run defense, (and) they came in with a great game plan,” Kentucky tailback A.J. Rose said. “I give them credit for that. They came out more hungry than us the first half.”
Safety Davonte Robinson agreed.
“They came out, they wanted it more,” Robinson said. “They played hard and hungry.”
Tight end C.J. Conrad shared the lesson Kentucky learned playing Georgia in the hyped-up showdown.
“You just have to play better in big moments,” Conrad said. “They’re a really good football team, credit to them.
“When you play a really good football team, you have to play as close to perfect as you can, and we weren’t close to that tonight.”
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