LEXINGTON, Ky. - There’s something about Kelee Ringo and interceptions. Especially when he gets a good runaway for a big return.
The former 5-star recruit was explosive on offense back in high school. He was also deadly on broken fields after big interceptions in high school in Arizona.
He’s been the same kind of playmaker in Athens.
No one will ever forget the fireworks he created back at Lucas Oil Stadium. Ringo snared an interception from a future NFL QB and found some open grass to escalate a big play into an even bigger play.
He did the same thing on Saturday in Georgia’s 16-6 win at Kentucky.
He didn’t have a Ringo-6, but he did scorch the bluegrass for a big play that was probably at least a six-point swing in the first half on Saturday.
Kentucky tried its best to bleed the clock and shorten the game. They were in the midst of a 13-play, 57-yard drive that consumed 10:20 worth of the football game between the first and second quarters.
The Bulldogs had stopped Kentucky early in the drive with a sack, but a 15-yard penalty on the play gave the home team new life. The ‘Dawgs were flagged for hands to the face on that snap.
“We should have been off the field I thought,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “It was like ‘Okay, you just extended this drive. You just shrunk this game one more possession for us’ but that stole one back because it was a turnover.”
It set up another Ringo moment. Just nine more game-shrinking plays later.
Will Levis looked deep trying to finish off the drive in the end zone. Ringo thought differently.
November 19, 2022 Lexington, KY - Georgia's defensive back Kelee Ringo (5) intercepts a pass intended for Kentucky's wide receiver Barion Brown (2) during the first half in an NCAA football game at Kroger Field in Lexington, KY on Saturday, November 19, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Kelee Ringo (5) returns an interception during the second quarter against the Kentucky Wildcats of an NCAA football game at Kroger Field, Saturday, November 19, 2022, in Lexington, Kentucky. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)
BEHIND THE BIG PLAY: HOW KELEE RINGO HELPED THE ‘DAWGS
Let’s start with how that play impacted the scoreboard first.
Ringo picked off Levis and returned the ball almost 45 yards to the Georgia 47. The ‘Dawgs took over at that point to start just their third dive of the game.
They scored 10 plays later off a 24-yard field goal by Jack Podlesny that had to battle the swirling winds of the day.
That scoring drive was kickstarted by what Ringo did after he picked off the pass.
“Once I was in the end zone after I was turning around I was thinking about if I was going to turn around and take it out or not,” Ringo said.
He couldn’t help but crack a very big smile when he said that. Ringo looked almost like a cartoon character with a devilish smile.
He was going to take it out, of course. A young man with 10.40 speed in the 100 meters and a Ringo-6 in the natty knew what he was capable of.
“I saw I had an opportunity,” Ringo said. “Our coach always says if you are not going to make it past the 25, then don’t take it out. [He says] if you feel like you can, then go ahead and do that. I was able to make it near the 50 so it was a great feeling.”
What was big there on that play for Ringo?
“Being able to stay with the receiver at the line of scrimmage,” he said. “Trailing him just a little bit. Knowing that I have a safety over the top of me. Just being relaxed and being able to turn around and find the ball honestly.”
That was the best chance Kentucky had for points in the first half. It was one of only two incompletions that Levis threw before halftime, but Ringo made him pay.
There were a lot of big plays in the game on Saturday. Count Ringo’s among the biggest in Lexington.