LEXINGTON, Ky. — Two evenly-matched teams slugged it out for four quarters Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium, but it was Georgia that landed the final punch. Rodrigo Blankenship kicked a 25-yard field goal with as time expired to lift the Bulldogs to a much-needed 27-24 victory of Kentucky.
— Bill Speros (@billsperos) November 6, 2016
The winning kick was set up after quarterback Jacob Eason led the Bulldogs (5-4, 3-4 SEC) on 9-play, 67-yard drive. Georgia never faced a third down on the possession, getting double-figure gains on four plays. A 13-yard run by Sony Michel, who finished with 127 yards rushing, got the Bulldogs into field goal territory.
Kentucky fell to 5-4 and 4-3 and missed an opportunity to move into first place alone in the SEC East after Florida’s loss earlier Saturday.
The Bulldogs rushed for 215 yards on the night. They had just 21 yards on 19 carries in last week’s loss to Florida. Eason was 17-of-31 for 245 yards and a touchdown.
Here’s how it broke down:
- Star(s) of game: Place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship made four field goals, matching Marshall Morgan’s total in the TaxSlayer Bowl last season. The walk-on is now 9-of-10 on the season after initially losing the job to start the season to William Ham. Redshirt freshman Blankenship sent a 25-yard field goal attempt through the goal posts to put Georgia up 10-7 at the 12:26 mark in the second quarter. He then drilled a 42 yarder at the 3:53 mark in the second quarter to cut Georgia’s deficit to 14-13.
- Turning point: Deandre Baker was badly beaten on a deep post route by Kentucky receiver Jeff Badet. But Badet bobbled the well-thrown pass from quarterback Stephen Johnson, and the ball deflected backward to Baker, who hauled it in after it bounced off his thigh pad. Georgia instead took over at its 23 and got field position back in its favor for the fourth quarter.
- Questions answered: Georgia went into the game wondering if it would ever run the ball effectively again and Kentucky went it hoping to prove its running game was even better. Call it a stalemate on that front, but the Bulldogs managed to go over 200 yards rushing (215) for the first time since the South Carolina game. They had 21 yards on 19 carries last week against Florida.
- Questions looming: The Bulldogs lost sensational sophomore defensive tackle Trent Thompson to a hip injury in the first half. Coach Kirby Smart said it is a hip pointer but thinks Thompson will be able to play against Auburn next Saturday. Left tackle Tyler Catalina also left the game in the fourth quarter with a lower leg injury and his status is unknown. Guard Isaiah Wynn took over at LT the rest of the game.
- Statistically speaking: The Bulldogs are plus-4 in turnover margin after giving up three and collecting two Saturday. This came after Georgia had no turnovers in its last two games against Vanderbilt and No. 11 Florida. Georgia has forced 17 turnovers for 33 points while opponents have turned 13 Bulldog miscues into 52 points this season.
- Kirby Smart quote: “I just told him to relax. I normally don’t like to say too much.” — on what he said before Blankenship’s final kick.
- What it means: Georgia gets a step closer to qualifying for a bowl bid. The Bulldogs haven’t missed a bowl in 20 years, when they went 5-6. Auburn comes to Athens next Saturday. CBS picked up the game for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.