ATHENS — Here are some thoughts and observations from Sanford Stadium as Georgia leads Kentucky, 10-3.
1. It was a late-arriving crowd, perhaps slowed by the threat of rain – which didn’t turn out. And certainly many fans chose not to stay up because of their discontent with the crowd. But the turnout by the second quarter was actually a bit better than I might have anticipated. I’d estimate it was between 80-90 percent.
2. As one of my Twitter followers pointed out, Georgia’s been using four quarterbacks today – none of whom started last week against Florida. We knew coming in that Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey would see action – more on them shortly – but the surprise was Georgia running so much Wildcat, with Terry Godwin and Michel. The results were mostly good, including Georgia’s first touchdown in nearly a month. Terry Godwin, operating out of the Wildcat, fumbled forward, picked it up, then scampered 28 yards for a touchdown. Hey Brian Schottenheimer, where was this line-the-receiver-at-quarrterback-fumble-then-run-for-a-touchdown play all year? … But Schottenheimer might have fallen in love with it too much. On third-and-2 from Kentucky’s 42 early in the second quarteer, with the line getting some push, the call was another Wildcat play and Godwin lost 10 yards.
3. As for the traditional quarterbacks, Ramsey had a slightly better first half, though apparently not hot enough to invoke the “ride the hot hand” mantra. Ramsey was 4-for-6 for 26 yards, with good zip on some short passes. But his two incompletions – one downfield and the other on a screen – both sailed a bit. Lambert got off to a bad start, his first pass hitting a lineman. But a drive later he fired a pass downfield to tight end Jordan Davis, who couldn’t hold on. (Yes I was surprised to see Davis being targeted that early, rather than Jeb Blazevich or Jay Rome.) Lambert only completed one of his first five passes, for 10 yards, but went back in there after Ramsey got two series. Lambert hit Mitchell on a 24-yard gain to get into field goal territory.
4. Whatever you want to say about Jeremy Pruitt’s personality, but his defense continues to play well. The Bulldogs held Kentucky to 99 yards in the first half, an average of 3.7 yards per play. And the only points came after the offense fumbled it over at its own 20. The pass rush is strong, even without a blitz, and Kentucky QB Patrick Towles is only 3-of-13 for 38 yards, and an interception. And speaking of that interception …
5. It’s not often that bad things happen for a team after it makes an interception, but this is Georgia’s season we’re talking about. Dominick Sanders picked off a Patrick Towles pass and at minimum was setting up the offense near the goal-line, and was eyeing a touchdown. Instead he had the ball stripped and Kentucky recovered it at its own 7. Sanders hurt his arm on the play and had to come out, and the Wildcats proceeded to drive past midfield. It took a 15-yard facemask penalty against Kentucky to derail the drive and eventually force a punt. But then Georgia’s Isaiah McKenzie fumbled it over to Kentucky at Georgia’s own 20. (Sanders did return to the game, by the way.)
6. Georgia’s revamped offensive line ended up looking a bit less revamped as the game went on. It started out the way they had at practice this week, with only center Brandon Kublanow in the same spot and sophomore Dyshon Sims replacing Greg Pyke at right guard. Then Isaiah Wynn left the game one series with an injury, and the line shuffled around (Greg Pyke in at left guard, John Theus back to left tackle and Kolton Houston to right tackle.) Then Wynn returned to left tackle, but Pyke remained at right guard in place of Sims. In any event, the new lineup had a rough start: The very first play saw a clipping penalty. The next two runs resulted in little push. But as the game went on you started to see actual push from the line, something that’s been missing for weeks.
7 (a). Keith Marshall is finally getting the snaps that coaches had predicted for awhile. He only has 16 yards on six carries, while Sony Michel has nine rushes for 48 yards. Brendan Douglas actually started the game but didn’t get any carries until the final drive of the half.
7 (b) Ramsey the punter continues to be a revelation. He’s averaging 47.7 yards on three punts, and those punts are going high in the air.
Final thought: This feels like a bigger Georgia lead than the scoreboard indicates. The Bulldogs have almost twice as many yards (172-99), and if not for that Sanders fumble might be winning this in a rout. But it’s still a one-possession game at the break after Marshall Morgan’s missed field goal.
Georgia probably isn’t in any trouble to lose this game. But the Bulldogs missed an opportunity to at least temporarily quiet their critics. Not that they would’ve gone away with a rout of Kentucky anyway.