LEXINGTON, Ky. — Georgia defeated Kentucky 27-24 on a last-second field that lifted it to 5-4 overall and 3-4 in the SEC. It marked the Bulldogs’ seventh straight win over the Wildcats and extended their lead in the series to 56-12-2.
The Bulldogs are now set up to qualify for a bowl bid with their next win. They face Auburn (7-2, 5-1) on Saturday at Sanford Stadium with a chance to change the direction of their season.
Here’s how the Bulldogs’ performed on the way to getting the victory over Kentucky:
Just put Jacob Eason in a last-minute situation where the Bulldogs need to drive the length of the field to score in order to win, and the freshman quarterback will deliver for you. For the third time this season, Eason came through in such a situation. With the game tied at 24, Eason 4-for-4 for 42 yards on a nine-play, 67-yard drive that set up a game-winning field goal as time expired. Eason also successfully executed such drives against Missouri and Tennessee. The Bulldogs also rushed for 215 yards a week after being held to 21 against Florida, with Sony Michel leading the way with 127 yards on 19 carries. The only setback was tailback Nick Chubb lost two fumbles.
Georgia’s defense is always “salty,” as coaches like to call it. They’re never an easy out for opposing offenses. They’ve just tended to breakdown in critical situations this season, like in the red zone. That was the case again Saturday. The Wildcats were 4-for-4 inside the 20 — or red zone — against Kentucky, which won’t allow the Bulldogs to move out of last place in the SEC in the category of red-zone defense. But Georgia did bow up down there at the end, when Kentucky had first-and-goal at the 9, and hold the Wildcats to a field goal. That allowed the Bulldogs to kick the game-winner at the end. They also recorded another interception and fumble recovery and gave up a respectable 308 yards, though 186 of it was rushing. Not great, not bad. Just average.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
I really wanted to give the Bulldogs a much-needed “A” in this area, seeing how Rodrigo Blankenship goes 4-for-4 on field goals, makes a 49-yarder and the game winner as time expired. But there still was the resident special teams catastrophe in this game. Isaiah McKenzie muffed another punt and it nearly turned the game permanently in Kentucky’s favor in the first half. But consider this a high-B, as Georgia also got a fine day punting from Marshall Long. A week after getting benched in the Florida game with a 32-yard average, he went for 41.2 Saturday and had a long of 50.
Coach Kirby Smart came into Saturday’s game leading a psychologically fragile football team. The Bulldogs were humiliated by Florida the previous week and were facing a supremely motivated Kentucky team that was playing for some historically high stakes. Georgia could have cashed in its chips and resigned this season as transitional loss. Instead, the Bulldogs played as if they had championship hopes. They also made much-needed adjustments, including sending offensive coordinator Jim Chaney up to the coaches’ box to call plays. A very good night indeed.
At the end of it all, Georgia is simply supposed to beat Kentucky. But this was not a typical Kentucky team in a typical year. The Wildcats, thanks to Florida’s loss to Arkansas Saturday, actually could have been in first in the East with a victory. But the Bulldogs came through in a spirited environment that had Commonwealth Stadium rocking. After Blankenship’s field goal went through, you could hear a pin drop.