LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kirby Smart praised the mental fortitude of his Georgia players on Saturday night after they pulled out a 27-24 win at Kentucky.
“They never quit. They fight as hard as any hard as any group I’ve ever been around,” said the first-year Georgia head coach, who spent the previous nine seasons at Alabama. “They just challenge each other. They challenge each other on the sideline, and they respond when adversity hits. And I can’t thank those kids enough for that, because it’s been tough.”
Georgia was down at halftime and for most of the second half, then took a lead, only to have Kentucky tie it back up with 1:54 left. Then quarterback Jacob Eason led the Bulldogs on a drive that culminated in Rodrigo Blankenship’s fourth field goal of the game.
“Who woulda thought?” Smart said of Blankenship, who wasn’t the starter at the beginning of the season. “I’m happy for him.”
As for Eason, who led his second game-winning drive of the season (the Tennessee game would have been another), Smart said: “He does not feel pressure.”
The game-winning drive was set up by Georgia’s defense getting a stop inside the 10, after Kentucky had driven to the 9 with Benny Snell Jr. running out of the Wildcat. Before Kentucky’s first-and-goal play, Smart called a timeout, and the defense ended up holding to force a field goal.
“I’ll take credit for that, but that’s not why we called it,” said Smart, who added that two freshmen were lined up wrong before what would have been Kentucky’s first down play.
Either way, it worked out.