A week after laying an egg against Arkansas, Kentucky rebounded with a very good effort against the thirteenth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. It just wasn’t enough to pull out a victory, as Kentucky fell to Georgia 29-24.
A failed fourth quarter onside kick will stick out most for the Wildcats. After cutting Georgia’s lead down to five with 4:25 to go in the game, Kentucky tried to retain possession, but the effort was unsuccessful. Georgia’s next possession resulted in a turnover on downs, but left Kentucky with only 15 seconds to go 84 yards. With no timeouts remaining, a 13-yard completion ran out the clock for Kentucky and ended its hope for a last-second victory.
For Georgia, this win was exactly what it needed to get back on track. After a 35-7 loss to South Carolina just two weeks ago, the Bulldogs had to keep pace in the East division in order to keep their dreams of an SEC Championship appearance alive. Kentucky coaches expected Georgia to rely on its powerful running game to lead them to victory but it was passing game that was most effective for the Bulldogs. Quarterback Aaron Murray was called on early and often, and he did not disappoint. Murray had a career day, completing 30 of 38 passes for 427 yards and four touchdowns. He connected with eight Georgia receivers, but none more frequently than senior flanker, Tavarres King. King caught nine passes for a season-high 188 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite giving up so many passing yards, Kentucky’s defense was pretty stout against the run. Usually a strength for the Bulldogs, the Wildcats only allowed 77 yards of net rushing throughout the game. For a Kentucky defense that gives up about 190 rushing yards a game, its definitely a step in the right direction limiting a power-running team like Georgia to that type of yardage.
On the flip side Kentucky’s offense had a very successful day rushing the football. The Wildcats compiled 206 yards of rushing offense on 43 attempts, including two touchdowns. From the first drive of the game, Kentucky put an emphasis on running the football. It lead to a 84-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a 4-yard touchdown pass from Morgan Newton to Aaron Boyd. That touchdown snapped a streak of twenty games without a opening quarter touchdown. For a team that wanted to establish a run game to take pressure of off young quarterback, Jalen Whitlow, Kentucky did just that.
Whitlow took the bulk of the snaps at quarterback but Newton did take snaps as sort of a “red zone quarterback.” In the second half, Newton was forced into full-time action when Whitlow came down with a migraine that kept him out for a bulk of the final two quarters. Still not completely recovered from off-season shoulder surgery, Newton steadied the offense in relief of Whitlow and was solely responsible for two of Kentucky’s touchdowns.
Even though this loss puts the Wildcats out of bowl game contention, they have a lot of things to build on going forward. Whitlow showed a better command of the offense, Kentucky finally established its running game, and, most importantly, the Wildcats showed they could keep pace with one of the nation’s best teams. Kentucky travels to face Missouri next week, a team, like Kentucky, that has yet to win its first SEC contest of the year. The Wildcats will have to put up another valiant effort like tonight’s if they want to walk away with their first conference win.