BOZICH | With first in SEC East teed up, Kentucky loses to Georg - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | With first in SEC East teed up, Kentucky loses to Georgia on final play

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Kentucky is 30 minutes from claiming first place in the SEC East. Kentucky is 30 minutes from claiming first place in the SEC East.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) —This is the strange dynamic that twisted around raucous and almost packed Commonwealth Stadium Saturday night:

One minute it seemed that Kentucky was bound for first place in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference. The next minute the Wildcats were bumped back to their six-season quest of chasing bowl eligibility.

Behind Georgia by seven. Ahead of the Bulldogs by one at halftime and then by eight midway through the third quarter. Back behind by three late in the fourth quarter. Tied with less than three minutes to play.

Win and move to 6-3 as well as 5-2 in the league. Lose and concentrate on getting that sixth victory against Tennessee (next Saturday), Austin Peay or Louisville.

"It (a major step forward) was teed up," UK coach Mark Stoops said.

The Wildcats will take their quest to Knoxville.

Georgia drove 67 yards in the final 2:47 and Rodrigo Blankenship converted a 25-yard field goal with three seconds left as the Bulldogs won, 27-24, before an announced crowd of 62,507.

It was the first time in 32 games the Wildcats lost after leading when the fourth quarter started. Turnovers -- a fumble followed by an interception -- on consecutive plays in the third quarter stopped the Wildcats.

The Wildcats also lost three points when field goal came off the scoreboard because of a holding penalty. Georgia dominated time of possession, controlling the ball for nearly 34 minutes. Kentucky remained one-dimensional, passing for 122 yards.

"A very difficult loss," Stoops said. "A lot of disappointed people in that locker room ... I was on them from the beginning of the game about urgency."

Kentucky lost despite getting 114 yards and two touchdowns from freshman Benny Snell Jr. He set the school record (10) for touchdowns by a Kentucky freshman and carried the ball on nine consecutive plays before Austin MacGinnis made a 25-yard field goal to tie with game with 2:47 remaining. The Wildcats defense allowed 460 yards but kept Kentucky in the game by recovering three fumbles.

But Georgia drove 67 yards on nine plays, the final 22 on three carries by halfback Sony Michel for the game winner.

"It's a team loss, starting with me," Stoops said. "It's an opportunity that was there and we didn't make enough plays ... We're going to keep on swinging. We're going to go back to work. We're in the arena. We're not going to stop."

Kentucky fans were primed for a celebration before the game began. An hour before kickoff, the Commonwealth Stadium video boards showed wall-to-wall network coverage of Florida's 31-10 loss to Arkansas. 

The Florida loss bumped the Gators back to 4-2 in the East Division of the Southeastern Conference. Win and Kentucky would move to 5-2 and hold the SEC East lead on the second Saturday in November.

The Wildcats were halfway there -- and not living on a prayer. Although Kentucky was outgained 238 yards to 175 in the first 30 minutes, Kentucky pushed to a 14-13 lead. The Wildcats took advantage of a fumbled punt which led to 13-yard touchdown run by Boom Williams about five minutes into the second quarter.

Georgia scored first on a 38-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Jacob Eason to Isaiah MacKenzie. Kentucky answered quickly -- and predictably when Snell powered for touchdown from the three.

How crazy did this get? I posted a Twitter poll before the game kick off, with this question: 

If you're a Louisville football fan, are you pulling for Kentucky to defeat Georgia to improve Louisville's strength of schedule?

More than 600 people voted -- and 64 percent indicated they preferred a Kentucky victory.

Raise your hand if this is the scenario you predicted after Kentucky started this season losing to Southern Miss and Florida, allowing 89 points in those defeats. Sure you did.

I don’t believe that. You don’t believe that. Nobody believes that.

Georgia, for the record, started 3-0, inspiring the Bulldogs' fan base to celebrate the school’s decision to dump former coach Mark Richt and replace him with Kirby Smart, Alabama’s defensive coordinator, after last season.

Since then, Georgia has played offense like a team coached by a former defensive coordinator.

The Bulldogs scored 14 points against Ole Miss — and lost. They scored 16 against Vanderbilt — and lost. They scored 10 against Florida — and lost.

Georgia (5-4) had lost four of five. The Bulldogs started the night 2-4 in the East, two full games behind Kentucky, which was 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the league. They could have lost again Saturday night but Georgia made two or three more plays than Kentucky. The fans were ready for a celebration, but must wait for Kentucky to win one of its final three games.

"I thank you for the energy that was there," Stoops said 

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