CRAWFORD | History slips through UK's fingers in 34-17 loss to Georgia
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – With the Southeastern Conference East Division championship and a trip to the SEC Championship game on the line, everything was set for one of the biggest days in the modern history of Kentucky football – except the team.
Kentucky could not rise above its recent level of play. And No. 6 Georgia was just too good.
To make history, a team has to take advantage of every opportunity. Instead, No. 9 Kentucky let a few slip through its fingers early. Wideout Lynn Bowden couldn’t pull down a tough catch that likely would’ve yielded a touchdown in the first quarter. The Wildcats came up short on a first-half red zone trip and had to settle for a field goal after an illegal procedure call. And they missed too many tackles.
A Kentucky defense that had been stingy all season could not stop quarterback D'Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield and the Georgia offense, and a Kentucky offense that had hoped it had awakened with some magic at Missouri instead could not threaten, as the No. 6-ranked Bulldogs blew open a 28-3 lead in the third quarter and coasted for a 34-17 victory before an amped Kroger Field crowd of 63,543.
"Really you just have to credit Georgia, the beat us in every phase of the game," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. ". . . Certainly we didn't have our best day. We missed more tackles than we have in a long time. But you have to give Georgia credit. . . . They do that to a lot of people. What they do is complicated. They hurt people with athletes in space."
Midway through the third quarter, Georgia was averaging 7.1 yards per play against a Kentucky defense that came into the game ranked No. 10 nationally in yards allowed per game.
Georgia ran for more yards in the first half (176) than Kentucky was giving up per game (106). For the game, Swift ran for 156 yards (a 9.8 average) and a touchdown and Holyfield carried for 115 yards and two more scores as Georgia netted 331 rushing yards and 6.6 yards per carry.
"We never go into a game thinking we're going to give up that kind of yards," Stoops said. " . . . They're pretty darn good."
Kentucky didn’t quit. It drove 75 yards in 9 plays to pull within 28-10 with 3:45 left in the third quarter. But even good things couldn’t last for Kentucky. Guard Bunchy Stallings was ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct, touching an official somewhere amid the celebration, the second player ejected for the Wildcats after cornerback Chris Westry was ejected earlier in the quarter for targeting.
Kentucky Qb Terry Wilson completed 23 of 29 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown, but Georgia was content to give up some things through the air and focused on stopping Benny Snell, who ground out 73 yards on 20 carries, but did not have a run longer than 11 yards. Nonetheless he become the first player in UK history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three seasons.
"Terry took another step today," Stoops said. "He stepped up in the pocket and made some throws against a very good defense. We just needed to run the ball better."
Georgia now advances to the SEC Championship game, where it will get a national title rematch with Alabama.
And Kentucky must regroup quickly.
"We have to make sure this loss doesn't turn into two," Stoops said, with his team set to visit Tennessee. "We need to learn from this. The execution from a Top 5 team, you have to be very precise. . . . We'll keep fighting to get back in this position."
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