LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Joey Gatewood Show begins Saturday at noon in Lexington, though it isn’t exactly the most hospitable scenario for a starting quarterback’s debut.
The sophomore transfer from Auburn will face a highly regarded Georgia defense that ranks No. 20 nationally in yards allowed and No. 4 against the run. Gatewood steps in with starter Terry Wilson having missed practice this week because of a wrist issue. That makes freshman Beau Allen the backup.
“He has the keys. He’s the starting quarterback,” Stoops said of Gatewood, who will make not only his first start at UK, but his first college start. “He’s definitely a big-strong guy. He’s got a big arm. He can make all the throws. He stands strong in the pocket.”
He’ll have his work cut out for him trying to jump-start an offense that ranks last in the SEC, and to do it against No. 5-ranked Georgia is asking a great deal. The Bulldogs have been licking their wounds during a week off after dropping their first loss of the season to Alabama two weeks ago.
A rundown of the matchup:
Time: Noon, Saturday at Kroger Field.
Where to watch: SEC Network (Tom Hart, Jordan Rogers, Cole Cubelic). Where to listen: 840-WHAS AM (Tom Leach, Jeff Piecoro, Dick Gabriel).
Line: Georgia by 17. Over/under: 42.5.
Scouting Georgia: Well, you know, the Bulldogs are pretty good. Despite the number of points and yards they gave up to Alabama, they are still regarded as one of the most talented defenses in the nation. They’re giving up just over 2 yards per carry, which wouldn’t be the best of news for a Kentucky team that has been unable to move the ball effectively in the air for much of the season. Offensively, Georgia QB Stetson Bennett looked well on his way to a stellar season until he completed just 18 of 40 passes and threw three interceptions against Alabama. Kentucky’s defense is good enough to keep this interesting, particularly if it can generate some turnovers and especially points off turnovers. But Georgia has won 10 straight in the series, and it’s tough to see a scenario where that streak doesn’t grow.
Scouting Kentucky: It has failed to tally 100 yards passing in two of the past three games, and one-dimensional is something you really don’t want to be against Georgia’s defense. Gatewood will try to throw a wrinkle into things. He’s a solid runner but hasn’t had a chance to show much in the passing game. If the Wildcats are to make this one a game, it’ll be on the defensive side. Last week’s effort at Missouri was lackluster. The Wildcats didn’t give up a ton but couldn’t make big third-down plays, allowing Missouri to dominate possession and put even more pressure on the UK offense. If UK’s defense gets back to the unit it was against Tennessee and Mississippi State, it could be interesting.
Spotlight player: There’s little doubt, all eyes will be on Gatewood in this one. Not only was he a Top 50 recruit coming out of high school, but he went to a high-profile situation in Auburn before transferring within the conference. League observers are anxious to see what all the fuss was about. Kentucky fans, meanwhile, are just looking for production.
Sideline storyline: A year ago, Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran was a genius for fashioning a dangerous offense with converted wideout Lynn Bowden at quarterback. Now, there is grumbling after Kentucky’s recent offensive struggles. Against Georgia, a defense that has been dominant against the run, he’ll have little choice but to try to open things up, even with an inexperienced quarterback.
Quotable: Stoops wasn’t happy with Saturday’s effort at Missouri, but stressed that now is no time to panic: “We'll never be at the point where we're going to panic. Are we happy with the way we played? I think you understand that we're not. Nobody is happy with the results of Saturday. But nobody wants to throw away everything we've done and start over. Improve? Absolutely. Need to. Whether you win or you lose, we're trying to get better. It's frustrating when you take a step back. We have to have the team prepared to play."
The picks: Rick Bozich picks it Georgia, 35-7. Eric Crawford has it Georgia 35-10.
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