Kentucky Football: Wildcats lets chance to beat Georgia slip away with miscues

Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Jordan Wright (Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Jordan Wright (Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports) /
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16. 814. 6. 833. Final

No one was quite sure which Kentucky football team would show up against No. 1 Georgia at Kroger Field on Saturday, the one that was embarrassingly bad last week losing to Vanderbilt or the dazed fighter who won’t stay down for the count. 

For the most part, it was the latter, taking the Bulldogs into the fourth quarter and possessing the ball with an opportunity to hit back and make a stand. But as it had gone for much of the season it was unable to connect when it had to with sloppy play and instead stayed down 16-6 in defeat.

For the first time in several weeks, they showed grit, fight, and a desire to get after it and win, and on no bigger stage than the No. 1 team in the country on your home turf. The defense was outstanding and at times the offense moved the ball including a 99-yard touchdown drive, but it whiffed on other red zone chances and the special teams, as usual, were an epic failure.

Against a team like Georgia, you can’t squander any opportunity and while they fought a valiant battle there were just too many missed chances to seize the moment and set the Dawgs on their heels.

In the end, there are no moral victories or A’s for effort because those don’t translate over into the wins and losses column. But this team deserves some kudos and love for stepping up and swinging with the top Dawg as coach Mark Stoops said after the game.

"“You know, came up short, but the effort was there. The preparation was there. Need to execute a little better. In the first half we had an opportunity to at least get three; another missed field goal. You have a chance to be 16-13 and you have an opportunity. We know it’s a real challenge either way, whether you get them or not. It’s no sure thing… But we put ourselves in position. I would like to see us execute a little cleaner in the red zone and get points when we can get points, and, again, try to capitalize on getting the ball in the end zone.”"

As they headed for the locker rooms Georgia moved to 11-0 on the season and goes undefeated in the Southeastern Conference for the second consecutive season while Kentucky (6-5, 3-5) limps into the Governor’s Cup against Louisville next week now hoping for a winning season going 2-5 in after a 4-0 start.

Here are the quick takeaways from another close but no cigar finish.

No. 1 Kentucky defense answers the call and plays lights out

Despite its record, no one can say Brad White’s defense isn’t prepared and ready for the battle week in and week out. The problem is the offense hasn’t done its part and his squad is on the field far too long and put in difficult situations.

A tree can only endure hurricane winds for so long before it finally breaks.

Against Georgia, though they held Stetson Bennett and the Dawgs to just 16 points – their lowest output against any defense this entire season. Missouri (26) and Tennessee (27) have been the next closest.

When you hold a team like that to three field goals and one touchdown that speaks volumes including a goal-line stand at the 1-yard line on fourth down that led to the offense getting their lone points.

Mark Stoops spoke about how proud he was of those defensive stands. 

"“I thought the guys really competed and played hard. When it comes down to it, yeah, there was good coaching and good scheme by Brad (White) and the defensive staff, but ultimately the players showed some guts and determination in some critical short yardage plays against one of the most physical teams in the country.”"

The Dawgs got the ball to open the second half and you could feel Kirby Smart wanting his team to go down, score and put the Wildcats away.

Jordan Lovett had other ideas as he stepped in front of a Bennett pass and ended the first drive of the second half. If only the offense had taken advantage of that opportunity he gave them.