Bulldogs win battle of unbeatens with No.11 Kentucky between the hedges

Sports

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) throws a pass for a touchdown against Kentucky during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

ATHENS, Ga. — The top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs got strong performances from their offense and defense and dispatched No. 11 Kentucky, 30-13, in a matchup of unbeatens Saturday afternoon in a packed and noisy Sanford Stadium. 

Quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, making his fourth start in seven games this season, was solid leading the offense, the ground game moved the ball, and the defense made the Wildcats work for every inch of ground they gained.

The Bulldogs outgained Kentucky 416-249, with the Wildcats giving up more points and yards than they have all season. Bennett finished with 250 yards passing and three touchdowns, completing 14 of 20 attempts, while Georgia’s rushing trio of James Cook, Zamie White and Kendall Milton combined for 130 yards on 22 carries.

Quay Walker led the defense with nine tackles, and Kelee RingoDerion KendrickNakobe Dean and Dan Jackson all had seven each. The Bulldogs made eight stops behind the line of scrimmage, including three sacks.

After a scoreless opening quarter in which both defenses weren’t giving up much, and penalties on the offenses stymied otherwise promising drives, Georgia (7-0, 5-0) took the lead on the first play of the second.

On third-and-four at the Kentucky 19-yard line, Cook got open in the middle out of the backfield and Bennett found him with room to move. A cut and scoot later, Cook was in the end zone and the Bulldogs led 7-0 with 14:54 to play in the half.

After the Georgia defense held the Wildcats to just two yards on their next drive, this after Kentucky (6-1, 4-1) took over at its 35 following a penalty, the Bulldog offense showed just how explosive it can be on the ground.

On first-and-20 at the UGA 10 after a holding call on the first play of the drive, Milton took a delayed handoff and went up the left side for 32 yards, the longest run of his career. On the next play, Bennett faked a handoff to Cook and took off into wide-open territory on Dooley Field up the right side, gaining 17 yards. Cook gained 12 yards up the middle on the next play, eluding a half-dozen Wildcats on the way. And then Zamir White exploded through the middle on the next play, easily scoring on a 24-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0 Bulldogs with 10:35 left in the half.

Kentucky got on the scoreboard, and made it 14-7 with 3:53 left in the half, with a 75-yard drive — kept alive when a sack/fumble was overturned and ruled and an incompletion — that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass. It was only the second red-zone touchdown allowed by the Bulldog defense this season. 

Georgia led 14-7 at the half, and after Bennett’s kneel-down on the final play, Kentucky had a 188-186 advantage in total offense, as well a massive 19:35-10:25 advantage in time of possession. The Wildcats threw for 150 and rushed for 38 in the first half, while Georgia rushed for 110 and threw for 76. 

The Bulldogs got the ball to start the second half and went to their tight ends again and again to get back into the end zone. Bennett hit Darnell Washington for 16 yards on the first play, followed by a conception to Brock Bowers. After wideout Ladd McConkey ran an end-around, getting a key block from Bennett, for 15 yards, Bowers hauled in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Bennett in the back right corner of the end zone, putting Georgia up 21-7 with 12:13 left in the third quarter.

Georgia’s defense got a quick stop on Kentucky’s next drive and the Bulldog offense came up with some big plays on its ensuing drive before having to settle for a 26-yard Jack Podlesny field goal, which pushed the lead to 24-7.

Kentucky drove down to the Georgia 10 late in the third, but came away empty. The defense got a great solo stop in space from Dean on second down and then there was pressure all around Kentucky quarterback Will Levis on third down, leading to an incompletion. The Wildcats’ short field-goal try, on the final play of the third quarter, was then blocked by the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Devonte Wyatt, who pushed his way up the middle alongside teammate Jordan Davis (6-6, 340).

Georgia’s next drive sealed up the win, and featured a 24-yard completion from Bennett to Bowers, a 25-yard run by Cook on the following play, and then was capped by a 20-yard touchdown from Bennett to Bowers. After a quiet first half without a catch, Bowers was unstoppable in the second, finishing with a team-high five catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Podlesny missed the extra-point attempt, snapping an NCAA-record streak of 363 in a row made by Georgia kickers, keeping the score 30-7.

Kentucky got into the end zone in the closing seconds, at the end of a 22-play drive that last more than 11 minutes. Georgia’s special teams came through again and blocked the kick, making the final score 30-13.

The Bulldogs are off next Saturday and return to action on Oct. 30, when they face Florida in Jacksonville, Fla

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