Athens - That explosive offense Kirby Smart and everybody else has been pining for will have to wait a while longer. It'd be good for Georgia if it showed up in Jacksonville, Fla., in a couple weeks.
In the meantime, the No-10-ranked Bulldogs ground out a victory the old-fashioned way on Saturday. The used stout defense and a persistent running game to finally overrun an overmatched Kentucky team 21-0 in rain-soaked Sanford Stadium.
Following what's thought to be the worst-weather home game since Alabama visited about this time of year in 2015, Georgia (6-1, 3-1) will have next weekend off before facing No. 9 Florida in their annual neutral-site game in Jacksonville. The Gators (7-1, 4-1) defeated South Carolina 38-27 earlier in the day Saturday.
Thanks to Vanderbilt upsetting No. 22 Missouri (5-2, 2-1) 21-14 Saturday in Nashville, Georgia-Florida is expected to decide the SEC Eastern Division, which it often does.
Georgia's final box score read like something from the early 1980s under coach Vince Dooley. Quarterback Jake Fromm completed just nine passes for 35 yards and D'Andre Swift had 179 yards rushing on 21 carries and two touchdowns.
Georgia didn't throw a pass in the second half until 10 minutes remained in the game. It came on fourth-and-four and was a seven-yard completion to George Pickens to the Kentucky 22.
Props to Georgia's defense as well. The Wildcats managed just 171 yards offense, all but 17 of that coming via the rush.
The Bulldogs couldn’t buy decent field position with Kirby Smart’s credit card in the first half on Saturday. But they finally got some on their second possession of the second half thanks to a Kentucky shanked punt.
Taking over at the Wildcats’ 39, Georgia would keep the ball for only 11 seconds. That’s the time it took for Swift to take a handoff from Fromm and take it the distance from right tackle to the right pylon of the east end zone.
The 7-0 lead at the 6:30 mark of third quarter eased the anxiety of a wet and restless homecoming crowd. It also seemed to break the dam for a frustrated Georgia offense that had scored only seven points in the previous four quarters, plus two overtime periods.
The Bulldogs would take advantage of good field position again on the next possession, which gave them the ball at the Kentucky 31 after J.R. Reed’s jarring tackle caused a fumble that Richard LeCounte scooped up.
Brian Herrien scored on an eight-yard run around right end five plays later – four of the plays were Herrien runs -- and Georgia led 14-0 in the span of two minutes.
Kentucky almost answered the second score after Kentucky’s Zach Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to the Georgia 41. Quarterback Lynn Bowden and a personal foul got the Wildcats down to the Bulldogs’ 8. But the Georgia defense, which hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season, bowed up there, and Kentucky turned the ball over on downs.
The rest of the half was simply Georgia imposing its will on an overmatched opponent. It was the Bulldogs’ 10th win in a row over Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 SEC).
Georgia's third touchdown came on a 15-play, 92-yard drive that consumed 8:18 off the clock. Swift scored on a three-yard run to make it 21-0 with 6:24 to play.
Neither team was able to score in the first half. It was the Bulldogs first scoreless half since 1991 at Alabama. The Crimson Tide won that contest 10-0.
Based on individual stats alone, one would’ve thought Georgia had a good offensive first half. Fromm completed eight of his 11 passes and Swift averaged 9 yards on nine carries, or 81 yards.
Stats can be deceiving.
Fromm’s eight completions went for a grand total of 28 yards. And that was with one 22-yard completion. That means the Bulldogs averaged less than a yard on the other six receptions.
And Swift definitely had some nice runs. But what hurt Georgia was horrific field position, some of it its own doing, some of it just the situation and conditions.
The bottom line is UGA couldn’t cross midfield, even when it needed only inches to do so. The Bulldogs were stuffed on fourth down and a half-yard right on the 50 in the second quarter. The Bulldogs had only two first downs in the first quarter, and the second one came on the last play of that stanza.
The only saving grace for Georgia was that Kentucky’s offense was even worse in the wet weather. Playing with converted wideout Lynn Bowden at quarterback – their third this season – the Wildcats managed only 52 total yards in the first half, and none of those via the forward pass.
The unquestioned star of the first half for both teams was Kentucky punter Max Duffy. The rugby-style punter from Australia kept pinning the Bulldogs back time and time again.
Georgia’s average field position on six first-half possessions was the 15-yard line. James Cook set that narrative into motion when he mishandled the opening squib kick and had to fall on it on the 14.
The Georgia crowd found itself booing just a few plays later. They didn’t like it when the Bulldogs didn’t go for it on fourth-and-inches from its own 37 on the opening possession. They might’ve understood later when Georgia failed from the same distance at midfield.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution