Georgia football: Swift's return to health pivotal in deciding SEC East
The record book will say that Georgia won the SEC East title on Saturday with an impressive 34-17 win over Kentucky in Lexington.
But truth be told, it might have been won two weeks ago during the Bulldogs’ bye week.
In the training room.
During that week off after the painful 20-point loss at LSU, sophomore running back D’Andre Swift practically lived in the Georgia training room, getting treatment for an ankle injury that had slowed him. Before that, his season started slowly because of a mild groin injury. Not being healthy was driving him nuts.
He wanted to do more, so much more, but he just couldn’t. His head said yes, but his body was saying no.
But with that week off, Swift got back to his ol’ self. Rest and rehab was the perfect combination. We got a glimpse of a healthy Swift last week in the big win against Florida in Jacksonville, his first career 100-yard rushing game.
And then it was more of the same against Kentucky.
Swift rushed for career-high 156 yards Saturday in the division-deciding victory and it was vintage Swift. He was dynamic runner that we thought we’d see from the get-go this season after he had several breathtaking moments as a true freshman a year ago.
His huge day Saturday was highlighted by … well, it really wasn’t just one play. He made several eye-popping plays that made you just shake your head.
Kentucky defenders felt the same way, too.
The first one came late in the second quarter, when Georgia led only 7-3 and Kentucky was dominating time of possession. Georgia needed a score, and Swift delivered with a wow moment.
After a silly holding penalty by Mecole Hardman, the Bulldogs were facing a second-and-17 situation from the 20-yard line. Swift took the handoff and headed right, but planted his foot and cut back hard as Kentucky safety Mike Edwards whiffed and went flying by. Swift then cut past two more defenders and ran through two others just before the goal line.
D'Andre Swift, making everyone miss. pic.twitter.com/xYr2dQus3J
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 3, 2018
His second touchdown went for a career-long 83 yards and it looked like Swift was fired out of a cannon. This was further proof that he was 100 percent healthy again, because initially it looked like the play was going nowhere. But Swift found a tiny crease, and then off he went.
Boom, a mad dash to the end zone.
*looks up the definition of swift* pic.twitter.com/HfiP5INqvK
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 3, 2018
No one was going to catch him. And with that 28-3 lead, no one was going to catch the Bulldogs, either.
Kentucky, which was No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings, put up a fight down the stretch and added a few scores, but the outcome was never in doubt. Swift had made sure of that.
Georgia gets to head to Atlanta on Dec. 1 for its second consecutive SEC Championship Game. It’s a result we expected from the beginning, really, but the journey certainly was different. Almost everyone predicted an SEC East title for Georgia back in the summer, but then as the season played out, there were always willing challengers.
It started in September when South Carolina was a trendy upset special choice against the Bulldogs in Week 2. Georgia pounded them on the road, 41-17. Two weeks later, there was concern about the arm of Missouri’s Drew Lock — ask Florida fans Saturday about that concern — but the Dawgs survived that road trip, too.
Then last week, Georgia and Florida both entered the Cocktail party with 6-1 records and the Gators were considered a threat because they had beaten the same LSU team that had roughed up Georgia. None of that mattered, because Georgia was simply better.
And then came Kentucky. The Wildcats were 7-1 too, just like Georgia, and they were playing what many people called the biggest football game ever in Lexington. You say those things because Kentucky hasn’t won an outright SEC title since 1950, when Bear Bryant was their coach. This was their one shot to win their first-ever SEC East crown.
None of that mattered either.
Georgia put its foot down in all three phases, and proved once again that they are the class of the division. They won every game that mattered away from home, which makes this title run even more impressive.
But it’s just the first box that gets checked off on the goals board. There’s much more to still get done. There are conference titles and Playoff spots to win.
And with Swift now healthy, the Dawgs can finally put their best foot forward.