Kentucky football: Grading Wildcats' shutout loss at Georgia
Mark Stoops was not necessarily looking to make history, but in Kentucky’s 21-0 loss to Georgia, his Wildcats were shut out for the first time in his seven seasons in Lexington.
Meanwhile, they also shut out Georgia for 2½ quarters, marking the first time an opponent had held UGA scoreless for the first half since Alabama — in 1991. While few could be surprised that Kentucky fell to 3-4 by losing to Georgia for the 10th time in a row, the way it played out left Kentucky fans a bit salty.
What I Liked
Despite being on the field for over 33 minutes and wearing down late in the second half, Kentucky held UGA to 270 total yards — well below the 505 per game Georgia was averaging coming into Saturday. QB Jake Fromm was held to 35 yards passing though the horrific weather had as much to do with that as UK’s defense. Kentucky pitched a shutout for 38 minutes of the game, and it’s hard to imagine Stoops asking for much more.
A Corker of a game
Sophomore safety Yusuf Corker had a fine game, particularly in run support. Corker had a team-high 11 tackles, and he leads the UK team in stops on the season now with 51 tackles. Georgia finished with 235 yards rushing but the Dawgs struggled early, particularly due to Corker. Eight of his tackles came in the first half, when UK held Georgia to just six first downs and no points.
The return game
Kentucky’s kick and punt returns teams had 88 yards in the game, including a 58-yard kick return from Zach Johnson which set UK up for its best scoring chance of the game. Meanwhile, Georgia finished with 7 return yards, as Kentucky’s blocking and coverage were both excellent.
The ground game
Kentucky’s rushing attack found moments of success against Georgia, piling up 160 yards, the most the Bulldogs have allowed on the ground this season. Former receiver/current quarterback Lynn Bowden led the way with 99 yards, but Kentucky as a team managed 4.6 yards per carry. That helped the Wildcats stay in the game until the early fourth quarter despite the complete lack of a passing game.
What I Didn’t Like
The complete lack of a passing game
Not until late in the fourth quarter did Bowden complete his first pass. UK was 2 for 16 passing for 17 yards. Admittedly, a couple of Bowden’s nicer throws were 50/50 balls that receivers just missed. Also, running back Chris Rodriguez dropped a pass in the end zone when he was wide open early in the fourth quarter. But whatever the reasons, Kentucky’s complete inability to throw even a simple pass doomed an excellent effort.
Kentucky punter Max Duffy has been a standout this season. He wasn’t horrible Saturday, averaging 40.1 yards per kick on seven punts, but he struggled with a few kicks including a 15-yard boot which set up Georgia’s winning score late in the third quarter. Duffy dropped four of his seven punts inside the UGA 20 and hit a 69-yarder, but his overall consistency was a bit lacking.
Too many flags
Kentucky’s opening drive of the third quarter appeared to have entered the Georgia red zone, when a shaky penalty flag for holding moved UK out of field goal range. For the game, UK had seven penalties for 60 yards, and with a one-dimensional offense many of those flags killed drives.
A turn-around turnover
On the series after Georgia first scored, UK quarterback Bowden lost a crucial fumble which UGA returned to the UK 31-yard line. It’s the type of mistake that Bowden simply can’t make … and when Georgia scored again five plays later, the game was nearly finished.