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What They’re Saying: Georgia Setback Edition

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Members of the media weigh in on a heartbreaking home loss that pretty much eliminated the Cats from contending for an SEC East Title.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky’s hopes to make a run to the SEC Title Game were shattered by the foot of Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship when his 25-yard chip shot sailed through the uprights as time expired, giving the Bulldogs a 27-24 win.

There was a ton of energy in Commonwealth from start to finish. The Cat walk was electric. Kentucky seemed to be in control for the majority of the game. Unfortunately, the Cats came up just short of a win Saturday night. Here’s a look at what they’re saying...

Give yourself a chance. Coach Stoops just opens himself up to further criticism by not using the timeouts earlier. It couldn’t have hurt the situation last night. Just seemed like they could have tried a little harder to make Georgia kick a 47-yard field goal for the win than a 25-yarder.

That’s what people are going to remember, whether Justin Rowland, Jeff Badet, and anyone else, like it or not. Stephen threw him a great pass. It was in Badet’s hands, then he gave it to the Georgia defender. It was in his hands!

See...it wasn’t just one play that could have altered the outcome of the game in the Wildcats’ favor. It was several. Which makes it that much more frustrating.

Not really anything to argue there. He summed it up perfectly.

It is okay to be frustrated or disappointed. I’m not sure Kentucky was the better team. In terms of stats from last night, they definitely were not. Just because the Cats had several opportunities to win doesn’t mean they were better. UK can still go to a bowl, and that’s pretty cool to me.

This had to have been frustrating for all the fans to hear that came out Saturday night and packed Commonwealth. If that atmosphere can’t get you excited, what can?

Sometimes we need a reminder in the midst of a loss, just how well this team has played since starting the second half against New Mexico State in September.

How much do things change from a management perspective when your team is winning? Not sure anyone has the answer. Rich Brooks, maybe?

SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker got some quotes from both Georgia Coach Kirby Smart and UK receiver Dorian Baker, in recapping the final drive of the game:

Despite all that went wrong, they had a chance to win and move into first place in the East.

Against a Georgia team that beat Kentucky by an average of 32.7 points the previous three years.

“I have a lot of respect for that football team,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. “I know a lot of people talk about them being Kentucky, but that’s a good football team. They’re an extremely physical football team. They know how to run the ball and they run it really well and they play really hard on defense. So make no qualms about it: That’s a good team.”

Smart said all that after watching sophomore linebacker Jordan Jones, who delivered 10 tackles, 2½ for loss, a forced fumble and pass breakup, make key stops. After seeing true freshman running back Benny Snell, who rumbled for 114 yards on 21 carries, put the sputtering Wildcats offense on his shoulders.

Snell ran it 10 times, including nine in a row, on Kentucky’s final drive, all the way to Georgia’s 7-yard line. But a tying field goal is all the Cats could manage from there, and they left too much time for the Bulldogs to drive on an exhausted defense.

“This was just a big opportunity for us to capitalize on the situation given to us. For us to fall short today was just – it kind of grounded us a little bit and it will just allow us to come back and get ready to work,” said junior wide receiver Dorian Baker, who made a critical third-down catch on UK’s tying drive. “The pieces are there. We just have to learn how to finish.”

And the Herald-Leader’s John Clay broke down the three biggest mistakes that led to Kentucky’s first loss in four games:

1. The holding penalty that took points off the board.

Three Boom Williams carries netted eight yards, bringing up a fourth-and-two at the UGA 26. Austin MacGinnis then drilled a 44-yard field goal to put Kentucky up 17-13.

C.J. Conrad was called for holding, taking the points off the board. Instead of going for a 54-yard field goal -- which would have equaled MacGinnis career-long two years ago at Tennessee --UK coach Mark Stoops elected to punt and try and pin Georgia deep in its territory. Unfortunately, Grant MacKinnis’ punt reached the end zone for a touchback.

2. The touchdown pass that turned into an interception.

After making a reception on a 21-yard pass, Garrett Johnson fumbled the ball away at his own 38-yard line. That led to Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship kicking a 49-yard field goal to cut Kentucky’s lead to 21-16 with 5:07 left in the third.

The very next offensive play, Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran made the perfect call, what appeared to be a repeat of the 65-yard post pattern touchdown pass from quarterback Stephen Johnson to wide out Jeff Badet that happened last week in UK’s 35-21 win at Missouri.

Again, Badet got a step on this defender. Again, Johnson delivered the ball perfectly. Again, Badet cradled it in. Only this time, he didn’t cradle the ball all the way in. Somehow, it popped loose and right into the hands of Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker for an interception.

And possibly one more error.

It’s a subjective call, and it may have made absolutely no difference, but I would add a fourth second-half mistake.

When Georgia was moving the ball on its final drive, especially when the Bulldogs reached the 30-yard line with just under a minute remaining, I thought Stoops should have used his two timeouts to save some clock.

Instead, the Kentucky coach let the clock run. After a Sony Michel run of 13 yards to the UK 15, Georgia used its second timeout with 20 seconds remaining. Then when Michel picked up seven yards to the eight, Smart called time with three seconds left.

To sum it all up, was this loss disappointing? Of course. Was it the end of the season? Of course not. Does Kentucky still have a chance to go to Knoxville and come away with a win against a Tennessee team that has struggled of late and recently lost one of its best offensive players? I think so. Will Kentucky go to a bowl game? Yes. They will beat Austin Peay the following week. Can Kentucky stay competitive with archival Louisville? Maybe. That one remains to be seen. But all is not lost.

I honestly believed going into the Georgia game that Kentucky matched up better with Tennessee. The Vols have just 10 more yards of total offense than the Cats on the season, but Tennessee’s defense ranks nowhere near as high as Georgia’s did. Georgia’s defense was ranked top 20 nationally entering the game against Kentucky. Tennessee’s is currently 56. Throw in all the turmoil surrounding Butch Jones and I think the Cats have a legit shot. Go Big Blue.