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5 takeaways from Kentucky Wildcats’ loss to Georgia Bulldogs

C.J. Conrad suffered what appears to be a significant foot injury.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats fell to 7-4 on the season with a convincing loss to the Georgia Bulldogs tonight. While few expected the Cats to win the game, there was still a lot to be learned from their performance. Here are 5 major takeaways from the final SEC game of the season.

The run defense has improved.

I know that sounds crazy after giving up over 300 yards on the ground. But Georgia has arguably the best rushing offense in the country. And for two and a half quarters, the Wildcats contained superhuman running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel better than expected.

Had a few more things gone Kentucky’s way in the first half (more on that later), they could have taken the lead on their early third quarter score and the entire scope of the game would have been changed. So while the numbers are much less than impressive, the run defense kept Kentucky in the game early. That was definitely an improvement.

Too many missed opportunities.

If Kentucky had been able to capitalize on their opportunities in the first half, then perhaps Georgia would have been forced to pass the ball more, which would have benefited the Wildcats greatly. However, the second quarter went from Kentucky’s chance to build a lead to the Cats doing their best to hang around.

The roughing the kicker call, the punt that should have been downed at the one but wound up being a touchback, and two consecutive dropped passes in the finals seconds of the final quarter all added up to Kentucky’s early momentum being deflated. It may have been possible to overcome one of those mistakes, but not all of them.

C.J. Conrad’s injury.

No definitive results have been announced, but C.J. Conrad not returning to the game after his foot injury can’t be a good sign. After playing a critical role in the offensive line’s ability to create holes for Benny Snell, Conrad went down awkwardly after his only catch in the middle of the third quarter and left the game.

After the game, head coach Mark Stoops said he wasn’t sure whether or not it was broken. If it’s broken, he’s obviously out of the rest of the season.

Now, it could be that he did not return because the game was out of hand and they did not want to risk further injury. But the Wildcats will need their stud tight end to have a chance to beat Louisville next week and have a chance at winning a bowl game in the next month or two.

The secondary is still struggling.

Yes, Georgia ran all over the Wildcats in the second half. But several of their scoring drives, especially in the first half, came from completions to wide open receivers. Georgia’s freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, completed 64.3% of his passes, which is well over his season average.

Next week, reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson comes to town. I realize Kentucky fans remember the joys of beating him last season. But if the Wildcats secondary does not turn it up a notch (or two), they may be in for a long day next Saturday.

The playbook was more open.

While it seems Twitter-fans are always angry with how Kentucky ends the first half, they got what they asked for this week (and most still didn’t like it). With :38 remaining in the second quarter, the Wildcats were looking at 3rd and 2 from the Georgia 31 yard line.

Kentucky called two consecutive pass plays, both of which resulted in drops. It can be easy to criticize the play calls in hindsight, but after 10 weeks of running the clock out you would think most fans would be happy to see such a change. Given, the Wildcats were playing from behind, but Eddie Gran drew up many more pass plays than normal and spread the ball all around the field. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs’ defense is really good and Kentucky had a hard time getting their drives going.

Benny Snell is still really good.

I realize that he fell just short of 100 yards and only scored one touchdown, but Benny Snell averaged over 4 yards per carry against a top-10 defense that was keying on him the entire time. He also got several key first downs on second effort runs and the majority of his yards came after contact.

He officially eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark for the second consecutive season. And much like he seems to get stronger as a game reaches the fourth quarter, he seems to be running harder with each game as the season comes to an end. Big Blue Nation needs to appreciate this guy while he is in Lexington, because he is a once in a generation running back...unless you cheer for Georgia, apparently.