The Kentucky Wildcats tried to ride the momentum of it’s miracle comeback against Missouri last week into Saturday’s contest with the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs. But, the Wildcats were outmatched and fell to the Dawgs 34-17.
It had been hyped all week as the SEC East Championship game. The stage was set for the Cats to make history, but it was not to be, as for the first time all season the Wildcats defense allowed more than 20 points.
Kentucky fell behind early after a 65-yard punt return by Georgia’s Mecole Hardman set up the Bulldogs on the doorstep of the redzone. Georgia scored four plays later to take a 7-0 lead.
After trading punts and turnovers, the Cats finally got on the board with 34-yard field goal by Chance Poore. Kentucky drove as deep as the 6 yard line, but a penalty followed by a sack forced Kentucky to take just 3 points.
Georgia marched back down the field on its next possession to take a commanding 14-3 lead after D’Andre Swift took it 20 yards to paydirt. The 14-3 Bulldogs lead will hold until halftime.
Georgia got the ball to start the second half and they didn’t hesitate to put the Wildcats into a 21-3 hole. A 9-play, 78-yard drive was capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by Elijah Holyfield.
After a 3-and-out by the Cats, the lead only got larger when Georgia needed just two plays to turn the game into a route. Swift’s second TD of the game, this one an 83-yard rumble put any chance the Cats had out of reach.
Kentucky would go on a 9-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a Benny Snell touchdown to close the gap, but the Bulldogs took the ensuing possession 57 yards and ate up 7-plus minutes of clock. The Dawgs’ drive ended in a field goal, extending their lead to 31-10.
Kentucky quickly added another 7 points after Terry Wilson completed 5 straight passes, including the 31-yard touchdown to AJ Rose. Kentucky closed the gap once again, but the 31-17 deficit was as close as UK would get.
Georgia scored another field goal on the following possession and Kentucky never put any more points on the board. Georgia ran out the clock on their final possession and left Lexington as the SEC East Champs.
After the game, Mark Stoops and several players recapped the game. Here is everything they said, courtesy of UK Athletics:
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: Really you have to give credit to Georgia. They beat us in all phases. Really played a good football game. There’s many things we will take from this. We can learn an awful lot.
Definitely was not our best effort. Not for lack of trying, but our team really had a good week of preparation and were excited to play. We did not execute at times. At times we got out-manned. We missed more tackles than I could remember. Didn’t execute a few things.
But you’ve got to give them credit. You’ve heard me talk for many times and they are sitting there, if they rush for 300-yards plus, you’re not going to win very games. Obviously we have to get back and fundamentally get better.
I thought they moved us. They made us miss. They did a nice job with their pinch sets, bouncing it. Our run support, a lot of things we can do better, and again, a lot of that has to do with them. That’s why they do that to a lot of people. What they do is complicated and it’s difficult to defend with some athletes that they have in space. We’ll get better. Our team will get back on track. And we’ll be excited to get back to work on Monday.
Q. Does this loss hurt a little bit more than the other one, compared to what was at stake for this game and all the hype leading up to it?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: Of course. Any time you invest as much as we do into these games and put ourselves in that position, it’s going to hurt. You know, that’s what I told the team. We invested a lot, and I understand that. But we can’t, one, make this loss turn into two.
So we have to get back to work and regroup and be committed on Monday.
Q. After Darius West was ejected, I noticed that you took him around your arms you and were talking to him and you want to mention what you were saying to him?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: No, I mean, that’s -- I don’t even recall all of it to be honest with you. Darius is a great kid and he’s poured his heart into it, and he’s an emotional guy. Just wanted to put my arm around him and make sure he regrouped himself, and you know, go the to the locker room and got everything under control. Don’t remember exactly what I said.
Q. How encouraging to see the team continue to fight when they went down 28-3?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: That doesn’t surprise me. The fight is there. We’ve got to do some things better. The long run, really, that one really broke it open, and there are some things -- they do a nice job with their cracking and we were filling off that. Just give them a little space. You know, they are difficult. They are very physical and all those yards just don’t come from that. They get the movement and then they did a nice job with cracks and then they are so fast. There’s a little bit of room there and they are ripping off some big runs. It’s not just pushing you around inside. What they do and how they scheme it, it’s good. You have to be very precise.
Q. I’m looking at the video of the ejection right now and it looked like the ref initiated contact. Did you say something to him?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: I really don’t think it’s wise for me to comment on that. Again, I don’t know. I didn’t see anything. I have no idea. But you know, I’ll put it this way, I know Bunchy’s heart and I know he’s an emotional guy and I don’t think he was trying to be disrespectful. But if he put his hand and tried to grab for whatever reason, you can’t do that.
Again, if he did that, if he touched him in any way, even if he’s emotional, I don’t think he meant it in a disrespectful way, let’s put it that way. I know Bunchy and I know where his heart’s at, and the rule is the rule.
Q. This is the first time your team had been in this position on this stage, do you think that played any factor at all?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: I don’t know. I think our team, you know, all week had great preparation. I thought we stayed in our routine against a very, very good team like that, you have to execute extremely precise along with being athletic, physical, all the things that they do and they have done. They have explosive guys on both sides of the line of scrimmage. You know, both sides. You have to play better.
So I think our team is very experienced and we put ourselves to play in games and we will continue to learn.
Q. (Question regarding the team’s miss tackles)
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: You’ve got to give them credit. There’s a lot of one-on-one situations that happened out there and the speed with which they have definitely is difficult to defend. It’s one of the reasons why they have been Top-5 team the past two years.
Q. You said you can’t turn this into two losses. How do you make sure there’s not a letdown?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: You let them lean on the leaders of this football team. The guys, they are good in there. We got beat tonight, and we have to regroup and go about our business. We have strong leaders in there and I anticipate that we’ll be ready to go.
Q. The missed tackles, do you think the guys in casts -- do you think that played any role?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: It doesn’t help. It doesn’t help. You know, late in the game, we’re basically in four-minute defense and you notice, that’s what I was walking with Coach House about. We had Chris and DeAndre in there, I think both in there on the long run, on the long touchdown run.
So as experienced as we are, when you take those guys out of the middle, you go to very inexperienced. But I thought they did some good things and it doesn’t help with two guys in there trying to tackle with those on.
Q. (Question regarding the atmosphere at Kroger Field)
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: It was a great atmosphere. Wish we had given them a few more things to cheer about but really appreciate it. That was a fantastic atmosphere, and again, that’s what it’s like playing in an SEC venue. I’d like to create it where it’s like that every week.
Q. Did you think coming into the game that their running game and offensive line could be a match up problem, or did that surprise you a little bit?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: Well, I don’t think we ever go into the game thinking we’re going to give up those kind of yards. Again, it’s a combination of things. It’s not just physically, you know, moving you. They do do that well. They definitely create space. They are very well-coached on the offensive line and the sets that they give you create issues with their pinch sets. They make, you know, some smaller guys, some of our corners come up and aren’t quite used to it and they create some edges. There was some things we need to do better.
Q. Anything going on on your side with the running game?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: They are pretty darned good. You’ve got to give them credit.
You know, we’ll continue to look at all options. You know, we had some good drives early in the game, and then we Pete erred out and we stalled, and got to look at it and see why. I’d like to see us, you know, punch some of those in to give us some -- make it closer there at the half.
We need to be more balanced, and this time, it’s Terry throwing for more yards; we need to run it some more. But I thought Terry was, again, taking another step today. I thought he really did a good job of hanging in the pocket and distributing the ball against a very talented defense. We need to build off that and be physical and run the ball more effectively.
Q. How much did it hurt not being able to cash in on some of those early drives?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: It’s definitely a factor. Definitely hurts the energy and the confident. Again, I thought we had some good drives. We’ve just got to finish them.
Q. You said you could learn things from this. What types of things do you want the team to learn?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: Well, many things. Like the execution from a top three, four, five team, the execution that they have and they are obviously very talented. They are well-coached. But you have to be very precise and we have to win some of those one-on-one matchups. We have to do a better job with coaching starting with me and everybody on down. We’ll all accept it together and we’ll keep on fighting to get back in that position.
Q. The offense had some success the last two weeks when you were forced to go fast late in the games. Can you use that in other situations or is that because the defense --
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I think we may. We may. I mean, we have to look at that. I mean, Terry certainly looks comfortable right now, just straight drop-back and he’s doing some good things. The receivers are working hard, and be nice to build off that.
Q. How much was Benny held back by his ankle in the second half?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: I think a bit. I don’t know, I didn’t get an update from Jim, but definitely I would think a little bit. I don’t know. I have to get caught up with Jim.
Q. It was such a great atmosphere, everybody in their seats. How big was that?
HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it was big. We start the game, get great punt return, get great field position -- and that obviously is not good. We need to do a better job. We had worked hard with their punt return. We know how electric he was, and we really wanted to put that -- we wanted to place that better. Max has done a super job, but one thing you can’t do is out-kick your coverage right down the middle of the field against that return guy. That was not in our game plan, so we’ve got to do a better job.
#26 Benny Snell Jr., RB
On what the mood was after the game …
“Some of the young guys had their head down. The leaders were telling us that we were up, me, Josh (Allen), Terry (Wilson), Kash (Daniel). Telling guys to pick their head up, we still got more games to play. It’s fresh, we’re fresh off the loss, but we still got a good Tennessee team to play. We still got games we got to win. I feel them being down, but we gotta get up, we gotta get up.”
On if the veteran guys have a different perspective on the loss, knowing where the program has come from …
“That’s what I was trying to explain to some of the guys, like you see the fans, how long some of the good, loyal fans stayed? Even when it was going down south they were still out there, they were still supporting us. That just explains how far we came, how we came as a program, how better we’ve gotten throughout the season. I just tell the guys that we got more games ahead of us. This is the best we’ve ever been. We’re doing great things, so I don’t tell the guys to dwell their head.”
On if there’s a reason the offense is more successful when they move faster …
“We try to catch the defense off guard a lot. We try to hit them with trick plays, we wear them out with the run, the pass is starting to come a long way now. Lynn (Bowden Jr.) is doing a great job at catching the ball, as well as C.J. (Conrad). Things are looking good, so we’re gonna keep have the defense guessing. That’s what we do.”
#41 Josh Allen, LB
On how he avoids letting this loss linger …
“We know where our heads are at. We know what we have to do next week. This game is in the past, we just gotta learn from our corrections and just move on and hopefully start Monday we can get back to practice and get a win next week.”
On what Georgia’s offense did to have so much success …
“They were just making good plays. Backs made a lot of good cuts, as you can tell. I feel like our front, defensive line, handled the job pretty well. They were just finding holes, and they found a weakness in the defense and they were just going with it and made a lot of explosive plays.”
On the two fumble recoveries …
“I saw a loose ball and I had to go get it for my team. It just happened to be me. I was in the situation and I had to make a play.”
#87, C.J. Conrad, TE
On the biggest take away from the game …
“You just have to play better in big moments. They’re a really good football team, credit to them. When you play a really good football team, you have to play as close to perfect as you can, and we weren’t close to that tonight.”
On catching the screen …
“It was a fumble. It was a really bad play by myself. It’s something that you can’t do as a leader on this team. Luckily, the defense had my back and got a fumble themselves a few plays later. It’s obviously disappointing and I need to do better.”
On Terry Wilson …
“I thought Terry played really well tonight. I’m proud of him, and I think he’s growing really well as a quarterback. Good for him. We’re going to need that down the stretch. We have a lot of football games left and we’re going to need him”
#10, A.J. Rose, RB
On rushing the ball …
“Georgia has a great run defense. They came in with a great game plan. We could have executed better on our side. It’s a football game, it goes both ways. I give them credit for that. They came out more hungry than us the first half. In the second half, we didn’t have that much time to catch up, and you can’t play catch up in the SEC.”
On his touchdown …
“We thought it was going to be a back-shoulder pass, but I ended up tipping it. The defender didn’t catch it and I did, and I just made a play. It was all just weird to me. To feel it come back in my hands was weird, it was weird to take it in the end zone. I was just happy to be in the end zone.
On how this loss will affect the team …
“We aren’t going to let this loss turn into two. Tomorrow is Sunday, we’re going to Tennessee, preparing for that week. We can’t let this happen again. We have a goal and we came short of that goal, but we still want to finish the SEC strong.”
#9 Davonte Robinson, S
On how Georgia played …
“They came out, they wanted it more. They played hard and hungry. You know, we have to keep getting better and move on to Tennessee. Can’t turn one loss into two.”
On Georgia’s success getting to the edge …
“I just think we weren’t in the right position at the right time. We weren’t gap sound, we’ll get better at that as we practice for Tennessee.
On his performance …
“I feel like I can do better, it wasn’t a great day, I had eight tackles, but it wasn’t the best.”
#3 Terry Wilson, QB
On the loss today …
“It’s just a mindset, we’ll get back and watch the film and then approach practice with a full head of steam – go out there and have fun with practice. We can’t get our head down or anything, we got to stay close as a team and know what we need to do to fix it.”
On comfort level as quarterback …
“I felt comfortable out there, I feel like I was moving the ball pretty well down the field. I didn’t have any turnovers so that was a plus. I feel like when we have the tempo that’s when we’re able to move the ball fast and get the ball down the field. Who knows, we’ll probably do more of that.”
On Kentucky’s mood after the game …
“This team is special. I know we’ll win out. The thing about this team is that we’re not going to give up. We have to continue to play hard and just keep getting after it. Keep working, we’re deep in SEC games. We can’t get complacent and don’t get lazy and just stay united as a team and we’ll be fine.”
On Kentucky’s yardage and points …
“There is a difference with both, I feel like we were moving the ball pretty well, but sometimes we get penalties, but we’ll correct it. I started to trust my arm talent so I feel more confident.”
Now, here are the postgame notes from UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Information
- Kentucky is 7-2, 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference. Georgia is 8-1, 6-1 in the SEC.The Bulldogs clinch the Eastern Division berth in the SEC Championship Game.
- Despite today’s loss, UK has clinched a first- or second-place finish in the SEC East.
- Georgia leads the series 58-12-2.
- Next for the Wildcats: UK wraps up the SEC schedule Saturday, Nov. 10, at Tennessee. Game time and television assignment will be finalized tonight, following the outcomes of today’s games.
- This was the most points Kentucky has allowed this season. However, this is the first time since the 1993 season that UK has allowed 34 points or less in each of the first nine games.
- UK has allowed 138 points this season, fewest in the first nine games of a season since 1987 (136).
- This was the most yards Kentucky has allowed this season. However, this is the first time since 1989 that UK has allowed 444 yards or less in the first nine games.
- UK allowed 113 yards passing tonight, fewest against a top 10-ranked team since Alabama in 2008.
- Nine different players caught passes for UK, most in an SEC game this season.
- UK’s game captains were LB Kash Daniel, RB Benny Snell, LB Josh Allen and S Mike Edwards.
- Sophomore quarterback Terry Wilson completed 23 of 29 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown.He completed 79.3 percent of his passes, the highest percentage for a UK quarterback with at least 25 attempts since Patrick Towles vs. Missouri in 2015.
- Has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in consecutive SEC games, the first UK player to do so since Mike Hartline in 2010.
- It was a UK quarterback’s best completion percentage against a top-10 team since Mike Hartline vs. Auburn in 2010.
- Has five SEC games with at least 65 percent completions, first UK quarterback to do so since Andre’ Woodson in 2006.
- Junior running back Benny Snell Jr. rushed 20 times for 73 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown run.He has 1,008 rushing yards this season, becoming the first player in school history with three 1,000-yard seasons.
- Became the third player in SEC history to have 1,000 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs in each of his first three seasons, joining Georgia’s Herschel Walker (1980-82) and Darren McFadden (2005-07) of Arkansas.
- Has 3,432 career rushing yards, remaining in second place in UK history.
- Snell moves into the top-20 rushers in SEC history, currently ranking No. 20.
- Snell moved into second place in UK career rushing attempts with 647 carries.
- Sophomore wide receiver Lynn Bowden led the Wildcats’ pass receiving with six catches for 52 yards.After catching 13 passes last week, he has 19 in the last two games, best for a UK receiver in a two-game stretch since Matt Roark had 20 catches vs. Mississippi State and Ole Miss in 2011.
- Senior wide receiver Dorian Baker had one catch tonight. He has 99 career receptions, needs one to become 16th player in school history with 100 catches.
- Sophomore running back A.J. Rose caught four passes for 59 yards, all career highs, including a 31-yard catch-and-run for his first collegiate receiving TD.
- Senior safety Mike Edwards led the UK defensive effort with 11 tackles, his first double-figure game of the season and 10th of his career.Edwards is seven tackles from 300 stops in his career.
- Sophomore safety Davonte Robinson had a career-high nine tackles, including a two-yard tackle for loss.
- Senior linebacker Jordan Jones had nine tackles, including one-half tackle for loss.
- Senior linebacker Josh Allen had three tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries. The two recoveries are the first of his career.
- Sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Epps made his first collegiate start. He caught two passes for 29 yards.