Senior Hutson Mason threw four touchdown passes and freshman Isaiah McKenzie posted two special teams scores as No. 17 Georgia defeated Kentucky 63-31 on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Bulldogs had a season-best 559 total yards and improved to 7-2 overall and 5-2 in the SEC, while the Wildcats fell to 5-5 and 2-5. Georgia improved to 54-12-2 against Kentucky, including five straight wins and 16 of the past 18.
Playing just three quarters, Mason went 13-of-16 for 174 yards and the career-best four touchdown passes. Mason fired two to receiver Chris Conley and one each to receiver Malcolm Mitchell and tight end Jeb Blazevich.
McKenzie sparked the Bulldogs as he returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, then added a 59-yard punt return for a score in the third quarter.
Tailback Nick Chubb rushed 170 yards — including 116 in the first half — and a touchdown. Tailback Sony Michel, returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for four games, added 84 yards and a touchdown.
Linebacker Ramik Wilson paced the defense with 12 tackles. Linebacker Lorenzo Carter added nine tackles, including three sacks, and linebacker Amarlo Herrera posted seven stops.
The Bulldogs built a 21-0 first-quarter lead on Saturday. McKenzie returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a score just 11 seconds into the contest. Six minutes later, Mason hit Conley on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Georgia later added an 18-yard scoring run by Chubb to cap a season-best 91-yard scoring drive.
After Kentucky pulled within 21-10 in the second quarter, Mason drilled a 23-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell for a 28-10 edge. The Wildcats scored to make it 28-17, but the Mason-Conley connection worked again on a 4-yard scoring pass for a 35-17 lead. Kentucky found the end zone just before halftime as the Bulldogs led 35-24 at the break.
In the first half, Chubb had 116 yards on seven carries, giving him his fourth straight 100-yard game. Chubb also had a career-long 55-yard rush prior to intermission.
The Bulldogs methodically pulled away with 21 third-quarter points to go up 56-24. Mason hit Blazevich on a 10-yard scoring pass, McKenzie returned a punt for a 59-yard touchdown, and Michel had a 23-yard scoring run.
In the fourth quarter, quarterback Brice Ramsey found Blazevich on a twice-deflected pass that resulted in an 8-yard touchdown. The Wildcats added a late score for the 63-31 final.
The Bulldogs will return to action next Saturday as they entertain Auburn in their first home game in 42 days. The Georgia-Auburn kickoff time will be either 3:30 or 7:15 p.m. and will be announced on Sunday.
*Pouring On The Points: Georgia posted a 63-31 victory. Today’s 63 points in an SEC game was the most since beating Florida 75-0 in 1942 in Jacksonville. It was the most points scored in an SEC game under Mark Richt, edging the 62-17 win over UK here in 2004. The most points scored under Richt came in a 66-0 win over Troy earlier this year. Today, the Bulldogs were 9-for-9 on 3rd downs and never punted. It was the first game with no Bulldog punts since 2009 versus Ga. Tech. The Bulldogs gained 559 yards today including 305 on the ground. Georgia built a 35-24 half-time edge. Coming in, Georgia led the SEC and was ranked 10th nationally in scoring at 40.5 points a game. At halftime in the road win over Arkansas earlier this year, Georgia led 38-6 en route to a 45-32 victory. Georgia now leads the UK series 54-12-2 and has won five straight and 16 of the past 18.
*Taking It To The House Twice: Freshman Isaiah McKenzie opened the game with a 90-yard kickoff return (KOR) for a touchdown. It was the second for the Bulldogs this year as junior Todd Gurley had a 100-yarder versus Clemson in the opener. McKenzie’s KOR for a TD was the second longest ever by a Bulldog in Lexington as Brandon Boykin had a 100-yarder in 2010. Today marked McKenzie’s second and third special teams TD this year after a 52-yard punt return versus Troy. Then in the 3rd quarter today, McKenzie added a 59-yard punt return for a TD. He is believed to be the first Bulldog in the modern era to do both in the same game. He is the first SEC player to do both since Marcus Murphy (Missouri) did it against Florida this year, a 96-yard KOR TD and an 82 punt return TD. The last time Georgia had a KOR TD and a PR TD in the same game was 2006 versus Tennessee (Thomas Brown 99-yard KOR, Mikey Henderson 86-yard PR-TD).
*Mason On Target: Senior QB Hutson Mason had a career-high four TD passes and finished 13-of-16 for 174 yards and that was in only three quarters. Redshirt freshman Brice Ramsey took over in the final quarter. At the half, Mason was 10-of-12 for 141 yards and 3 TDs as the Bulldogs led 35-24. Senior Chris Conley had two TD catches, one covering 15 yards and another for 4 yards while junior Malcolm Mitchell’s TD catch covered 23 yards. Conley now has 17 career TD catches, which moves him into a tie for sixth in Bulldog history with teammate Michael Bennett. Mason’s fourth TD pass today went to freshman TE Jeb Blazevich for 10 yards. Ramsey finished 5-for-5 for a career-high 80 yards and 1 TD.
*Chubb Carries The Load Again: In the first half, freshman Nick Chubb had 116 yards on seven carries (16.6 average) and one TD. It marked his fourth straight 100-yard game. Also, he had a career-high 55-yard rush. For the game, Chubb finished with 170 yards on 13 carries (13.1 average) in only three quarters of play as Georgia led 56-24.
*Long Distance Drive: Georgia had a season-long 91-yard TD drive on six plays in 1:51 to build a 21-0 edge at the 4:57 mark in the first quarter. The scoring drive was capped by an 18-yard TD by freshman Nick Chubb. Before today, Georgia’s longest TD drive covered 87 yards versus Tennessee. Also on the drive, senior Jonathon Rumph had his first two catches of the year covering 29 yards. It was his first action of the year due to a hamstring injury. Rumph finished with four catches for 81yards.
*Points off Turnovers: Georgia got one turnover, and it led to a TD. UK forced one turnover, and it led to a field goal. For the year, Georgia has scored 62 points off 19 turnovers while opponents have six points off six Bulldog miscues. For the year, Georgia is +13 in turnover margin, which leads the SEC and ranks second nationally.
Georgia lost a fumble on a kickoff return by fullback Quayvon Hicks. It led to a 38-yard field goal as UK cut the 2nd quarter deficit to 21-10. UK ran 8 plays and managed just two yards before settling for a field goal. On the first play of the second half, senior safety Corey Moore notched an INT, his second of his career. It led to a TD and a 42-24 lead.
*For Starters: Senior center David Andrews started his team-leading 36th consecutive game. On defense, the Bulldog with the longest starting streak is senior linebacker Amarlo Herrera now at 24, and he’s got 39 career starts. Freshman OLB Lorenzo Carter made his first career start. Carter finished with a career-high 9 tackles, 3.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks. Although he didn’t start, freshman Sony Michel (TB) returned to action after missing the last four games due to a shoulder injury. He had 84 yards on 16 carries with one TD.
*Today’s Captains: Seniors Damian Swann (Star), Kosta Valvas (ILB), David Andrews (C) and Kolton Houston (OT) served as the Bulldog captains.
*Up Next: Georgia returns home for the final three games of the regular season starting with nationally ranked Auburn Saturday, Nov. 15. Game time will be announced Sunday, and it will be either 3:30 pm on CBS or 7:15 pm on ESPN.
Head Coach Mark Richt
“Very pleased with what happened today. I’m proud of our players. I thought they did a really good job. Starting the game, there was a lot of energy in going up 21-0. I thought our defense made a good stop after the fumble on the kickoff return. We forced a field goal instead of a touchdown. I thought that was a big play and drive for our defense in the first half. Obviously, to start the game with a kickoff return for a touchdown was huge. Isaiah (McKenzie) did a good job of finding it. We played about as good as we practiced on that team. It was a great week of practice on the kickoff return team. I remember watching film one evening and the scout teamers flew down the field and everyone got their man and it just opened up big. I was thinking if we could just do that in the ballgame, then we’re going to be all right. They did a good job there. We talked a lot about starting the second half better for the season. We’ve scored over 90 points in the first quarter, 90 points in the second quarter, over 100 points in the fourth quarter, but I think like 31 points in the third quarter. For whatever reason, offense and special teams haven’t started fast in the second half. We really made a big point of that and actually changed our routine to get everybody out there, run some sprints, have them gather up, and try to get the blood flowing a little bit before the second half started. The way we came out in the second half was maybe more impressive than how we came out in the first. I’m just really proud of the team and what they did today and the coaches and everybody involved. It was a good day.”
On the team returning home next weekend…
“It’s going to be nice to be home. Period. It’ll end up being about a 42-day span from the last time we played at Sanford Stadium. Just playing there in front of our fans is so meaningful to everybody and I’m sure our fan’s blood will be pumping; our player’s blood will be pumping, and coaches. It’s going to be an exciting day next week for sure. We had that stretch of four games away from home, an open date in there, and a lot of travel. I’m glad we had an early game today and got the victory and we can get home with a little bit of time to regroup and rest before we start getting cranked up on that plan for Auburn. We look forward to being home for sure.”
On thoughts of Kentucky closing the scoring gap multiple times…
“We just have to keep banging away. I think some of the things we were doing well — we’re understanding that it takes time to get in position to win a game so to speak. What I mean by that is you can’t just have this mighty blow in the first drive of a game or even a kickoff return for a touchdown. That was a great play and if you’re talking about a boxing match, knocking a building down, or cutting a tree down, then you’re not just going to take a big swing one time and knock the tree down. You have to keep banging away. As we keep saying, it’s going to take time. You have to be patient, strategic and physical. I think everybody bought into that. When they did keep narrowing the gap, we tried to prepare everybody that this team is very capable of that. I think they’re one of the best offensive teams in the league. When you watched their film, they’re outstanding in my opinion. What they do scheme wise, I think they’re quarterback is really good. I really believe that guy is going to play in the NFL. He’s 6’4 or 6’5, 230, he can run like well, he’s physical, throws the ball extremely well, and he’s got a lot of poise and confidence. He’s a really good player and they’ve done a lot of good things around him as well. Year in and year out, their special teams have been some of the best in the league. We knew we had a challenge there. We rose to it and for the most part had a good day.”
Jeb Blazevich, TE
On the deflected TD catch…
“God is good. There is nothing that I really did to deserve that. Brice through a beautifully placed ball, and it was about to hit me in the chest but it was deflected twice. That was pretty crazy that it ended up in my arms, but as I said, God is good.”
On playing at home next weekend for the first time in more than a month…
“I am very excited about it. I truly understand what home field advantage means now that I am playing college football. It takes away the stress of traveling, and you can feel the buzz around campus building more and more throughout the week. I can’t wait to play in front of the Bulldog Nation again.”
On Georgia’s young players performing the past few weeks…
“We actually talked about that today. Coach said there is no such thing as a freshman anymore. He said we are not rookies, because we have been doing it long enough to where we can’t make that excuse. A lot of guys have stepped up, especially Nick (Chubb) being in the role he is in. Everyone is willing to step up. That’s just who we are as a program.”
On being compared to Artie Lynch…
“I don’t think I fit in with the greats yet or even being compared to them, especially not Artie. He is a great guy and player, and he texts me every once in a while. I love catching up with him, but I don’t think I am in any spot to compare myself to Arthur Lynch.”
Nick Chubb, RB
On filling in for Todd Gurley…
“I know I haven’t taken his spot. I am looking forward to Todd getting back on the field and playing with him. I miss him out there. We also got Sony back today, which took a lot off of my shoulders. It felt good.
On his performances the past four games?…
“I am very happy. We are 3-1 in the last four. Even though we lost one, I feel like everyone has been picking up each other’s slack, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We have also been putting up points on offense, and I feel like that is what it takes to keep winning. “
Is it going to feel like early September again with Todd and Sony back?…
“Yes sir. I cannot wait. It will keep all of us fresh and ready to go.”
Isaiah McKenzie, WR
On adjusting to the college game…
“I guess it’s just believing in what my coach tells me. Last week I wasn’t hitting the right holes and going to the right places but today I believed in what he called and hit the right hole. That’s it.”
On the opening kickoff he returned for a touchdown…
“I (saw) it open up really quick on the right side, and once it opened up I knew I had the speed to get there… I just hit it”
On the punt he returned for a touchdown…
“On the second one I got pinned in the corner, had to get back to the middle, my teammates had some great blocks.”
Hutson Mason, QB
On Jonathan Rumph’s performance …
“Yeah, Rumph played great today. It was good to see him be out there making some plays. Some of those plays early on really helped his confidence, and he showed what we brought him here for. He’s a big-body type guy who can go up and get some of those balls if you put them in the right air.”
On Nick Chubb’s performance…
“Obviously I think it helped to have Sony back there, give him some rest and stuff like that. [He] continues to be very effective and precise in the run game, and it starts with our O-line, they’ve been playing phenomenal”
On his touchdown passes…
“More practice reps and more communication. These last three games we’ve really come out throwing the ball a lot better. It’s really helped, It’s a mixture of everything.”
On winning comfortably ahead of next week…
“I don’t think there’s any importance in the way we won… The important part was just how we came out and responded… You get hit in the chin, you face adversity… People are going to call for your job, people are going to tell you [that] you stink… For us, for anybody, it’s how you respond. There will be people who pat us on the back and tell us how good we are, and those who will tell us how bad we are… We have to stay focused on a week-by-week basis and try to put our best foot forward each week. I feel like for most of the season we’ve gotten better after each week.”
You were completing a lot of passes out there… What was working? Were the receivers that open?
“Yeah, a lot of the receivers were pretty wide open… And I thought we executed pretty well on some tight passes… It was a little bit of both.”
Courtesy of UGA Sports Communications