Bulldogs win battle of unbeatens
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Bulldogs win battle of unbeatens

Georgia-Kentucky
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. — The top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs got strong performances from their offense and defense and dispatched No. 11 Kentucky, 30-13, in a matchup of unbeatens Saturday afternoon in a packed and noisy Sanford Stadium.

Quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, making his fourth start in seven games this season, was solid leading the offense, the ground game moved the ball, and the defense made the Wildcats work for every inch of ground they gained.

The Bulldogs outgained Kentucky 416-249, with the Wildcats giving up more points and yards than they have all season. Bennett finished with 250 yards passing and three touchdowns, completing 14 of 20 attempts, while Georgia’s rushing trio of James Cook, Zamie White and Kendall Milton combined for 130 yards on 22 carries.

Quay Walker led the defense with nine tackles, and Kelee Ringo, Derion Kendrick, Nakobe Dean and Dan Jackson all had seven each. The Bulldogs made eight stops behind the line of scrimmage, including three sacks.

After a scoreless opening quarter in which both defenses weren’t giving up much, and penalties on the offenses stymied otherwise promising drives, Georgia (7-0, 5-0)  took the lead on the first play of the second.

On third-and-four at the Kentucky 19-yard line, Cook got open in the middle out of the backfield and Bennett found him with room to move. A cut and scoot later, Cook was in the end zone and the Bulldogs led 7-0 with 14:54 to play in the half.

After the Georgia defense held the Wildcats to just two yards on their next drive, this after Kentucky (6-1, 4-1)  took over at its 35 following a penalty, the Bulldog offense showed just how explosive it can be on the ground.

On first-and-20 at the UGA 10 after a holding call on the first play of the drive, Milton took a delayed handoff and went up the left side for 32 yards, the longest run of his career. On the next play, Bennett faked a handoff to Cook and took off into wide-open territory on Dooley Field up the right side, gaining 17 yards. Cook gained 12 yards up the middle on the next play, eluding a half-dozen Wildcats on the way. And then Zamir White exploded through the middle on the next play, easily scoring on a 24-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0 Bulldogs with 10:35 left in the half.

Kentucky got on the scoreboard, and made it 14-7 with 3:53 left in the half, with a 75-yard drive — kept alive when a sack/fumble was overturned and ruled and an incompletion — that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass. It was only the second red-zone touchdown allowed by the Bulldog defense this season.

Georgia led 14-7 at the half, and after Bennett’s kneel-down on the final play, Kentucky had a 188-186 advantage in total offense, as well a massive 19:35-10:25 advantage in time of possession. The Wildcats threw for 150 and rushed for 38 in the first half, while Georgia rushed for 110 and threw for 76.

The Bulldogs got the ball to start the second half and went to their tight ends again and again to get back into the end zone. Bennett hit Darnell Washington for 16 yards on the first play, followed by a conception to Brock Bowers. After wideout Ladd McConkey ran an end-around, getting a key block from Bennett, for 15 yards, Bowers hauled in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Bennett in the back right corner of the end zone, putting Georgia up 21-7 with 12:13 left in the third quarter.

Georgia’s defense got a quick stop on Kentucky’s next drive and the Bulldog offense came up with some big plays on its ensuing drive before having to settle for a 26-yard Jack Podlesny field goal, which pushed the lead to 24-7.

Kentucky drove down to the Georgia 10 late in the third, but came away empty. The defense got a great solo stop in space from Dean on second down and then there was pressure all around Kentucky quarterback Will Levis on third down, leading to an incompletion. The Wildcats’ short field-goal try, on the final play of the third quarter, was then blocked by the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Devonte Wyatt, who pushed his way up the middle alongside teammate Jordan Davis (6-6, 340).

Georgia’s next drive sealed up the win, and featured a 24-yard completion from Bennett to Bowers, a 25-yard run by Cook on the following play, and then was capped by a 20-yard touchdown from Bennett to Bowers. After a quiet first half without a catch, Bowers was unstoppable in the second, finishing with a team-high five catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Podlesny missed the extra-point attempt, snapping an NCAA-record streak of 363 in a row made by Georgia kickers, keeping the score 30-7.

Kentucky got into the end zone in the closing seconds, at the end of a 22-play drive that last more than 11 minutes. Georgia’s special teams came through again and blocked the kick, making the final score 30-13.

The Bulldogs are off next Saturday and return to action on Oct. 30, when they face Florida in Jacksonville, Fla.

POST-GAME NOTES

*Another Dominating Day For The Defense: Top-ranked Georgia (7-0, 5-0 SEC) came in leading the nation in Scoring Defense and now have allowed only 46 points through seven games, the lowest total in that span since 1971 (also 46). #11 UK added its second TD with four seconds left in the contest for a 30-13 final. UK was only the second team to score a TD in the red zone this season. The first came in the first half and capped a 75-yard drive in 14 plays that took 6:42. The second Red Zone possession ended with a blocked field goal by Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt. The third Red Zone trip resulted in a TD with four seconds left, ending a 22 play, 75-yard drive in 11:23.

The leading tackler was senior Quay Walker with a career-high nine. Meanwhile sophomore Jalen Carter had  a career-high six tackles, 2.5 TFL and a sack. Travon Walker and Adam Anderson each picked up a half sack as Anderson has a team-leading 4.5 sacks while Walker has 2.5. Freshman Kelee Ringo picked up his first sack.

*Bennett Leads Offense: Georgia QB senior Stetson Bennett (14-for-20, 250 yards, 3 TDs) got the start for the third straight week and fourth overall this season. With today’s victory over No. 11 UK, Bennett is now 8-2 as a starter including 4-0 this season. He got the nod in place of the injured JT Daniels (lat). He completed a 19-yard TD pass to senior RB James Cook on 3rd and 4 for a 7-0 lead with 14:54 left in the 2nd quarter. In the second half, Bennett connected with freshman Brock Bowers for a pair of scores that covered 20 and 27 yards.

*Rushing Highlights:  Georgia tallied 166 rushing yards on 27 attempts for a 6.1 average. Sophomore Kendall Milton had a career-long 35-yard run today, which was the longest by a Bulldog this year. Senior Zamir White (12 rushes, 46 yards) notched his team-leading seventh rushing TD, a 24-yarder. Also, senior James Cook (6 rushes, 51 yards) had his second TD catch of the year (19-yarder) and fourth of his career to give the Bulldogs an early lead.

*Array Of Targets: Georgia completed passes to seven different receivers.  Freshman TE Brock Bowers led the group with five catches for 101 yards and two TDs.  It was his second career 100-yard game. He picked up his fifth receiving TD, a 27-yarder from Bennett for a 21-7 lead with 12:13 left in the 3rd. His sixth score came on a 20-yard pass in the fourth quarter and tied the mark for most TD catches by a TE in school history dating back to at least 1968 (Leonard Pope, 6 in 2004). True freshman Adonai Mitchell had three receptions for 43 yards.

*Special Teams Summary: Senior punter Jake Camarda finished with four punts for a 47.3 average including a season-long 63-yarder and one for 50 yards that was downed at the five by freshman Kamari Lassiter. Junior Jack Podlesny was 3-for-4 on PATs and made a 26-yard FG. He is 33-for-34 in PATs this year and 10-for-13 on FG. Also, Georgia blocked a field goal attempt as Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt combined for it. It was the first since Davis blocked a FG versus Cincinnati in the 2021 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Georgia missed a PAT today to end its school and NCAA record for Consecutive PATs made at 363. It dated back to 2014 and included six kickers. Georgia’s Jalen Carter blocked UK’s final PAT.

*For Starters & Game Captains: Georgia had one first-time starter in Dan Jackson (DB).  The captains were junior Nakobe Dean (LB), junior Travon Walker (DL) and senior Zamir White (RB). Georgia won the toss and elected to defer the football until the second half.

*Series History: With the 30-13 win, Georgia is now 23-11 versus top 25 teams under Kirby Smart including 4-0 this year. Georgia now has a 61-12-2 edge in the series history including winning 12 straight over UK. Georgia (7-0, 5-0 SEC) returns to action Oct. 30 versus Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) in Jacksonville. Kickoff will be at 3:30 pm ET (CBS).

*Homecoming King & Queen: The King and Queen were fourth year students Carter Marks (St. Simons Island, Management and Economics major) and senior Carley Hale (Atlanta, Exercise & Sports Science major).

POST-GAME QUOTES

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement…
“I’m proud of our guys today. That was a really physical football team we played. Every single time we play them it’s just tough. They play tough, hard‐nose football. They do a tremendous job in all three phases. They don’t make many
mistakes, and when you have a team like that, you have to beat them methodically. It’s tough, they have a really good
football team. Proud of our guys. I thought our DNA showed through. Our DNA continues to repeatedly show up
– composure, connection, resiliency, and toughness – those qualities come through in this team. At halftime, nobody
was panic, nobody was nervous. It’s a physical football game and we’re going to stay aggressive, keep coming at them.
Give them a lot of credit, they have a good football team, but I’m proud of our guys and the way so many players have
risen up and rose to the occasion.”

On offensive coordinator Todd Monken and his game plan…
“I think he’s done an incredible job. When you think about the guys he’s had in, I mean he’s taken tight ends, made
them multiple, he’s taken backs (running backs), he’s taken wide‐outs that weren’t necessarily early season starters and done a really good job. When you think about it, he’s called the game with players ‐‐ not plays, but players. When you dial up 19 and 84, and 4, 3, those guys continue to make plays, and 5. He does a good job of keeping defenses off
balance.”

#13 Stetson Bennett | Sr. | QB

On getting the offense going after a slow start…
“It was a bit slow. There were no magic words. We just started executing a little bit better at every position, but it was a little bit slower. We hit some shots. We started running the ball a little bit better. I am not real sure exactly what
happened. It just got a little bit better.”

On the feeling of accomplishment going into the bye week…
“It depends on how you look at accomplishment. Yeah, we are proud of what we have done. It would be silly not to be. We play good football. That does not mean we do not have each and every opportunity to get better at each and every position. The focus going into this week, I am sure it will be to get healthy and get better at your individual assignment.”

#19 Adam Anderson | Sr. | LB

On the blocked field goal and final drive epitomizing the defense…
“Toughness. When you see the last possession of the game, they are about to score. As we say all of the time, ‘nobody in our endzone.’ You heard Nolan (Smith) say earlier, we do not even care if it is the Patriots, we are not letting anyone in there.”

On the final Kentucky touchdown…
“Honestly, we treat that like anything. Even if there are four seconds left in the fourth quarter we still do not want
anyone in our endzone. Honestly, it still hurts right now.”

Head Coach Mark Stoops

Opening statement…
“Where can I start other than it is a very good football team. Let me give them the respect they deserve. Kirby does one hell of a job. That is a complete football team. Very tough environment, we knew we had to play at a high level, and we had to execute…disciplined execution. I love our players, how they play and how hard they play, we just didn’t play very clean tonight or very disciplined against a very quality team that will expose you the minute you get out of gaps. They do things the way you’re supposed to. They have a lot to do with it, but a lot was self‐inflicted and it started early. We just didn’t get lined up right. We had a good opening drive. A lot of things that we can correct and get better. I still love this football team, love the way they work. We just have to have better disciplined execution when you are playing quality teams like this. We are going to get back to work.”

On the timeout at the end of the game…
“I don’t know about the message, but I wanted to score. That is a quality defense. You don’t know the way that things
will play out the rest of the year. We had an opportunity to score so we did.”

#4 Joshua Paschal | Sr. | DL

On the takeaways from this game…
“They (Georgia) are a great team. I give all the credit to them. They came out and played hard. When you play against
the number one team, you can’t make mistakes. That is what we have to learn from. How to respond to those mistakes that we make and to limit those as well.”

#7 Will Levis | Jr. | QB

On the UGA Defense…
“All credit to them. They are a great defense. They are coached really, really well. Obviously, they have the players. They are long, athletic, strong, and they scheme up well. I think we were able to do some things that we are going to be proud of when we look at the tape, but we definitely had opportunities to do a little more. At the end of the day, that is the number one team in the nation for a reason. All credit to them for how well they played.”

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