LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Georgia didn’t just bounce back from a flat offensive effort against Florida. By executing in the clutch against Kentucky, the Bulldogs offered a reminder of how effectively they could move the ball.
Everything culminated in redshirt freshman Rodrigo Blankenship’s 25-yard field goal as time expired that gave Georgia a 27-24 victory over Kentucky on Saturday night and ended the Bulldogs’ two-game losing streak.
Bulldogs Jacob Eason completed four passes for 42 yards on the final drive before Sony Michel ran twice for 15 yards, including a 13-yarder to Kentucky’s 15 with 20 seconds remaining. After a Bulldogs timeout, Michel ran another 7 yards to set up Blankenship, who put it through to help Georgia (5-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) avoid falling below .500 after entering with four losses in five games.
“Nobody panicked,” first-year Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Jacob managed it well. He made some good decisions with the ball. We threw and caught the ball on that drive. … I was proud of the way our kids executed in that situation.”
Georgia’s win follows last week’s 24-10 loss to No. 10 Florida in Jacksonville, a game in which it gained just 164 yards.
Blankenship’s game-winner followed kicks of 25, 42 and 49 yards that helped set a career best along with keeping Georgia in the game against Kentucky. His final field goal followed Austin MacGinnis’ 25-yard field goal with 2:47 left for Kentucky that tied the game at 24. Kentucky couldn’t stop Eason, who completed 17 of 31 passes for 245 yards, or Michel, who rushed 19 times for 127 yards – including a 26-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
Eason also threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie on Georgia’s first drive for an early lead and hit an important 2-point conversion pass on their go-ahead touchdown.
The Wildcats (5-4, 4-3 SEC), who looked to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010 with a win, instead had their three-game winning streak snapped.
“It sucks very badly, especially when you lose on a last-second field goal,” said Kentucky running back Boom Williams, who had 77 yards rushing on 14 carries including a 13-yard touchdown. “It’s probably one of the worst ways you can lose besides a Hail Mary at the end of a game.”
Georgia: The Bulldogs weren’t perfect, committing three turnovers and watching Kentucky convert one into a go-ahead touchdown. But they reasserted themselves offensively by outgaining Kentucky 460-308 – including 215 yards rushing – and moving the ball when it mattered. Nick Chubb added 85 yards on 21 carries after combining for just 60 on 25 attempts the past two games.
Defensively, the ‘Dawgs came up with two second-half turnovers that stalled Kentucky’s momentum. “Coach always says that turnovers come in bunches,” cornerback Maurice Smith said, “and we knew that once we got one that the second one would come.”
Kentucky: The Wildcats led 21-13 but couldn’t build on the lead, and converting just 3 of 13 third-down chances was a reason why. Just as they seemed to get going late behind another strong rushing game from Benny Snell (21 carries, 114 yards), the offense stalled inside the 10 and they settled for a tying field goal. “Players battled and we had an opportunity to win,” coach Mark Stoops said. “And we didn’t. … There were certainly things we could’ve done better, and I would like to execute better in that 2-minute situation at the end.”
Georgia: Hosts No. 11 Auburn next Saturday in its SEC finale, looking for a third straight win over the Tigers. The Bulldogs have won the past two meetings by a 47-14 combined margin.
Kentucky: The Wildcats finish their SEC schedule when they visit Tennessee next Saturday, seeking their first win over the Volunteers since 2011 and first triumph in Knoxville since 1984.