It was a dark and stormy night, my friends. Er, the weather, you say? Well, yeah, there was rain, but I was referring to the psyche of our fan base.
Boos rained out (see what I did there?) as the teams walked off the field at halftime to a scoreless tie. The frustration was understandable, but the reaction was both tacky and useless. After all, the person it was directed towards was up in a booth unlikely to hear it and those who did hear it didn’t deserve to.
In the end, it worked out. Georgia’s offense was waiting for an invitation to play in Kentucky territory before it cranked up and midway through the third quarter, UK’s punter obliged with a shanked punt that led to a one-play Swift scoring drive.
Given how anemic Kentucky’s offense was, that was likely enough to carry the evening, but the Dawgs tacked on two more touchdowns, the latter by way of a soul-crushimg 13-play, 92-yard drive that ate up over eight minutes of game time and thoroughly warmed the cockles of Kirby Smart’s heart.
Yeah, the game plan was conservative and difficult to watch for much of the game, but after the South Carolina debacle, it’s hard to blame Smart for that. After all, he had to watch his team lose to a team that played a converted receiver as its third- string quarterback and didn’t score in the last thirty minutes of regulation.
No doubt he told himself he’d be damned if he’d watch history repeat itself. Georgia’s game plan was designed to insure that didn’t happen. If it wasn’t pretty, who cares in the vast scheme of things?
Another embarrassing loss would have been devastating. A 21-0 win will look fine if Georgia handles the meat of its schedule successfully. Smart got the result he was looking for and ultimately, that’s all that mattered.
On to the bullet points…
- When you’re playing a field position game, the role of special teams play is magnified. That turned out to be a very mixed bag Saturday night. Far and away, the big positive was the best game of Camarda’s career. For once, he wasn’t the punter who blinked. And give the complete lack of offense in the first half, his good work was essential.
- The rest of the special teams work was poor, to say the least. Cook’s inability to field a squib kick cleanly put his team in a field position hole from which it never escaped in the first half.
- As bad as that was, Georgia’s punt return game was worse, because the entire first half of the game was a battle of dueling punters. Blaylock got no support from his blockers; several times it looked like Kentucky’s coverage team were on complete jailbreaks. The one return he managed was called back for what looked like not one, but two, blocks in the back.
- Kickoff coverage was another area of weakness. Blankenship managed a fair catch and a touchback on two of his kicks, but the other two yielded significant return yardage.
- Still, none of that hurt the Dawgs, because the defense clamped down on UK’s offense. They were ready for Bowden’s game and for the most part did a solid job of contain.
- Smith and Johnson seem to bring a little more every week. Both made solid tackles for loss and seem to be contributing as run defenders, too.
- Monty Rice just keeps having good game after good game.
- Safety play was also good. Reed forced a fumble and LeCounte played well in run support.
- Eric Stokes had a helluva game. I may be wrong, but I think that was the first time in Ahmad Wagner’s career that he was completely shut out — no catches or PI calls. Stokes really battled with a guy who has a significant size advantage.
- How bad did Kirby want the shutout? Bad enough to bring back most of the first string defense when the ‘Cats moved the ball on their last drive against Georgia’s backups.
- The story on Georgia’s offense was basically the game plan and Swift, who wound up with what seemed like about two-thirds of the night’s yardage. Kudos to whoever decided the offense had spent enough time and effort running straight up the middle into a stacked box.
- Someone needs to explain why Georgia even bothers to deploy tight ends anymore. Wolf can’t block and is an inconsistent receiver, while Woerner is an inconsistent blocker who is never targeted over the middle. (Yes, I know this has become an evergreen complaint.)
- Somebody needs to show George Pickens where the yard marker is. On the other hand, that one big catch he went up for was athletic as hell. Once he figures it out, he’s gonna be an all-SEC fixture.
- I’ll take Fromm’s word that the weather was a crucial factor in his reluctance to throw the ball down the field, so I just hope they don’t need him to do more on a rainy day.
- My favorite play of the night was the pick up on fourth-and-medium on the long clinching drive. Maybe they should start taking delay of game penalties on those fourth-and-ones they can’t seem to convert.
Smart went into the game with three goals in mind, not to let turnovers beat Georgia, not to let the weather beat Georgia and not to let Kentucky beat Georgia. He succeeded on all three.
Sure, it was a drudge at times — okay, a lot of times — but the game was won on Kirby’s terms. If that bothers you, if you want to deny the results were by design, the alternative is that this team really isn’t that good. I’m not prepared to accept that.
It won’t take long to test that, either. The Dawgs now prepare for what is easily the biggest game of the season. Win and everything has meaning again. Lose and we’ll be reduced to arguing over which second-tier bowl game in Florida they’ll be headed to.
Beyond even that, it’s against your heated rival. If this bunch can’t get their collective heads on straight against the Gators, then it’s time to start questioning what this staff is up to.
Make it happen, Kirby.