|Kentucky fought hard but had no answers for Aaron Murray. (Getty Images)|
GEORGIA WON. The running game never got going. The defense looked ambivalent at best and lost at worst. But in the end, the Bulldogs had Aaron Murray, and that was all that mattered. The junior hit 30-of-38 for a career-high 427 yards and four touchdowns against the injury-battered Wildcat secondary, saving his team on a night when little else when right.
WHY GEORGIA WON. We mentioned Aaron Murray, right? Despite Georgia having the greater depth and better talent at virtually every position on the field, swap Murray from his white road jersey to Kentucky's blue, and the Wildcats win this game going away. The Bulldogs' "Gurshall" tailback tandem went for a grand total of 70 yards and no touchdowns on 18 carries. The vaunted Georgia front seven -- minus the injured Jarvis Jones -- gave up a whopping 204 yards on the ground to the Wildcats, despite 1. the Jalen Whitlow- and Morgan Newton-quarterbacked Cats having zero downfield passing game 2. Kentucky entering the game ranked 110th in the FBS in rushing. Despite the Dawgs' 503-328 advantage in total yards, the 'Cats 129-yard edge on the ground allowed them to rack up 21 first downs and convert 7-of-15 third- and fourth-downs.
Result: a game that no matter how many times Georgia looked to have seized momentum, they could only see it seized back again by the determined Wildcats. (Kudos are due to Joker Phillips', whose team could have simply quit on him after last week's 49-7 disaster at Arkansas.) But Georgia had Murray, and Kentucky didn't. And that meant that over the course of all 60 minutes, the Wildcats simply didn't have the offensive firepower to keep pace.
WHEN GEORGIA WON. Not until Joe Mansour's tricky onsides kick with just under four minutes remaining and the Cats trailing 29-24 was recovered by the Bulldogs' Connor Norman. But that sounds like a much more routine play than it was: Mansour had tapped the ball down the middle of the field, and got several key blocks to keep the Dawgs away from him as he attempted the recovery. But he had to wait just a fraction of a second longer than he wanted for the ball to travel the full 10 yards--and just as he fell on it, Norman dove in to steal the ball, clinching the win.
WHAT GEORGIA WON. The Bulldogs have rarely lived up to their preseason billing as SEC contenders and once again failed decisively to look the part in Lexington. No matter: at 4-1 in the SEC after their survive-and-advance win and with just Ole Miss and helpless Auburn to face down the stretch, a win next Saturday in the World's Largest Cocktail Party would all-but hand the Bulldogs the SEC East championship.
The Bulldogs may not have done the things we expect SEC champions to do, or nearly enough things to expect a win over Florida. But they did what they had to against the Cats all the same.
WHAT KENTUCKY LOST. The good news for both Kentucky and the embattled Phillips is that on the evidence of Saturday, there's plenty of fight left in the downtrodden Wildcats yet. The bad news is that for all that fight, they're still 1-7 overall and 0-5 in the SEC. Time for Phillips may be running very short now, and every opportunity -- particularly ones in which his team enjoys an actual second-half lead on a team like Georgia -- is one he can't afford to see lost.