Georgia vs. Kentucky score, takeaways: No. 1 Bulldogs take control of SEC East race with stifling performance
The Dawgs rode another dominating defensive performance to the victory over the previously-unbeaten Wildcats
No. 1 Georgia topped No. 11 Kentucky 30-13 on Saturday afternoon in Athens behind a stifling performance by the Bulldogs defense to improve to 7-0 (5-0 SEC) and take control of the SEC East race. The vaunted Georgia defensive unit held the Wildcats to just 249 yards, 3.6 yards per play and had eight tackles for loss in another dominating effort.
Quarterback Stetson Bennett IV had another solid outing for the third straight game in place of JT Daniels. He opened the scoring in the second quarter with a 19-yard touchdown pass over the middle to running back James Cook, and then hit tight end Brock Bowers for scores twice in the second half to help his team pull away. Bennett finished the day 14-of-20 passing for 250 yards and the three touchdown tosses.
Kentucky did keep it close for 30 minutes, however.
Quarterback Will Levis hit Justin Rigg for a 1-yard touchdown with 3:53 to play in the first half to cap off a 13-play drive and send the Wildcats into the locker room down just 14-7. That was the only sustained drive of the game until it was already out of reach. Levis finished the day 32-of-42 for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
The Wildcats could only muster 51 rushing yards on the afternoon, the biggest key of the game. If Chris Rodriguez Jr. and Wan'Dale Robinson can't get going on the ground, the offense can't click. The loss drops Kentucky to 6-1 (4-1 SEC) on the season.
Here are the top takeaways from Saturday afternoon's battle between the hedges:
Georgia's defense is held to a different standard
Levis hit Justin Rigg for a one-yard touchdown in the second quarter, marking the first score Georgia has given up in the first half all year. At the time, it felt like we had a game on our hands. In retrospect, that was a complete mirage.
Georgia held Kentucky to either three-and-outs or four-and-outs on six of the first eight drives of the game, and allowed only 19 yards on the seven-play drive to start the game. And, yet, this game will likely be viewed as a down day for the Bulldog defense.
Yes, that's how dominant this unit has become.
Defense doesn't win championships anymore -- "just enough" defense does. The definition of "just enough" is determined by multiple factors, including matchup, game situation, etc. Georgia is getting way more than "just enough." It's true that the offense is vanilla and might be limited a bit by the quarterback situation. The beauty of this team is that we might not ever find out how limited it is because the defensive "down days" are way better than other defenses in the country.
Georgia doesn't have a QB controversy, it has a luxury
Coach Kirby Smart said before the game that Carson Beck, not Daniels, received the majority of the second-team snaps this week in practice. That would suggest, least for the foreseeable future, this is Bennett's show.
What happens when Daniels is healthy enough to return, though? CBS Sports' Gary Danielson said on CBS Sports HQ after the game that it'd be hard to remove Bennett from the lineup after the success that he has had -- plus the added dimension he brings with his legs.
That's what makes this situation so interesting. If things get sketchy with Bennett, Smart knows that he can throttle down, use the multi-dimensional rushing game and win ugly. Daniels, when healthy, brings some explosiveness. If that's needed, they can unleash it.
Smart and Monken have an answer in every offensive situation ... it just so happens that he has two established options on the depth chart to choose from.
No shame in this game
Kentucky shouldn't be discouraged at this result. Yes, the quest for the SEC East title likely came to a screeching halt, but the mere fact that Kentucky played a game of this magnitude as an undefeated team is a huge compliment to coach Mark Stoops and his staff.
Kentucky makes you work at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, which is exactly why it has become one of the most consistent teams in the division. Stoops identifies players he can develop and consistently hires assistant coaches who can develop those players into stars.
The slow build that Stoops has orchestrated throughout his tenure has elevated the program into one of the dangerous programs in the SEC East.
Kentucky gets the late cover
If you invested in this game, you probably don't have any nails left to bite. The Bulldogs, 21.5-point favorites coming in, appeared to have the cover in hand with a 30-7 lead in the fourth quarter and a defense that had been lights out.
Kentucky had other ideas.
It went on a 22-play, 75-yard drive that consumed 11:23 of the fourth quarter to score a touchdown with four seconds left to earn the backdoor cover.
That wasn't the only gambling aspect of this one, though. The point total closed at 44.5 points, and the blocked extra point after the final touchdown of the game kept it at 43. You can be quite certain that under bettors are feeling pretty good after Kentucky went on that meandering fourth-quarter drive.
Georgia's defense is filthy
Six of Kentucky's eight possessions have been either three-and-out or four-and-out. The long Kentucky drive is the only bright spot for the Wildcats offense.
Kentucky's defense holds Georgia to three
It was bend-but-don't-break for Kentucky's defense on the most critical drive of the game. Quandre Mosley stopped Kendall Milton for a loss of four on third-and-4 from the 5-yard line to force a Jack Podlesny field goal to make the game 24-7. Any faint hope that Kentucky has rides on this drive. If the Wildcats can't find away to put a dent in the scoreboard, it'll essentially put this one to bed.
Danger zone for Kentucky
Kentucky allowed a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half to make it a two-score game and immediately went three-and-out on its first drive of the third quarter. That simply can't happen against the No. 1 team in the nation if an upset is in the cards. The upcoming drive for Georgia is going to determine the game. A touchdown ends it. If Kentucky can get a stop, it'll at least have a chance.
Bennett to Bowers for six
Georgia came out of halftime cooking with a six-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a 27-yard touchdown from Stetson Bennett to Brock Bowers down the right sideline. Bennett saw Kentucky coming on a blitz and went right to the one-on-one matchup that he knew that he could exploit. It was Bennett's second touchdown pass of the week as the Bulldogs have pushed the lead to 21-7.