Five things you need to know from No. 11 Kentucky football’s 30-13 loss to the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs:
1. Kentucky made Georgia throw — and paid. Since Kirby Smart became Georgia coach in 2016, the Bulldogs had punished Kentucky in the run game. In the Bulldogs’ five games vs UK before 2021, the Dawgs had averaged 275.4 yards rushing and had at least one back rush for over 100 yards in every game.
So it made sense for the UK defensive brain trust to enter Saturday’s game with a plan to force Georgia to the air.
In a sign of how well-balanced Kirby Smart’s No. 1 Bulldogs are, Stetson Bennett and the Georgia tight ends made the Cats pay.
Bennett, once a walk-on and ostensibly the Dawgs backup quarterback, turned in a poised, polished performance. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns.
Georgia tight ends were responsible for eight of Georgia’s catches for 158 yards. Freshman Brock Bowers, the breakout star of Georgia’s 2021 offense, caught five passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Darnell Washington caught two passes for 37 yards, while John FitzPatrick had one reception for 20 yards.
UK held Georgia under 200 yards rushing (166) for the first time in the Smart coaching era.
It didn’t matter.
2. The Big Blue Wall met its match. As stellar as Georgia’s defensive metrics were entering the game, I thought UK’s veteran offensive line could open holes to run — at least a little bit — on anyone.
That turned out not to be the case.
Georgia dominated Kentucky at the line of scrimmage, holding the Cats to 51 net yards rushing on 27 carries.
UK star running back Christopher Rodriguez — one of two backs to rush for over 100 yards (108 yards on 20 carries) vs. Georgia in 2020 — was limited to 7 yards on seven carries.
Kentucky’s leading rusher, Kavosiey Smoke, had 14 yards on five carries.
Everything UK does offensively is predicated on the Cats’ ability to run the ball.
Given the extent to which Georgia took the Wildcats rushing attack away, Kentucky had no chance to win the game.
3. Will Levis played well. Given the level of defense the Kentucky quarterback was facing, Levis did a good job.
The Penn State transfer completed 32 of 42 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Kentucky also had at least four dropped passes in the game.
Levis was not able to hurt Georgia with the deep ball, but for the second straight game, he did not turn the ball over and was accurate in where he placed his throws.
Given how he has played the past two weeks against LSU and Georgia, Levis could be sitting on a big second half of the season following next week’s open date.
4. No breakthroughs for Mark Stoops this week. With the loss, Stoops failed to join Bear Bryant, Charlie Bradshaw and Rich Brooks as UK head men with victories over No. 1-ranked opponents.
Stoops is now 1-14 against top-10 foes as UK head coach (the win came earlier this season over then-No. 10 Florida).
Stoops is now 55-51 as Kentucky head coach and still needs six more victories to pass Bear Bryant (60-23-5) as the winningest head man in UK history.
The current Wildcats coach is now two defeats from passing Bill Curry (26-52) for the most losses suffered by a Kentucky head man.
5. Cats denied a new SEC East distinction. With the defeat, Kentucky has now lost 12 straight to Georgia.
Had the Wildcats claimed victory, UK would have won its most recent contest with every SEC East rival for the first time since the conference split into divisions in 1992.
Kentucky also failed in its bid to become only the fifth team in school history to begin a season with seven straight wins.
For its battle with No. 1 Georgia for the SEC East lead, Kentucky wore silver chrome helmets, white jerseys with blue numbers and letters and white pants.
Since the start of the 2015 season, UK is now 2-2 in silver chrome helmets with all-white uniforms.