That’s more like it!
With Sony Michel returning from injury to spell Nick Chubb (who had his usual terrific day), Isaiah McKenzie apparently the first Bulldog of the modern era to have a double-play of scoring on both kickoff and punt returns in the same game, quarterback Hutson Mason playing a nearly perfect game, and Jonathon Rumph finally seeing the field (and again showing tantalizing talent), Georgia’s offensive blitz was just too much for Kentucky’s plucky Wildcats, who wore gray instead of their usual home blue.
The Dogs simply couldn’t be stopped in the 63-31 win, going 9-for-9 on third downs and never punting. Throw in McKenzie’s two return touchdowns and Georgia’s command of the game never really was threatened, even though the Cats hung within 11 points in the first half thanks to the Bulldogs’ defense again having some problems stopping the run and up-back Quayvon Hicks turning Kentucky’s pooch kicks into more of an adventure than they needed to be.
The 63 points scored by Georgia was the most in an SEC game for the Bulldogs since a 75-0 win over Florida in 1942. It was the most points scored in an SEC game under Mark Richt, edging the 62-17 win over Kentucky in Lexington in 2004.
Richt was pleased that his team opened both halves with big plays (McKenzie’s kickoff return for a TD on the game’s first play and an interception that set up a scoring drive to open the second half), and that the Dogs had their most productive third quarter of the season.
The Bulldogs racked up 559 yards of offense, 305 on the ground, but Georgia’s passing attack was much more aggressive than we’d seen previously this season.
Mason had a career-high four touchdown passes as he finished 13-of-16 for 174 yards in only three quarters. He was 10-of-12 for 141 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first half alone and showed great touch on several pinpoint throws, including an early third-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Jeb Blazevich. Richt called it an “amazing day” for the fifth-year senior. In relief, backup QB Brice Ramsey was 5-of-5 for a career-high 80 yards and 1 score.
Chubb was superlative in his fourth consecutive 100-yard game, gaining 170 yards on 13 carries (an average of 13.1 yards per carry), with a long run of 55 yards and one touchdown. In the first half, Chubb had 116 yards on seven carries, for a ridiculous 16.6-yard average. But Michel didn’t miss a beat returning from a broken shoulder blade, getting 84 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Rumph, getting his first action of the season, led Georgia’s receivers with four catches for 81 yards, including a spectacular one-handed grab and a 47-yard reception in the fourth quarter when he went up over the defender. Richt said he was “very proud” of Rumph.
Malcolm Mitchell, who still didn’t look full-speed, caught four for 55 yards and one touchdown, Chris Conley had three catches for 58 yards and two TDs and Blazevich had three receptions for 29 yards and two touchdowns, including an opportunistic snag in the end zone of a tipped Ramsey pass.
On defense, the Dogs had some trouble handling Kentucky dual-threat QB Patrick Towles’ runs, especially in the first half, and there still were some missed tackles, including on one long Wildcat scoring run and on a flubbed sack attempt, but freshman Lorenzo Carter looked very sharp subbing for Leonard Floyd (who, Richt indicated, was suffering from a sore shoulder). Carter had a couple of sacks and spent a lot of time in the Kentucky backfield, but did show his rookie status on an unnecessary out-of-bounds late hit that kept a Wildcats scoring drive alive.
As for special teams, aside from McKenzie’s fine day, there still appeared to be some work needed, with three consecutive short kickoffs by the Cats flubbed, including a lost fumble that set up a Kentucky field goal.
Overall, though, it was exactly the sort of commanding performance the Dogs needed to bounce back from their disappointing day in Jacksonville. And that’s good, because they’ll need all the confidence they can muster next week as they take on Auburn in Athens in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.
Of course, getting back Todd Gurley for that game won’t hurt, either.
Feel free to share your own views of the win over Kentucky.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg