Kirby Smart’s sixth team at Georgia is very good at football. On Saturday afternoon in Athens, the Bulldogs issued another statement beating No. 11 Kentucky by 17 points at Sanford Stadium.
UGA now has full control of the SEC East and appears to be the top team in college football as we leave Week 7. For Kentucky, it’s back to the drawing board after another loss to UGA before hitting the road to take on Mississippi State on Halloween weekend.
Kentucky will look to regroup after the tough loss and try to get healthy with the idle week incoming. Before we get there, KSR has the instant takeaways from the press box as the Wildcats fall to 6-1 on the season.
Stetson Bennett Game
With star quarterback JT Daniels dealing with a lat injury, Stetson Bennett was getting his third start in an SEC game this season. In the matchup, Kentucky knew that the Wildcats had to stop ground-heavy UGA first. Making Bennett beat the Wildcats with his arm would be the No. 1 goal.
Well, the redshirt senior delivered in a big moment.
Bennett threw for 250 yards on 20 throws for a success rate of 65 percent in the big home win. However, the story was the chunk plays. The former walk-on and junior college quarterback had 11 completions of 15-plus yards creating big play after big play. Against one of the better big-play defenses in college football, the Bulldogs delivered some significant blows.
Kentucky could not win this game without winning the explosive play battle. The Wildcats only produced three plays of 15-plus yards in 69 snaps while UGA had 15 plays of 15-plus yards in just 47 snaps.
That’s a bad recipe and Stetson Bennett played a large part in the explosive play domination.
Growth from Will Levis
Stetson Bennett was the star, but Kentucky saw their redshirt junior quarterback show some growth in a big spot. Following his best performance of the season against LSU, Will Levis put together another strong outing in the 30-13 loss.
The Penn State transfer tossed for 198 yards and chipped in 26 non-sack rushing yards. However, Kentucky asked him to do a lot against the best defense in college football.
Levis finished the game with 42 throws and 10 total rushes. In 69 snaps, the quarterback was responsible for what happened for 75.36 percent of the plays. That is a lot.
Kentucky’s potent rushing attack was smothered by UGA and Levis did all he could do to keep the road underdogs in the game. The quarterback averaged just 4.71 yards per attempt and had a paltry success rate of 35.71 percent but he moved the chains on third down and gave the Kentucky offense a fighting chance.
The loss was disappointing on many levels, but the growth of Kentucky’s quarterback could be a real positive to follow as the Wildcats finish out the season.
Against South Carolina and Florida, Kentucky’s defense won the game for the Wildcats. In the blowout win over LSU, Kentucky had their way with an explosive LSU passing offense for most of the night.
Going against a Georgia offense that wasn’t super explosive entering the game, Kentucky appeared to take a step back on that side of the football. The Bulldogs averaged over nine yards per play and scored on five of their last seven possessions of the game after a slow start.
Kentucky held an efficient rushing attack to a rushing success rate of just 42.31 percent, but the big plays were just a killer and created way too many scoring opportunities for the big home favorite.
Mark Stoops and Brad White have built a strong defense but they appeared to take a step backward in the loss.
Once again, forcing takeaways is becoming a major issue for the defense and the Wildcats need that to start going the other way for this unit to get its groove back quickly.
Kicking game blunders
With a chance to cut Georgia’s lead to two possessions, Matt Ruffolo’s 33-yard field goal was blocked on the last play of the third quarter. After the final score of the game, Ruffolo had another PAT kick blocked.
In three SEC games, Kentucky has seen at least one of their kick attempts get blocked. That must get fixed and it must get fixed soon. The Wildcats are leaving points on the field and that cannot be a thing moving forward.
For the second time in four seasons, Kentucky played Georgia with the SEC East title on the line. Once again, UGA beat the Wildcats by 17 points in games that weren’t really all that close.
Saturday was a disappointing moment for the program, but this was another major step forward for Kentucky football. The Wildcats are emerging as a legit threat in the division and that should have the attention of powers Georgia and Florida.
Kentucky must continue to grow, but the Wildcats are knocking on the door. Sooner or later, that door is going to fall down and this program is going to make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship.
The Wildcats just have to make sure they keep putting themselves in a position to finally break down that wall.