There’s one word Georgia head coach Kirby Smart uses every year when describing the impending matchup with Kentucky: physical. This year he used another word, balance.
Ray Davis stole all of the headlines on Saturday, and rightfully so. The Kentucky running back was named SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week after tallying 280 yards and four total touchdowns in a win over the Gators. His running style reminds Smart of another running back he coached in Athens.
“He’s an exceptional back, as good a back as I’ve seen in a long time. This guy’s smooth, explosive. He pass protects really well. He protects the ball,” said Smart.
“He’s aggressive in the way he runs. It reminds me of (D’Andre) Swift. He’s just a little bigger. But he has a lot of the same cuts, a one-cut runner, and they do a tremendous job blocking for him. It’s not all him. It seems like Kentucky’s always had a (running) back. They had Benny (Snell), and he was unbelievable. They had a kid from Georgia the last couple of years. Their backs run really physical, but they are committed to running the ball and they do a great job at the point of attack.”
The difference in this Kentucky offense and its predecessors is the Wildcats’ explosiveness. Georgia can’t beat Kentucky just by focusing on stopping the run.
“Kentucky did it last week against Florida, but they haven’t done it every single game that way. They’ve done it many different ways. If you have one identity, that’s probably what they’re going to try to stop. I think Kentucky has balance. When you look at the explosives right now in our league, they’re the only team — I think they have the exact same number of explosive runs as they have explosive passes. They have this balance.”
Kentucky Scheme Puts Stress on Opposing Offenses
A year ago Smart described the matchup with Kentucky as a “bloodbath.” He didn’t go that far this year, but did not shy away from the physicality that awaits this Saturday in Athens.
“Every time we play these guys, they’re physical. When Coach Richt was here, it was physical. Kentucky-Georgia is just a physical, physical football game because they brand their football behind that and so do we. I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Stoops and the program he’s built and the job they’ve done,” said Smart.
That physicality was evident at Kroger Field on Saturday when the Cats held the Gators to just 2.4 yards per carry. The Wildcats rank third in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing just 15.2 points per game. Smart attributes the Wildcats’ success to their physicality and Brad White‘s complex defensive scheme.
“The variation they run, the defense they run is very unique. You don’t play a lot of teams like them. They have a lot of overhangs, what I call depth in the defense. They have people at the second level all over the defense, so there’s not a lot of free yards out there. They make you earn everything you get. They’re massive up front. They have big people. They play 3-4 and 4-3. The teams that play odd front, they do a great job stopping the run game. These guys are really good at stopping the run, they’re really physical and they have a really good scheme. It’s not easy to mimic.”