LEXINGTON. Ky. -- When Georgia linebacker D’Andre Walker went down with an apparent ankle injury in the first quarter against Kentucky, it only fueled the questions about if Georgia’s defense could stop the Wildcats. Walker has the most sacks and the most tackles for loss of any Bulldog this season, and he was headed to the sideline.
But instead of faltering, Georgia finished the 34-17 victory with the most sacks in a game this season.
“All we heard was 'Georgia doesn’t stop the run, Georgia doesn’t have any effective pass rushers, their D-line has zero sacks, they’re giving up 100 yards a game rushing,’” Senior defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter said. “It’s just disrespect, and we just got tired of it.”
Ledbetter, Monty Rice, Channing Tindall and Brenton Cox each registered their first sacks of the season as the Bulldogs brought down Kentucky’s Terry Wilson four times. Monty Rice’s was the longest as it cost the Wildcats 13 yards.
Of all the sacks that were recorded against Kentucky, though, none were more important than Tindall’s in the second quarter. Georgia’s defense appeared unable to get off the field as Kentucky orchestrated a drive that lasted seven minutes and 57 seconds, and the Wildcats were marching deep into Georgia territory.
On third-and-9 from Georgia’s 11-yard line, Tindall brought Wilson down for a 5-yard loss. The Bulldogs were only up 7-0, and the freshman’s first sack kept the Wildcats from tying the game by forcing a field goal, instead.
“That was Channing’s, like, second play of the game and he comes in and makes a big stop on third down in the red zone,” Rice said. “That was huge because when they get down into the red zone, you want to hold them to a field goal, so that was big on Channing.”
It was huge for Georgia in the moment, but Georgia head coach Kirby Smart indicated that it was huge for the development of Tindall as a player, as well.
“It builds confidence,” Smart said. “I mean, Channing Tindall needs confidence. I’m telling you, that young guy is fast, he’s athletic; he just needs confidence.”
Smart also said after the game that Ledbetter was the clear leader of the position group, and it showed in the win over Kentucky. The Tucker, Georgia, native is the only upperclassman to record a sack on Saturday as Rice is a sophomore and Tindall and Cox are both freshmen.
“He goes out to practice everyday and he plays really hard,” Smart said. “He goes in the game and he plays really hard and really physical. He’s bought in to helping his team, and he’s not afraid to stand up and confront and demand in that D-line group, which is what we need.”
As Ledbetter alluded to, Georgia’s defense was well aware of the criticisms about them heading into the game against Kentucky. The four Bulldogs had to hear about the Wildcats’ Josh Allen, whose 24 ½ career sacks place him second in program history. Had he gotten one and a half more sacks against Georgia, Allen would have tied Oliver Barnett for the most in school history.
Instead, Allen did not record a sack and Georgia leaves Lexington, Kentucky, as SEC East champions. Some part of that, at least, is due to Ledbetter, Rice, Tindall and Cox.
“People doubt us and they say we can’t do this and we can’t do that,” Ledbetter said. “We’ll just do what we do.”
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of sacks Georgia recorded against Kentucky. The story has since been updated. The Red & Black regrets this error.