Richard LeCounte sported the savage spikes for the second time in three games in Georgia’s 21-0 victory over Kentucky. The pads were bestowed after his recovered fumble in the third quarter.
“I love to make havoc,” LeCounte said.
Georgia kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard and forced a shutout for the second time this season — the first being a 55-0 victory over Arkansas State on Sept. 14.
The game against Kentucky remained scoreless after the first half, but the Bulldogs persisted with their run game in the second half and eventually wore down the Kentucky defensive front. The Bulldogs may have been counted out of the game early on had the defense had not been there to keep Kentucky from the end zone.
Georgia’s first score of the game was set up after a well-covered Kentucky punt flew only 15 yards. This lined Georgia up at its own 39-yard line, and tailback D’Andre Swift ripped the first touchdown of the game in the opening play of the drive.
On Kentucky’s next possession, safety J.R. Reed assisted in creating a fumble, and LeCounte was right behind to pick up and recover the ball.
“I think the punt was the biggest momentum change,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “[It] got our crowd into it and then the turnover on top of that was really big. We have stressed turnovers to no end, and we finally got one.”
On top of the turnover, Georgia’s defense kept wide receiver-turned-quarterback Lynn Bowden to only 17 yards passing. Heading into the fourth quarter, Bowden had zero passing yards.
Smart said Georgia had to rework its defense in order to protect against Bowden and the new offensive look he brought to Athens. The Bulldogs did not play any press defense, and Smart said they had to play their middle-of-the-field safety in a different capacity.
“At the end of the day, you have to defend [Bowden] differently. It’s a lot of pressure on your defense to be able to play in those conditions against a guy like that,” Smart said. “You’ve got to have somebody for [Bowden] every play.”
Perhaps the most crucial defensive play came at the start of the fourth quarter on a goal line stand. Kentucky had marched deep into the red zone to the Georgia 8-yard line, but with pressure from the defensive front, the defense forced a turnover on downs. If Kentucky had scored, the game would have been put within one possession.
“Anytime the ball is in the red zone, we stand up,” LeCounte said. “We practice with things like that, and we came out there and displayed our excellence playing hard.
Georgia’s offense responded to the stop right away, marching 92 yards downfield for the final score of the game and Swift’s second rushing touchdown. After Georgia went up three scores toward the middle of the fourth quarter, the defense began smelling a shutout.
“Nobody spoke of it, but I could tell everyone in their head was like ‘okay come on y’all,’” defensive back Eric Stokes said.
Stokes and the rest of the defense forced Kentucky to punt seven times. Five of the Wildcats’ 11 drives were three-and-outs, and they were only allowed nine first downs.
“Everything that we want is still in front of us,” LeCounte said.