LEXINGTON, Ky. – Praise for Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen abounded in Kirby Smart’s Oct. 29 press conference before Georgia’s matchup with Kentucky.
Smart said Allen is considered one of the best pass rushers in the country, calling him “the total package.” But in Georgia’s 36-17 win at Kroger Field, Allen was barely a factor. He had just three total tackles on Saturday. The Kentucky defense did not record a sack, as the Georgia pass protection stepped up to limit Allen.
“Our offensive line has a lot of pride in protecting the quarterback,” Smart said. “I thought they did a good job of doing that today.”
Allen came into the game with 10 total sacks, ranked second in the country and first in the SEC. He came in averaging seven tackles per game, and his three tackles on Saturday are the fewest he has had in a game this season.
“He's a first-round talent, so we just honed in on our technique to do a great job of just containing him,” sophomore running back D’Andre Swift said. “I thought they did a great job there today.”
Before Saturday, Georgia’s pass protection had faltered often. Quarterback Jake Fromm has been sacked 12 times this season for a total of 68 yards lost. He was sacked three times against both Missouri and LSU.
But in Lexington, Fromm was virtually untouched. Amid injuries to several players, the offensive line stepped up to the challenge of limiting one of the country’s best pass rushers.
“I really thought our kids had a chip on their shoulder,” Smart said. “Andrew Thomas plays his best when he plays the best, and Andrew loves that challenge. Isaiah [Wilson] is the same way.”
While Smart was unsure whether Thomas or Wilson was matched up with Allen more often, he said he was pleased to see both perform well against a great defensive talent.
“I can't sit here and tell you who he matched up on more, I just can tell you that those guys get a chip on their shoulder when they get a chance to go against the leading sack guy in the SEC,” Smart said.
In facing another good defense in LSU on Oct. 13, the offensive line couldn’t protect Fromm, and it showed. Fromm struggled, going just 16-for-34. But when Fromm was well-protected from Allen on Saturday, it opened up the door for offensive success in the 36-17 win.
That kind of pass protection will be important going forward, as Georgia faces more strong defenses. With its performance against Allen, the offensive line showed it is up to the challenge of neutralizing the best and enabling the rest of the offense to work.