With 10 minutes left in the third quarter, the ‘boos’ poured down on Sanford Stadium nearly as hard as the rain. The Bulldogs ran the ball for a third-consecutive play and were still short of the line to gain. Georgia fans had enough.
Yes, No. 10 Georgia beat Kentucky 21-0. It was not convincing, however. Twenty-one points were the fewest Georgia has scored against Kentucky since 2011.
“I think that’s a wear-and-tear effect,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “You’re not just going to walk down there in those conditions and walk down the field and score. It’s just tough.”
The playing conditions were sloppy. It was a relentless, rain-filled three hours at Dooley Field, but Georgia remained in check and did not turn the ball over.
Still, the Bulldogs played the Wildcats to a tie in the first half. The last time a Georgia game was completely scoreless at halftime was 1991 at Alabama. For a team with a talent-laden roster like Georgia, the offense went missing.
“We had a bad first half,” running back D’Andre Swift said. “There were too many possessions without points on the board.”
Here is how Georgia’s drives finished in the first half: punt, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs and punt — in that order. It was hardly the ideal trend for head coach Kirby Smart or offensive coordinator James Coley who took heat for their play calling down the stretch in Georgia’s loss to South Carolina on Oct. 12.
Jake Camarda averaged 52.8 yards per punt in the game, but rarely flipped the field. Kentucky’s average field position was its own 33-yard line, forcing Georgia’s defense to consistently produce stops.
Jake Fromm struggled again. Through Fromm’s first seven completions of the game, he had a grand total of six passing yards. In the first half, finished 8-for-11 for 28 yards, but 22 came on a completion George Pickens. Fromm did not attempt a pass in the third quarter.
“I feel good about [Fromm],” Smart said. “To judge it based on that game is just not very smart. It’s hard to judge anything in that game. You can’t evaluate that. What you have to evaluate is what is your heart, what is your courage, what is your love of the game.”
Everywhere Smart wanted to improve offensively, Georgia did not. Smart stresses being aggressive, Georgia was not on offense. To the Bulldogs’ credit, the weather likely played a factor.
Georgia converted on three third downs of its 11 in the game. Other than D’Andre Swift, the Bulldogs had just one explosive play and it was in the second quarter. A week after failing two-minute situations, Georgia’s offense never had that opportunity.
Even when Georgia started putting points up in the third quarter, it felt like pulling teeth. The defense had to ignite the offense.
“We always want to help the offense out as much as we can,” linebacker Tae Crowder said. “We want to put them in good field position because we know what they’re capable of doing.”
In the fourth quarter, Georgia returned to its traditional form. The Bulldogs pieced together a 13 play, 92-yard drive which ate 8:18 off the game clock. The game pivoted, and Georgia held its momentum for the final stretch of the contest.
With College Football Playoff aspirations riding a thin line with no room for error, Georgia had to take care of Kentucky. It might not have been pretty, but Georgia did what it had to do — win.
“We just wanted to go to work,” Crowder said. “We didn’t want to relax. It happens, but we wanted to stick together and come ready to work.”