The Georgia football program still has a pretty salty defense. Style points or not.
The DawgNation report from what the opposing locker room had to say on Saturday afternoon will reflect the above point first and foremost. The Wildcats were highly complementary. Even if that contradicts everything that currently seems amiss with the Bulldogs.
It is ironic to note the eye of the beholder here did not focus on Georgia’s struggles to show its best football on the offensive side of the ball. The Kentucky post-game chatter was about how another not-quite-Georgia-good defensive performance still held their team to just three points.
The Wildcats (2-4) have failed to score a touchdown only two times in the last four seasons. Georgia was the foil in both of those instances in 2019 (zero points) and 2020 (three points) during that stretch.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops
His opening comments on the game: “First of all, you have to give Georgia credit. We knew going into the game that [was] one of the best defenses in the country, if not the best. And they really played well, put a lot of pressure on us, did some really good things. I thought we gave ourselves an opportunity. We were better. I really liked our team’s energy and focus all week. Worked extremely hard. Played with great energy. Played very physical. We’re playing physical enough on both sides of the line of scrimmage to win a game like that. We have to be able to create some opportunities for big plays. We have to get the ball in the end zone. We had a couple of opportunities. The long drive we had in, I believe it was the second quarter, got three out of it. You need to be able to punch that in, put some pressure on them. I think that was the big difference in the game, obviously, our inability to create big plays and to punch it in the end zone there. So defensively, again, they had some aggravating yards.”
“There was a couple of sets, again, that we have to get set, have to, get fixed. But defensively the guys played with good energy, played extremely tough, and played physical. Had a couple of takeaways to give us an opportunity to change the field position. But in the end, you have to play really perfect and make some big plays to beat a team like that and we didn’t do it.”
On how his team moved the ball methodically but it seemed a given that Kentucky was going to balance being safe with taking the risks necessary to beat a team like Georgia: “Yeah, you definitely are throughout the game and we understand that. I think you saw that late in the game in a predictable pass, how dangerous they can be, if you watch them this year when — they can overwhelm you and obviously turn the game or blow the game wide open with their defense with strip-sacks, with exceptions for touchdowns, just creating havoc with their defense in predictable situations.
But I agree with you. I think — and we know that. We tried. Sometimes they were covered and they went to check-downs, so it looks like a three-yard gain when in fact we had something called down the field to try to hit some verticals, try to hit some slants, try to hit some big plays that they took away. So it’s not like we didn’t have those plays called. We did. We need to create them. We need to make some plays down the field, obviously, and we definitely were working at that today. It didn’t always show up with the balls getting down there, getting down the field.”
“And at the end of the first half, that was not a good percentage for us. We cut it to — what was the score at that point? 7-3? And we were backed up. We thought we would try one run. If we could create a big run, definitely try to open it up at that point in time. But again, you’re talking about a defense that, as hard as we fought in that first half to cut it to four to give us an opportunity to play to win, that’s low percentage for us. That’s their strength, predictable pass, with the rushers that they have and the guys they have covering, and what we’re built to do right now. That’s not — we’re at our best when we can run and throw and try to be balanced, but predictable pass against them is — you can let the game get away from you there real quick.”
On if some of the stuff Georgia was taking away presented itself late in the fourth quarter with the Wildcats stalling out trying to push the ball down the field: “It did, and we were trying to get first downs. We were backed up a little bit there. After the first down, we were picking it up and trying to get the ball down the field, absolutely. It wasn’t happening. They’re well-coached. They’re not stupid. I mean, they know and they were taking it away and they were, they know if they were keeping things in front of us that we were going to have to continue to work it all the way down the field and score and get the football back again. So they were taking those shots away.”
On how his first-game starting QB Joey Gatewood played: “You know going into it it’s going to be a tough day. Any quarterback that goes into playing Georgia, you know it’s going to, there’s going to be some good and some bad because they’re going to create some havoc in there with the way they can rush.”
“So I thought, I think we’re going to put on the film and see some things where more reps, more confidence, more comfort. I felt like some of those throws were there. I think with the opportunity with playing some more. He’s got to anticipate that and get the ball down the field. I think there were certain opportunities there that we’re going to look at and wish we can do them over, have a little regret on some reads. But overall he did some good things. I think there’s a lot to build on there with him for sure.”
On how his QB had to at least try to push the ball down the field against Georgia at a certain point of the game to try to make a play: “Well, I think with — I was with you. I was sitting there on the sideline when it was getting late and we were, I was talking with Eddie (Gran) and Darin (Hinshaw) on the phone. And Joey (Gatewood) was told to look for certain routes. And he must have felt they were covered. I can’t see exactly what was happening as far as, until we look at the film. But yeah, I agree. After I want to say one of the throws, one of their guys got hurt and we had an opportunity to talk to him and that’s exactly what we talked to him about. We’re saying, Fit one in there. Get the ball down the field and at least try — you got to force it at this point.”
“So, yes, we were trying, and I agree with you, I think it was difficult there. But again, they know that. They know those plays are coming as well and one of them they had an opportunity to pick for a touchdown and fortunately he dropped it.”
On what changes he needs to make with his offense to produce more points: “I thought that they did a really good job at times today. I thought we were creative with keeping a really, really talented defense on their heels as far as some of the run game. In some of the sets we were in, we were giving our kids an opportunity to be successful and move it. But we do. We have to create explosive plays in the pass game. And we got to be creative.”
“We do have to take more shots. I mean, Eddie (Gran) knows that. Eddie’s been hard on himself. I thought, again, we had an opportunity to, if we punch it in a couple off some good drives, with some, with mixing it up very well, we just got to punch it in, we got to score. We tried a double-post with a wheel. We felt like it had a good chance and they got pressured. They sacked us. So, again, that’s arguably the No. 1 defense in the country, and if it’s not one thing, it’s another. Maybe they have good coverage, maybe it’s pressure, they’re mixing it up, so it’s hard.”
“But there are plays that are out there and we’re working hard at it to create some plays in the pass game and we have got to continue to find different sets and different ways and take some shots for sure.”
Kentucky QB Joey Gatewood
On trying to come back against Georgia: “First off, credit to Georgia’s defense. They are a good physical team upfront and secondary obviously is pretty good. Things happened in the moment. If everything went the way I would’ve liked it too, it would be otherwise. Like I said, credit to them. They are physical. They are a good team and were prepared. We will learn from all of this and we will go from there.”
Kentucky LB Jamin Davis
On trying to hold back Georgia: “We knew to just stay together and just keep playing our game. We knew they were going to come in and probably make a couple of plays here because it’s a pretty good team. You just always got to expect whatever and continue to play your game.”
Rewinding Georgia at Kentucky
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