Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

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Thursday October 21, 2010

If there’s a game on Georgia’s schedule each year which gets fans looking forward to / dreading a nail-biter, it’s probably South Carolina. The competitiveness of those games is a favorite preseason storyline, and the next game in the series usually doesn’t fail to deliver. But trips to Lexington have often been as tight and back-and-forth as any destination on Georgia’s schedule. Georgia is 5-2 against the Wildcats in Lexington since Jim Donnan took over in 1996, but the Wildcats have led well into the game in all but one of those meetings. Another close game is expected on Saturday between two teams with tons of potential on offense, but it will take a lot to top some of these recent Commonwealth Stadium visits.

1996: It was a miserable night to be a sports fan from the state of Georgia. On the same night that the Braves’ World Series hopes circled the drain, the Bulldog defense was helpless against Kentucky’s freshman tailback. Robert Edwards fumbled on Georgia’s opening possession, and it was going to be one of those nights. SEC Freshman of the Year Derick Logan had a school-record 41 carries, gained 140 yards, and scored two touchdowns in a 24-17 Wildcat win. Georgia rebounded from an 0-2 start in 1996 under new coach Jim Donnan to enter the Kentucky game at 3-3, and the Wildcats had yet to win a conference game. The unexpected loss in Lexington all but knocked the Bulldogs from bowl contention in 1996.

1998: This is apparently one of the three games in the “College Flash Classics” library. If you ever want to catch this game, just tune into Sports South on most any summer afternoon. Kentucky came into the game led by star QB Tim Couch and had a host of weapons on offense including receiver Craig Yeast. The Wildcats, en route to 530 yards of total offense, jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and threatened to put the game away in the first quarter. With the ball on Georgia’s 1-yard line, the Bulldog defense held. The play of the game might have been Georgia linebacker Orantes Grant recognizing and stopping Couch on a naked bootleg on 4th-and-goal. Grant’s stop changed the game’s momentum, and Quincy Carter finally got the Georgia offense going with a long touchdown run and eventually a couple of touchdown passes to put Georgia up 28-20 in the second half. Kentucky scored late but couldn’t complete the conversion. Georgia just had to run the clock out, but a Ronnie Bradley fumble gave the Cats new life. Kentucky lined up for a potential game-winning 49-yard field goal, but holder and coach’s son Matt Mumme bobbled the snap. Georgia escaped with a 28-26 win.

2000: Carter might’ve been one of the heroes in the 1998 win, but an injured shoulder kept him out of the next trip to Lexington. Carter’s absence cleared the way for one of the best pinch-hit performances in Bulldog history. Backup QB Corey Phillips torched the Wildcats for 400 passing yards and four touchdowns in a wild shootout that saw both teams combine for four touchdown passes of 40 yards or longer. The Dawgs once again fell behind early and trailed by as many as 13 in the second quarter. Jared Lorenzen lit up the Bulldogs with 528 yards on 39-of-58 passing. The Dawgs took control with 17 points of their own in the third quarter to erase a halftime deficit and take a 27-20 lead into the final period. Kentucky pulled level on a 75-yard strike just two plays after Georgia’s 85-yard touchdown reception by Damien Gary, but Georgia answered less than two minutes later with Phillips tossing a 27-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Edwards. Kentucky got within four on a field goal but couldn’t get the go-ahead touchdown. Lorenzen was intercepted inside of the final minute to end any comeback hopes, and Georgia came away with a 34-30 win.

2002: Georgia came into Lexington undefeated and riding high with a #5 ranking after surviving its early-season tests. The big news though was the buzz going around about Kentucky fans making plans to tear down the goalposts when the Wildcats pulled the upset. An enthusiastic Homecoming crowd had plenty of reason to be excited as Kentucky took a 24-21 lead into the locker room at halftime. The eventual SEC champions responded with 31 unanswered points in the second half and breezed to a 52-24 win, sparing the goalposts for at least a few years. One storyline entering the game was the injuries to starters Musa Smith and Fred Gibson. Georgia’s other receivers picked up the slack for Gibson. Terrence Edwards, Ben Watson, Damien Gary, and Reggie Brown all had at least five receptions, and Edwards put up 127 yards and three touchdowns. The injury to Smith gave Tony Milton his first start. Milton had a respectable 78 yards, but his biggest and most memorable play would be a crushing block on a blitz pickup that allowed David Greene to get off a long touchdown pass to Edwards.

2004: This was the lone game in this look back that wasn’t ever in doubt. Georgia’s national title hopes were derailed earlier in the year against Kentucky, but they shook off a slow start to unload on the Wildcats in a 62-17 rout. It was Georgia’s highest point output since 1994. The Dawgs led just 3-0 after one quarter, but they took a comfortable 20-3 lead into halftime. The blowout was punctuated with 28 fourth quarter points thanks in part to a long punt return from Thomas Flowers and a Kelin Johnson interception, both of which set up short scoring drives. The Dawgs exploded for 589 yards of offense and probably could have scored more if not for three fumbles. Thomas Brown led the way on the ground with 130 yards and three touchdowns. The game was noteworthy as David Greene set an SEC and NCAA record with his 40th win as a starter.

2006: The Wildcat fans finally got a chance to go after those goalposts. Georgia and freshman QB Matthew Stafford had dropped 3 out of their previous 4 games, and a narrow escape from a bad Mississippi State team was the lone victory. Crushing turnovers had played a role in Georgia giving up leads against Tennesssee and Vanderbilt, and they’d show up again in Lexington. The Bulldogs took a 14-3 lead thanks in part to a Tra Battle interception deep in UK territory. Stafford was bailed out of an interception deep in his own end by a Tony Taylor pick, but Georgia was unable to open up their lead as Stafford was intercepted again right at the end of the first half. That missed opportunity would prove costly. Georgia’s slim 14-10 lead held until the fourth quarter and the pivotal play of the game. Stafford completed a middle screen to Mario Raley. Raley took a fierce hit from Kentucky DL Myron Pryor that dislodged the ball and knocked Raley out cold for several minutes. Following a tense delay to tend to Raley’s scary injury, the Wildcats took over on Georgia’s side of the field and soon scored for the lead. The Bulldogs were able to answer with a score of their own, but the Wildcats came right back with their second scoring drive of the fourth quarter. The Dawgs had a chance to mount one final drive, but Stafford’s third interception of the day sealed the outcome. Georgia’s four turnovers as well as a missed field goal and extra point were just enough for Kentucky to emerge with the 24-20 win.

2008: By the end of the 2008 season, Georgia’s defense was reeling after a disappointing outing against Florida. We were already talking about issues with kickoff coverage. The offense featuring Stafford, Moreno, Massaquoi, and Green was Georgia’s strength, but even it had some problems with consistency. The Bulldogs outgained Kentucky 520-331, but they’d need every yard plus an heroic game-saving interception by Demarcus Dobbs to escape with a 42-38 win. Georgia was introduced to all-purpose wonder Randall Cobb in this game. Cobb was still a quarterback at this point, but his future as a playmaker became clear. Cobb was an ordinary 12-of-20 for 105 yards passing, but he did his real damage on the ground. Kentucky gashed Georgia all afternoon for 226 yards on the ground. Cobb was responsible for 82 of those rushing yards and scored three rushing touchdowns. Cobb’s handoff options of Tony Dixon and Alfonso Smith combined for 121 yards and two more scores. The Bulldogs were able to keep pace thanks to a 17/27/376 performance from Stafford and 123 yards rushing from Knowshon Moreno. Stafford and Moreno each accounted for three scores. Georgia’s 21-14 halftime lead soon evaporated as Kentucky combined a field goal and a Cobb score following a blocked punt to take their first lead. The teams traded scores in the third and fourth quarters, and Kentucky found themselves up 38-35. Two late Massaquoi fumbles put tremendous pressure on Georgia’s defense to keep the Cats from adding to their lead. After a few huge stops, Georgia was finally able to complete a go-ahead drive as Stafford evaded pressure and unloaded a perfect pass to A.J. Green in the end zone. Kentucky had one last gasp and drove inside the Georgia 20 before Dobbs’ interception preserved the win.

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