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Post Georgia 51 – Kentucky 13: Beck lets loose

Tuesday October 10, 2023

Two big concerns had Georgia fans eyeing the 14-point spread with healthy skepticism:

  • Georgia’s slow starts on both sides of the ball had been slow to shake after five games.
  • Kentucky’s running game, especially Ray Davis, came to life against Florida the same week Georgia gave up over 200 yards on the ground to Auburn.

It turned out that these two birds could be killed with one stone. Georgia’s offense leaned into its strengths in the passing game and scored on each of its first six possessions. That early success forced Kentucky away from Davis and a possession-oriented ground game and put the game on the less-capable arm of Devin Leary. Davis finished with just 15 carries (only six coming in the second half) and 59 yards. Leary completed just 10 of 26 passes and was sacked three times by a Georgia defense who, in possession of a large lead, knew what was coming.

Carson Beck has admitted to starting games too tightly wound, but he came out of the gate on fire in this game. He started 13-of-13 and led Georgia to touchdown drives on their first three possessions. The playcalling helped Beck get into his groove. The first pass was a swing pass out to Edwards. Then he found Rosemy-Jacksaint on an easy short pass against the Kentucky zone along the sideline. Another short pass to Lovett got the ball to midfield. Beck helped himself with a scramble on 3rd-and-3 to move the chains. With the juices flowing, Beck was ready to let loose and perfectly placed a crossing route into the hands of Rosemy-Jacksaint for a 40-yard touchdown.

Beck looked downfield earlier and more often than he has this season, and Georgia’s receiving talent is starting to show itself. Brock Bowers of course remains the standard bearer and had another 100+ yard game. Mike Bobo’s game plan took advantage of two Kentucky defensive traits: aggressive linebackers willing to bite on play fakes and a cover 3 look from the secondary that could be exploited. Georgia used motion frequently to create mismatches and confusion against the Kentucky zone, and Beck was able to hit open receivers. It wasn’t just Bowers: Rosemy-Jacksaint got the scoring going and nearly finished with 100 yards himself. He had a fantastic comeback catch on a free play that Beck heaved down the sideline to set up the third touchdown. Rara Thomas is also becoming a dependable target and had perhaps the highlight catch of the season so far. With the experienced Lovett and McConkey yet to reach the endzone this year, it’s doubtful that the passing game is close to its ceiling yet. Protection remains solid – Beck had lots of time to throw thanks to a good game from the line and a scheme that used play-action to create hesitation. It won’t always be this clean or successful, but this was the Georgia offense leaning into its best identity in 2023.

The defense only gave up a single score in each half, and the second touchdown came after a long interception return. It might seem like coach-speak for Kirby Smart to be less-than-thrilled with the defense at halftime, but he had a point. Kentucky opened the game with two respectable drives that were derailed not by anything the Georgia defense did but by penalties and poor Kentucky passing. Georgia let a Kentucky receiver get behind them on an early 3rd-and-long, and only a Devin Leary overthrow prevented a stunning touchdown that would have answered Georgia’s opening salvo. Georgia held Kentucky to 128 yards through the air and just 55 on the ground. A lot of that had to do with Georgia’s ball control and early lead forcing Kentucky to throw the ball. The Wildcats only ran 50 plays. Smart realized, though, that a handful of breaks that went Georgia’s way ended two early scoring opportunities for the Wildcats.

Flag Day

Penalties are a part of every game, but the flags had a fairly pronounced impact on the early flow of this game. The Wildcats responded to Georgia’s opening score with a quick march into Georgia territory, but a holding penalty stopped the drive cold. A 36-yard completion on Kentucky’s next possession once again had the Wildcats approaching the red zone. A personal foul moved the ball outside of field goal range, and another opportunity to put points on the board was wasted. Georgia’s third possession looked to fizzle out after a third down pass was tipped, but an inexplicable blindside hit after the play gave the Bulldogs an automatic first down. With new life, the Dawgs drove 95 yards for their third touchdown and put the Wildcats in a deep 21-0 hole early in the second quarter.

Georgia’s own miscues contributed to Kentucky’s only scoring drive of the half. A questionable roughing the passer call on Warren Brinson moved the Wildcats inside the Georgia 35. The Bulldogs held and forced a fourth down decision, but Georgia’s presnap action was flagged for “disconcerting signals” and made the distance to go much more reasonable. Kentucky converted the fourth down and scored a few plays later.

Extra Points

  • Ray Davis wasn’t a huge factor due to the flow of the game, but you saw flashes of what he might have done in a closer game. His first two carries went for 19 yards to help Kentucky drive across the 50. Most impressive might have been his burst and movement on his touchdown reception. He knifed through Georgia’s defense on a short screen and made Everette miss badly.
  • Chaz Chambliss had a pair of standout plays. He had an early tackle for loss on Davis that kept Kentucky on their heels after a personal foul penalty and forced a long third down. Later Chambliss showed his coverage skills by sticking with a tight end out towards the sideline and making a clean deflection.
  • We’ve seen some shaky two-minute possessions heading into halftime – on both sides of the ball – but Georgia handled the last five minutes of the first half as well as they could. After a Woodring field goal, Georgia notched a sack and forced a punt that was followed up by a quick five-play touchdown drive. Kentucky couldn’t move the ball in the final minute and punted with 30 seconds left. With the ball at midfield and in control of the game, Beck took a shot downfield and earned a pass interference penalty. After a few identical dump-offs to Edwards gained a quick 23 yards, Georgia was in position for a makeable 42-yard Woodring field goal at the buzzer. It was a smooth 20-second series that moved the ball from the Georgia 38 to the Kentucky 24 in three safe but effective plays.
  • Terrence Edwards posted 1,004 receiving yards in 2002 and is the only Bulldog ever to crack 1,000 yards in a season. Brock Bowers has 545 yards through six games and needs 76.5 yard per game the rest of the way to match Edwards. Bowers has averaged 136 yards over the past three games. At that pace, he’d end up with over 1,300 yards.
  • Did Georgia’s success throwing the ball open things up for the running game? The Bulldogs ran for 173 yards and 5.6 yards per carry. Even accounting for Vandagriff’s 27 yards, it was a solid performance. Edwards was his usual reliable self with some tough yardage. Milton ran as well as he has all season and finally looks to be in top shape. Five different ballcarriers had runs over 10 yards, but the breakaway run still eludes the group. We know that longer runs are more of a team stat with downfield blocking, and turning some of this tough yardage into breakaways is the next step for the running game.
  • As important as Edwards has been running the ball, he was unusually active in the passing game plan. Edwards turned the first pass of the game from a possible loss into a hard-fought moderate gain to get the opening drive going. Edwards also had two receptions to move the ball into field goal range just before halftime. He finished with 6 catches – second on the team only to Bowers. He’s not James Cook or Kenny McIntosh yet, but we’ve seen how valuable a receiving threat out of the backfield can be in this offense.
  • Kentucky threw at Kamari Lassiter more than most teams have. He was in coverage on Kentucky’s longest pass play of the game – 36 yards – but that play was over a quarter of Kentucky’s passing yardage in the game. Lassiter won his share of plays and probably could have had an interception on a well-defended pass down the sideline.
  • Georgia’s tight end depth doubled for this game. Luckie has been itching to get on the field and started mixing it up right from the opening kickoff. Spurlin is back from injury and had a nice 25-yard reception late in the game. The coaches won’t rush either into extended playing time, but it’s nice to have the depth now for some situational substitutions. In particular we’re looking to see if Luckie is as capable of a blocker as the preseason chatter made him out to be.
  • McConkey only had one reception in limited time, but what a nice play to set up a first-and-goal. The pass itself was 7 or 8 yard to the sideline, but McConkey made a smooth turn to get underneath the tackle and turn it into an 11-yard catch. That little effort to get a few extra yards and a first down rather than 3rd-and-short showed the value of having a veteran playmaker like McConkey available down the stretch.
  • It’s been an up-and-down season for Dumas-Johnson, but there’s still nothing like watching him finish off a blitz.
  • Do you think Jalon Walker wants more playing time? Georgia’s reserves have given up a couple of late scores this season, but thanks in large part to guys like Walker Kentucky punted on their final three possessions – including a pair of three-and-outs.
  • It’s a small detail in a blowout like this, but Georgia did well to answer both Kentucky scores. The Cats put together a long drive to cut the lead to 21-7, and an early out by the offense would have put a tired Georgia defense back onto the field. Instead Beck found Bowers right away for a 49-yard gain, and the Bulldogs were right back in the red zone. Even though the drive ended there with a field goal, the three points once again made it a three-possession game, and Georgia recaptured momentum to finish the half with 13 straight points. Kentucky wasn’t likely to mount much of a comeback even after a long interception return and quick score early in the second half, but Georgia made sure of it with a long 7-minute drive to tack on another field goal. Kentucky didn’t cross midfield again.
  • Woodring now has five straight makes in a pair of SEC games. Hopefully he’s shaken off the nerves from earlier in the season and will continue to be dependable as the stakes increase.

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