LEXINGTON, Ky. — After building a 16-point lead into the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Kentucky, the Georgia Bulldogs held on late to ensure they would go home with another hard-earned SEC win.
No. 1 Georgia held off a late rally in Kentucky by making crucial stops on the Wildcats’ final two drives to secure a 16-6 win on the road. Points were hard to come by that night for the Bulldogs, who ultimately needed three field goals from Jack Podlesny and a quick touchdown from Kenny McIntosh to surpass Kentucky.
As a result of Saturday’s action, Georgia beat Kentucky for a 13th straight season and sealed an undefeated record in this season’s SEC game, only the 11th in program history.
Georgia (11-0, 8-0 SEC) held Kentucky (6-5, 3-5 SEC) in check for most of the game before quarterback Will Levis and co. showed some magic early in the fourth quarter.
A Bulldogs turnover on downs left the Wildcats at 16 on their own 1-yard line, but Kentucky’s offense was up to the challenge. Levis shot Barion Brown for a momentous 42-yard gain to put Kentucky in Georgia territory and take the Wildcats to the abyss of points. The Bulldogs forced a crucial fourth and two on their own 8-yard line before Levis spotted Brown wide open on his way to the end zone and hit him for a touchdown.
Levis’ pass failed on Kentucky’s 2-point conversion attempt, leaving Georgia 16-6 ahead, 9-52 in the game.
A faltering drive on Georgia’s next possession returned the ball to Kentucky, who found themselves on their own 10 with 6:55 left. Levis made another big play through the air by finding Brown for a 47-yard gain, and by the seventh play of the drive the Wildcats were up to Georgia 17.
The Bulldogs’ defense unbuckled from there.
Javon Bullard and Robert Beal tripped Levis for a four-yard sack before Levis’ third and twelfth passes went wide. Instead of trying to convert the long fourth down, the Wildcats sent kicker Matt Ruffolo, who missed from 38 yards wide, to hand the ball back to Georgia.
The Bulldogs ran about a minute and a half past the game clock before having to toss the ball back to the Wildcats, who took the ball on their own 25-yard line with 2:32 left. Kentucky got as far as their own 42 before Jalon Walker and Mykel Williams combined in a big tackle to lose on the third down, and Levis’ fourth down pass fell incomplete for a turnover on downs.
The Bulldogs made three trips to the red zone in the first half, but settled for three field goals from Podlesny before eventually breaking through with their first possession of the second half.
Georgia got the ball to start the third quarter and relied heavily on his running game to power an eight-play 58-yard drive. The Bulldogs kept the ball on the ground for seven of those eight games, the last of which McIntosh broke through a hole on the left side of the Georgia defense and put it the longest for the game’s first touchdown.
McIntosh’s result led to a 16-0 contest going 6-22 in the third quarter.
The frantic back-and-forth of both teams in the second half was followed by a first half in which Kentucky couldn’t muster much and Georgia had to pull away.
Podlesny hit a 27-yard field goal with 4:03 to go in the first quarter and a 24-yard field goal nearly a quarter later before Georgia put up their strongest drive of the first half.
After a disastrous late first-half drive culminated in a Mississippi State punt return touchdown last week, Georgia got the ball at 2:03 into the first half on Saturday at its own 24-yard line and went for the Work. Stetson Bennett had a few important additions to it Brock Bowers and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaintand Kenny McIntosh ignited the entire drive with a 26-yard carry on the fourth play of possession.
Just seconds before the break, Podlesny returned to the field and scored a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter to lead Georgia into the dressing room with two possessions. Podlesny was a perfect 3-on-3 on field goal attempts and hit his only PAT of the afternoon.
Georgia returns home next Saturday to host Georgia Tech in the Bulldogs’ final game of the regular season. This year’s edition of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate begins at 12 p.m. ET.