By LARRY VAUGHT
First, it’s okay to be disappointed that Kentucky lost a chance to play for the SEC Championship because of its 34-17 loss to Georgia.
Kentucky just wasn’t as good as the Bulldogs, especially in the offensive and defensive lines. The Bulldogs dominated most of the game after a 65-yard punt return gave the Bulldogs a short field on their first series to take a 7-0 lead and help tone down a pumped up Kroger Field crowd.
But just because UK won’t have a chance to go to the SEC title game doesn’t mean this cannot be a historic season.
Kentucky is still 7-2 and in second place in the SEC East. Beat Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and Louisville and UK would have its first 10-win season since 1977. Win those three games and a bowl game and UK would have an 11-win season.
Winning the next three games likely would put Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl in Tampa. Tell me when this season started you would not have taken that.
So no pouting or heading hanging. No telling me Kentucky was just a pretender. No, Kentucky just got beat be a better team. Georgia pounded the Cats with a bruising running game that had big holes because of its line — that also kept UK from putting pressure on the quarterback. The Bulldogs rushed for 331 yard and had two 100-yard rushers.
Kentucky couldn’t get its running game going. Benny Snell had 42 yards in the first quarter — but finished the game with just 73 yards. The Cats had 310 total yards but most were inflated because they came after Georgia built a 28-3 lead. A Georgia defense that came into the game with just 10 sacks got to UK quarterback Terry Wilson four times.
Kentucky also had some huge mental mistakes — Logan Stenberg unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, leading tackler Darius West ejected for targeting, offensive guard Bunchy Stallings ejected for “touching” an official and tight end C.J. Conrad fumbling to stop a first-half scoring drive.
“They came ready to play. They fought us really hard,” Conrad said. “We had our opportunities and just didn’t execute. Early in the game we were doing well and then would stall out. I had a bad turnover. Stuff like that can’t happen. You have to finish drives against good teams and we didn’t do that.”
Conrad thanked UK fans for their support and hopes it will continue.
“We had an amazing atmosphere. We appreciate the fans,” Conrad said. “We are really sorry we couldn’t get it done. I hope you (fans) will continue to support us. We are not going to let this turn into two or three games (UK loses).
Kentucky plays next week at Tennessee, a team that has improved but is no Georgia. The Vols are 4-5 but won only 14-3 over Charlotte Saturday.
“I am very disappointed and will be all day tomorrow. We have to get ready for Tennessee. We can’t let this turn into two (losses) . Our leaders can’t let that happen,” Conrad said.
Kentucky got a taste of big-time football with a prime-time game on CBS-TV. SEC Nation was in Lexington. All week national attention was focused on this game.
That’s why bouncing back and winning at Tennessee for the first time since 1984 will keep an amazing season on track for a team that has exceeded what almost everyone expected so far this season and has a chance to continue to add to that despite Saturday’s loss.