Listen, we know what happened yesterday. Kentucky lost to Georgia at home in the winner take all SEC East title game. Was that the most likely outcome? Absolutely. Did I think Kentucky had a shot to win this? Absolutely. Even during the game, it felt like it was going at Kentucky’s tempo with the Wildcats controlling time of possession early.
However, for the first time all season, Kentucky gave up the big plays. This was a defense that didn’t give up more than 20 points all season. It started with a mistake on special teams. The air was sucked out of the stadium when Mecole Hardman returned the first punt of the game 65 yards and set Georgia up with the short field.
That was the difference. Georgia took advantage of that. They went out and got touchdowns when they needed it and Kentucky’s offense was stuck again. There was some questionable play calls – I still hate going Wildcat when Terry Wilson is playing well because it forces the defense to focus on two guys in the backfield instead of putting 10 in the box. But, regardless, Georgia took advantage of the short field and turned it into points.
Ultimately it was Georgia’s run game and ability to win the battle at the line that won the game. That was always going to be the difference maker in this game. Georgia’s O-Line was actually banged up. Kentucky’s strength has been the running game and defense. However, Georgia ran for 331 yards and Jake Fromm just didn’t make a mistake in his 20 pass attempts. Kentucky ran for just 84 yards – partly because it had to play down 21-3 pretty early in the second half.
So, yes, history was not made. Georgia won the SEC East. But, this Kentucky program is going to be just fine. Let’s just look at the rest of this year. Kentucky is already at 7 wins with three games left. Kentucky will be favored against Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and Louisville. If they win those games they finish the regular season with 10 wins, 6 in conference and likely playing on New Year’s Day in one of the major bowls. A top-10 finish is still in reach.
Mark Stoops and company are out still recruiting at arguably the highest level we’ve seen Kentucky. They just got the commitment from Wandale Robinson – a local kid who they were able to keep over Nebraska and Ohio State. They’ll return Terry Wilson, AJ Rose and Lynn Bowden next year on offense. This should be an offense that should be good even with the loss of Benny Snell to the NFL.
I’ve enjoyed the hell out of this season. It’s been a fun ride, watching them snap the streak against Florida, continuing to beat South Carolina and Missouri on a consistent basis and beating a then top-10 team in Mississippi State. The entire program has been rejuvenated and you can tell there’s a buzz with the fans. So now, despite the loss to Georgia, Kentucky has to look forward. You have to beat Tennessee and get that 6th SEC win. Get that win and you’re looking at a 10-win season.
That’s something special.