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By KEITH TAYLOR, Winchester Sun
Kentucky’s defense wanted to make a statement against Georgia Saturday night.
The Wildcats were on a mission to stop the run and turned in a solid outing in a 29-24 loss to 12th-ranked Georgia Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium.
Kentucky was 28-point underdog prior to the contest, but kept the final margin under double digits behind a rush defense that prevented the Bulldogs from gaining traction in the backfield. Georgia finished with just 77 yards, a season-low against the Wildcats. Kentucky surrendered more than 200 yards on the ground in losses to Louisville, South Carolina and Florida. In the Cats’ lone win over Kent State earlier this season, the Golden Flashes amassed 182 yards rushing.
“That was the goal, to come out, be physical and stop the run,” Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson said afterward. “We really threw them off course by stopping the run with our whole defense and we did a good job with that.”
Kentucky gave up 49 points in last week’s loss at Arkansas, called with 5:08 remaining because of inclement weather, but followed by piecing together it’s best defensive showing against the Bulldogs. It’s an effort Williamson said the Cats can build on with four games remaining in the regular season, starting with Saturday contest at Southeastern Conference newcomer Missouri.
“I feel like it was a step forward,” Williamson said. “The loss still hurts, but we’ve still got a lot to play for. We’ve got four more games and we’ve got to try and win out for the seniors. We’ve just got to keep fighting, that’s the goal.”
Kentucky’s offensive unit finished with 329 total yards, with 206 of those coming on the ground. Georgia also converted just five third downs on 12 attempts.
“We kept our defense off the field by running the ball,” Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.
Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter liked the way his team disrupted Georgia’s rushing attack and kept the Cats in contention despite Georgia’s ability to complete passes with ease.
“It was a hard-fought game,” he said. “Our kids played their tails off. We stopped the run pretty good … We were a little bit better on third downs, not outstanding, but better than we’ve been doing.”
“We went hard,” Kentucky defensive back Fred Tiller said. “We were hoping to win and we played out heart out for the seniors and everybody.”
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray had a career-high in completions (30) and yardage (426) against Kentucky’s depleted secondary. Murray threw four touchdown passes, including a 10-yard strike to Arthur Lynch with 5:39 remaining that forced Kentucky into catch-up mode for the remainder of the contest.
The downfall, Minter said, was eliminating big plays.
“We did not do that,” he said. “You have to keep getting better in the pass defense area. That’s way too many yards to give up and too many easy plays.”
Tiller said the contest served as a learning experience.
“Next week we should be good against the pass and the run,” he said. “We fighting, playing for our team, dignity, pride and everything. We have four more games and we’re still going to play our heart out.”
Williamson agreed and added the Cats aren’t giving up on the rest of the season despite being mathematically eliminated from the postseason.
“Quitting is not even in the picture,” Williamson said. “It’s not in our mind and it’s not in anybody’s mind. We’re not going to quit. I know it hurts, not having a chance to go to a bowl game now and I really hurt for the seniors. There’s not quit in my mind and none of these guys’ minds. We’ve just got to go back, correct our mistakes and see what we did wrong. We’ve just got to go out and be efficient next week.”