Mark Story: Georgia's Ealey makes it look easy

UK's run defense seeing stars

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistOctober 24, 2010 

Georgia running back Washaun Ealey, left, was congratulated by offensive tackle Clint Boling after Ealey scored one of his five touchdowns Saturday night.

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF

You have to say this for the Kentucky defense: It produces a new star each week.

Unfortunately, it is usually the other team's best runner.

Continuing a season-long trend, Georgia tailback Washaun Ealey used the porous UK run defense to put his name in the marquee lights. Ealey ran for not one, not two, not three, not four but five touchdowns as the Bulldogs blitzed Kentucky 44-31.

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound sophomore from Stillmore, Ga., spent a warm October Saturday evening running through UK arm tackles on his way to 157 yards.

Yet even with all his gaudy stats, Ealey likely did his best work on a drive in which he didn't find the end zone.

An error-plagued first half left UK in a 28-10 halftime deficit for the second straight week. But the Cats pulled within two scores, 41-25, with 10:52 left in the game.

After Joe Mansour kicked the ball out of the end zone, Georgia faced first-and-10 at its own 20. A Commonwealth Stadium crowd of 70,884 roared, visions of the kind of comeback that felled then-No. 10 South Carolina a week ago dancing in heads.

Instead, Ealey and a massive Georgia offensive line slammed the door. Ealey carried the ball seven times, accumulated 61 yards and helped the Bulldogs take 8:12 off the clock.

A Blair Walsh field goal at the end of the drive iced the game for Georgia.

"It was a disappointing thing," Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips said. "That team ran on us, and we were in a nine-man front. We had nine men in the box and we couldn't get them off the field."

Wildcats linebacker Ronnie Sneed said the time-consuming, game-clinching Georgia march wasn't a case of anyone in UK blue making mistakes.

"It was a rough thing," he said. "I don't think it was anything we did wrong. They just got the better of us on that series."

For UK fans, it had to feel like deja vu all over again.

All season, opposing runners have gashed the Cats.

Louisville's Bilal Powell ran for 153 yards against UK in the opener. Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey rolled up 184. Heisman Trophy candidate Cameron Newton ran for 198 yards for Auburn.

Talented opposing runners have lived in the UK end zone. Newton had four touchdowns on the ground against the Cats. Florida's Trey Burton had five.

Now Ealey — by SEC standards a good, not great, back — has matched that.

Afterward, he deflected credit to his blockers, both the Georgia offensive line and fullback Shaun Chapas.

"They blocked hard and were more physical than Kentucky," he said.

In fairness to the UK 'D,' it deserved little of the blame for the Cats yet again finding themselves in a hole vaster than the Grand Canyon at halftime.

For the second time in four games, the Kentucky offense — clearly the more talented side of the UK roster — helped put the defense in horrid position by committing three first-half turnovers. The Cats did the same thing at Mississippi earlier this season.

Allowing Georgia's Brandon Boykin a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown in the first half Saturday night didn't help, either.

"I didn't think they played that poorly, actually," Georgia Coach Mark Richt said of the UK defense. "It looks worse on the scoreboard, but those turnovers kill you."

The Cats gave up 28 first-half points, yet Georgia had only 96 yards of total offense at intermission. The Dawgs' three first-half TDs on offense came on drives of 23, 39 and five yards.

"It was pretty hard," UK's Sneed said of having to constantly defend a short field throughout the first half. "Being a defensive player, it sucks. But we needed to go out there and have the offense's back. It just didn't go our way most of the time."

Going forward, Kentucky (4-4, 1-4) can still make this a memorable season. But the chances of getting to eight wins (by winning out); finally beating Tennessee; and getting bowl eligible for a fifth straight year would go up exponentially if the Cats could slow down the track meet for opposing runners.

"We've gotta be able to get stops," Phillips said.

And to stop making stars out of the other team's best runner.

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