ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia did its part to give Kentucky a chance to pull off its biggest Southeastern Conference road win of the Rich Brooks era.
The eighth-ranked Bulldogs put the ball on the ground four times, spotted UK an early 10-point cushion and generally sleepwalked through most of the first half.
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But Kentucky was unable to let sleeping Bulldogs lie.
Georgia got a key touchdown drive late in the half and started the second half with a blocked punt to set up another score and seize momentum for a 24-13 win on Senior Day at Sanford Stadium.
"It was a very strange game," Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks said. "It was like going to the dentist and getting five or six shots of novocaine because the tooth wasn't numb."
Kentucky (7-4, 3-4 SEC) will close the regular season against Tennessee on Saturday with hopes of ending a 22-game losing streak to the Vols and improving its bowl position.
As for the Bulldogs, they'll turn around and root for the Wildcats after beating them yesterday. A UK win over Tennessee would put the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game against Louisiana State.
UK's inability to run the ball or capitalize on Georgia's mistakes sealed its fate yesterday. The Wildcats ran 29 times for just 29 yards, by far a season low. "We never established a running game today," Brooks said. "And that put too much pressure on the passing game."
Even more damaging was scoring only three points off of Georgia's four turnovers.
"That's awful," Brooks said. "We couldn't get enough going to take advantage of the opportunities the defense gave us."
And while the UK defense held Georgia to 283 total yards, its best showing since holding Eastern Kentucky to 202, the Wildcats generated only 297 yards.
"The defense played a heck of a game, and we didn't help them out that much," UK receiver Keenan Burton said. "The offense definitely has to take responsibility for this one."
The Wildcats got off to a precarious start, as Georgia's Asher Allen took the opening kickoff 82 yards to the UK 18. Then the avalanche of turnovers began. Tackle Myron Pryor popped the ball loose from Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno, and end Jeremy Jarmon recovered at the Kentucky 14.
Kentucky couldn't do anything with the first gift, but Andre Woodson and the passing game got rolling on UK's next possession. Woodson hit Steve Johnson on a 14-yard pass and drew a pass interference penalty on a downfield throw intended for Johnson.
Woodson then hit Keenan Burton on a 36-yard TD pass to give the Cats a 7-0 lead at the 7:11 mark of the first quarter.
A turnover on Georgia's next possession set up UK for another score, as safety Ashton Cobb hauled in an overthrown Matthew Stafford pass at the Kentucky 45.
Lones Seiber made a 31-yard field goal to give the Cats a 10-point cushion going into the second quarter.
Georgia faced a third-and-9 from its 21 on the next series and tried to go deep to Sean Bailey. But cornerback Shomari Moore closed in on Bailey and outfought him for a diving interception at the UK 31.
Yet the Wildcats failed to score the rest of the quarter, and Georgia ended the period on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a 1-yard TD run by Moreno with 40 seconds left to trim UK's lead to 10-7.
"I was thankful that we finally put a drive together before the half to make it 10-7 instead of a two-score game," Georgia Coach Mark Richt said.
After UK went three-and-out on its first series of the second half, Georgia's Kelin Johnson ran right through the middle of the Wildcats' punt protection and blocked Tim Masthay's kick at the Kentucky 19. Thomas Brown scored on a 1-yard run six plays later to give the Bulldogs their first lead at 14-10.
"That was an absolute killer," Brooks said. "To have a blocking breakdown when we have a chance to take control of the game is very disappointing."
Once the Bulldogs established the lead, they let their running game take over. Moreno gained 21 yards on third-and-2 to the UK 14, and Stafford scored on a 10-yard draw to give Georgia a 21-10 lead and some breathing room with 5:40 left in the third.
Moreno finished with 124 yards on 22 carries, and Brown added 73 yards on 22 carries.
"(Moreno's) second effort killed us today," said UK senior linebacker Wesley Woodyard. "We were in position to stop him several times, and he kept it alive with second effort. I give credit to the guy."
Seiber made a 44-yard field goal to bring UK to within 21-13 at 4:27 of the third quarter, and Georgia gave the Wildcats another turnover when Thomas Brown coughed it up at the Kentucky 39.
But after Rafael Little's 15-yard run to the Georgia 37, UK went backward as Woodson threw two incompletions and was sacked on third down.
Kentucky again drove into Bulldogs territory with a chance to tie early in the fourth quarter. But after a 16-yard Woodson-to-Tamme completion to the Georgia 21, things bogged down again.
Offensive lineman Jason Leger was flagged for a hold, center Eric Scott was penalized for a snap infraction, and Woodson was sacked for a 2-yard loss. Burton picked up 23 yards on second-and-27, but Woodson was sacked for an 18-yard loss on third-and-four from the Georgia 15. Seiber then hooked a 52-yard field goal wide left.
Brooks and Woodson appeared to get into a heated exchange after he took the sack.
"After (Woodson) spun out, I thought he could have just thrown it out of bounds," Brooks said. "I think he was afraid that if he cocked his arm up, he might get hit and it may have caused a fumble."
"If Coach wants me to get rid of the ball, I've just got to do a better job of doing that," Woodson said.
A Brandon Coutu 42-yard field goal with 2:09 left made it a two-score difference, and Kentucky's last possession ending fittingly with Woodson getting sacked on fourth-and-5 from the Georgia 20. The Bulldogs sacked Woodson five times on the afternoon.
"This is a really disappointing moment for me and this team," Woodson said. "Our execution on offense has been the problem recently, and it was again today. We're doing a poor job of getting ready for these games, and we have to correct that before next week."
Date story ran: Sunday, November 18, 2007