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UK CRUMBLES UNDER GEORGIA'S AERIAL ASSAULT

Date published: Sunday, November 07, 2004

A handful of Georgia fans were making their way through the Commonwealth Stadium parking lot before yesterday's game when a group of Kentucky tailgaters pleaded for mercy.

"Take it easy on us, now," one fan shouted.Coming off a huge victory over Florida and with a showdown with national title contender Auburn looming next week, Mark Richt's club clearly didn't bring its "A" game to Lexington.

And it still wasn't close.

The eighth-ranked Bulldogs posted a 62-17 win, got some rest for its starters, and with the exception of a knee injury to tailback Danny Ware, left town relatively healthy for its showdown with the Tigers.

And despite not having its "A" game, Georgia still secured a season-high 589 yards of offense and scored its most points in an SEC game since 1982 when it beat Vanderbilt 62-35.

The Bulldogs scored 62 points without getting a touchdown in the first quarter. They turned the ball over three times, and allowed the worst offense in Division I-A to gain 344 yards and score on back-to-back third-quarter drives.

Kentucky showed some life early, driving into Bulldogs territory on each of its first three possessions. All of those drives, however, ended with punts.

"When you have opportunities like that against a team like Georgia, you've got to take it and run with it, and we didn't do that," senior defensive end Ellery Moore said.

The UK offense finally picked up some steam when Andre Woodson replaced starter Shane Boyd with 1:14 remaining in the first half.

Running the two-minute drill, Woodson guided the Cats into field-goal range, and kicker Taylor Begley nailed a 36-yarder to cut the margin to 20-3.

Georgia extended its lead to 34-3 before Kentucky went on a mini-run. Woodson hit running back Rafael Little for a 52-yard catch-and-run touchdown, and a Bulldogs fumble led to Rock Johnson's 4-yard TD run to make it 34-17 with 2:32 left in the third.

Georgia buckled down in the fourth quarter, turning the game into a rout with a 28-0 run in the final 15 minutes.

"I still can't envision how this game got away from us," UK Coach Rich Brooks said. "It cascaded down."

The primary reason for the cascade was the Georgia passing game. Early on, the Cats had no answer for Georgia's 6-foot-7, 253-pound tight end Leonard Pope, who found seams in UK's zone coverage and caught four first-half passes for 62 yards.

"They gashed us early with the tight end," Brooks said. "There were a couple of times we were actually with (Pope) and he just outphysicaled us. He made a couple of catches with guys in halfway decent position to cover him."

Kentucky switched to man coverage but that didn't work either as Georgia receivers ran free in the depleted secondary.

UK was without starting strong safety Mike Williams, who was kicked off the team on Friday for violating team rules. The Cats also had injuries to starting cornerbacks Earven Flowers (hip pointer) and Antoine Huffman (turf toe).

That left UK at the mercy of David Greene, who won a Division I-record 40th game, and his stable of pass-catchers.

Sean Bailey caught a 35-yard pass from backup quarterback D.J. Shockley, and Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown combined for eight catches and 187 yards. The Bulldogs had eight pass plays of 20 yards or longer and finished with 345 passing yards.

"We obviously couldn't run with their receivers, zone or man-to-man," Brooks said.

UK junior safety Muhammad Abdullah gave credit to Greene and the Bulldog pass-catchers.

"Good passing and good routes beats good coverage every time," Abdullah said.

Kentucky, losers of seven straight, has two more games left to stop its free-fall. The 62 points given up yesterday were the most by a UK team in regulation since LSU scored 63 on the Cats in 1997. Arkansas scored 71 last year, but that came in seven overtimes.

"It's a pretty ugly ending," Brooks said. "The sad thing is it's hard to feel good about anything, but I thought there were points in this game that we looked like we were doing some decent things."

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