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SACKS SINK CATS

Date story was published: Sunday, October 24, 1999

ATHENS, Ga. - The fear was one day, some day Georgia would put it all together. All the pieces would fit. Watch out for the breakout. Kentucky's hope was that it would not be this day.

Instead, Georgia seized the day, and made it a Dawg Day afternoon.

Bulldogs 49, Kentucky 34.

"You could see they were kind of sleeping giants," UK Coach Hal Mumme said . "They had kind of struggled with the Central Floridas and the Vanderbilts. You could tell when they came out on the field today they had a little fire in their eye."

And Jell-O in their tanks. Friday night, Dawg Coach Jim Donnan hauled in five large containers of Jell-O for his team to consume. And not because he likes Bill Cosby. "We wanted to jell as a team," Donnan said.

The Bulldogs did. Not six minutes into the game they had blocked one punt and foiled a UK fake punt, capitalizing on both for a 14-0 lead. Kentucky pulled within 21-13 at halftime, but Georgia hit an 80-yard touchdown - Quincy Carter to fullback Brett Millican - on the first play of the third quarter.

By the final horn, the nation's 14th-ranked team had rung up 11 sacks on defense and 577 yards on offense, including 267 on the ground. Trading its rubber-band man-to-man scheme of the past two seasons for junkyard-dog, Erk Russell-type aggression, Georgia held Kentucky without a yard the first quarter and red-stamped a school-record negative-50 rushing yards (thanks to sacks) on the Cats rushing stats.

On offense, the incomparable Carter threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns, plus led his team with 87 rushing yards. And freshman Charles Grant starred both ways, with three sacks on defense and two touchdowns, including a 42-yard sprint, on offense.

"Really, we started jelling the last quarter of the last game," Donnan said of a 24-point fourth-quarter rally at Vanderbilt that cold-cocked the Commodores 27-17. "I was glad to see us put it all together. A game like this will be good for our confidence."

Kentucky was supposed to be the confident team. The Cats entered Sanford Stadium on a three-game win streak. Their comparative scores had topped the Bulldogs against both South Carolina (30-10 to 24-9) and LSU (31-5 to 24-23). Many predicted UK would snare its first victory in Athens since 1977.

That hope nearly evaporated the first five minutes. Overwhelmed by Georgia's all-out blitzkrieg on quarterback Dusty Bonner, UK went three-and-punt on its first possession. The punt had barely left Andy Smith's toe when it was blocked by linebacker Kendrell Bell, who had barreled up the middle. "(Jimmy) Haley just missed him," Mumme said of his long-snapper.

Georgia ball at the UK 8.

Three snaps later, true freshman Grant scored from a yard out.

UK went three-and-punt formation on its second possession. This time Mumme called a fake -- "A bad call," the coach said - and for the first time up-back A.J. Simon couldn't make it happen. Georgia had intended receiver Lee Wesley covered. Simon scrambled, buying time. "Then I just threw it up," he said. "I was just trying to get rid of it."

The incompletion gave Georgia possession at the UK 18-yard line. Bulldogs running back Jasper Sanks, whose playing status had been questionable because of a bad shoulder, gained 11 yards on the first play and 7 more and the touchdown on the second, to make the score 14-0.

"That changed the game plan a little," UK defensive coordinator Mike Major said. "We had to blitz more, trying to create some turnovers."

The Cats did force three first-half giveaways. By halftime, UK had battled to within 21-13. "Then they come out the second half and the first play they got a dagger," Major said.

The Cats were fooled. First-and-10 at its own 20, Georgia lined up in a two-tight end I-formation. They had shown the same look three times the first half, all down on the goal line, all for running plays.

"Everybody goes with tendencies," Donnan said. "I'm sure they thought we'd come out and run the ball. I told our guys, 'We're going to come out smoking.' "

He was right.

Carter gave a play-action fake to the left side, made a half-roll to the left and hit his fullback Millican in the flat. Uncovered. Millican was gone down the right sideline, 80 yards for a score. Twenty seconds into the third quarter.

"Both safeties and the corner on that side all played the run," Major said "We were hypnotized and mesmerized by the mystiques of the running game."

For the Cats, it was back to playing catch-up. "That was a big lick," Major said. "We were back in the same mode of really trying to attack and make something happen."

Georgia made it happen. The Bulldogs had seven plays of 20 or more yards in the third quarter alone. By the quarter horn, the gulf had widened to 42-20.

To its credit, Kentucky did not quit. The offense that managed zero total yards (29 passing, minus- 29 rushing) in the first quarter finished the day with a respectable 371 total yards.

But it wasn't the Cats' day, and UK falls into the off-week at 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Southeastern Conference .

The Bulldogs finally played to their big-time potential in improving to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the league before next week's Jacksonville jostle with Florida.

"The bottom line is they're just more physical than we are. They're just a better team than we are," Mumme said. "I think we were probably just good enough that we scared them enough that they got ready."

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