UK Football

Cats aren't fooled by Georgia's sub-par stats

The Dogs are near the bottom of the league in several categories:

■ Scoring defense (11th, 25.9 points per game)

■ Total offense (10th, 344 yards per game)

■ Rushing offense (11th, 135 yards per game)

■ Passing defense (11th, 213.8 yards per game)

A statistical profile like that would suggest Kentucky (6-4, 2-4) might have a good chance Saturday of picking up its first win in Athens since 1977.

But the Wildcats insist they aren't reading too much into the numbers.

"Georgia's still Georgia," sophomore offensive tackle Brad Durham said. "They're still big and athletic and, defensively, they're huge up front."

"I don't think their record necessarily reflects how they've played," senior offensive lineman Christian Johnson said. "Down there at Georgia, they have high expectations: nine-, 10-, 11-win seasons and SEC championships. That's what they expect every year from Georgia. They haven't lived up to those expectations, and everybody down there feels like the season is in trouble. But to us, that means nothing. We're going to have to go down there and play hard."

The worst statistic of all for the Bulldogs is turnover margin: They are next to last in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a minus-14 ratio, forcing just eight turnovers while giving it away a whopping 22 times.

"That's been one of their problems and probably why they're 6-4 right now," UK Coach Rich Brooks said.

Last week against Auburn, Georgia started to look like the old Georgia again.

The Bulldogs fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and heard some boos from the Sanford Stadium faithful. But Georgia got physical with the Tigers in the second half. The running game that had been absent for most of the season produced two fourth-quarter touchdowns by Caleb King, including the go-ahead 24-yarder with 6:52 remaining.

"They decided they were going to run it down Auburn's throat, and that is just what they did," Brooks said.

Georgia might have to rely more on the run this week with star receiver A.J. Green out with a shoulder injury. The UK rushing defense was last in the SEC until the Wildcats ran for 308 yards against Vanderbilt, which got Kentucky out of the cellar and put the Commodores in. But Richt noted that many of Kentucky's struggles against the run have come against the spread option (Florida, Mississippi State) rather than the standard I-formation sets his team uses.

"The more traditional zone, power, sprint draw, the things that we do the most, they've been much more tougher and physical against those types of runs," he said. "It makes you want to put some option in, doesn't it?"

Against Auburn, Georgia also had a turnover-free game for the first time this season, and much-maligned defensive coordinator Willie Martinez's unit didn't give up a touchdown after the first quarter. Auburn's only second-half TD came on a 99-yard kickoff return.

There's certainly been nothing wrong with the Georgia defensive line. The Tigers' trio of senior defensive tackles in Kade Weston, Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens are big and talented enough to go toe-to-toe with UK's standout offensive line and running game led by Derrick Locke. The Bulldogs have also racked up 25 sacks.

"The offensive line will face, in my opinion, their biggest challenge of the year so far," Brooks said. "You're probably surprised to hear me say that since we've faced Florida and Alabama. But Georgia's defensive front is very impressive. The tackles are very physical, and they put more pressure on the quarterback than anybody we've seen."

While Georgia's season hasn't lived up to expectations, there's still a lot left on the line. UK, Georgia and Tennessee are jostling for second place in the SEC East, and the Bulldogs can wrap that up with a win Saturday.

"That's the best we can do now, and we definitely want to finish up that way," Georgia senior quarterback Joe Cox said. "It's not what we wanted, but I would still be proud of finishing up this year strong and being right behind Florida in the East. That's definitely what we are shooting for at this point."

Georgia has not looked like Georgia in 2009.

After winning 10 or more games in six of Coach Mark Richt's first seven seasons, the Bulldogs (6-4 overall, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) didn't qualify for bowl eligibility this year until last week's 31-24 come-from-behind win over Auburn.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader