John Clay

It'll take time to get over this

John Clay
John Clay

In the post-game gloom of the Wildcat Den underneath Commonwealth Stadium, Rich Brooks' cheeks were red from the cold outside, his eyes downcast from the dejection he felt inside.

"This is a very, very tough loss," said the Kentucky football coach Saturday. "Maybe one of the toughest losses I've had since I've been here — in a long time."

See, so much in life is all about the timing.

And Brooks' disappointment wasn't so much from the loss his team had just suffered, a 42-38 heartbreaker to 14th-ranked Georgia, as it was from the possibilities his team couldn't quite attain.

"This could have been huge," said the coach.

Oh how it could have been. Six times the lead changed hands in the second half, four times in the fourth quarter alone. Big plays, time after time after time.

Matt Stafford, the Georgia quarterback with the cannon arm, threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi caught nine balls for an eye-popping 191 yards.

Knowshon Moreno, Georgia's herky-jerky wonder of a tailback, rushed for 123 more yards and three touchdowns.

Thing was, the Kentucky offense, stuck in cement so much of the season, finally found its track shoes to keep pace. Freshman quarterback Randall Cobb rushed for 82 yards and three touchdowns, including a 1-yard score that put the Cats up 38-35 with 12:15 remaining.

And when the visitors fumbled the football away on their next two possessions, surely the crowd of 70,626 smelled Kentucky's first victory over a ranked Georgia team since 1965.

Only Kentucky couldn't turn those turnovers into points — "We couldn't finish," Brooks said — and Georgia turned in one last big play, a 77-yard Stafford-to-Massaquoi connection.

OK, two big plays, for Stafford found A.J. Green, the Dogs' 6-foot-4 stud of a freshman receiver, in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard score and a four-point Georgia lead with 1:54 left.

Back came the comeback Cats one more time. Cobb hit tight end Maurice Grinter for 29 yards. A Georgia facemask penalty gave UK a first down at the Bulldog 14 with 51 ticks left.

But then Georgia defensive end Demarcus Dobbs made the game's best (and maybe only) defensive play, reaching up with one hand to snare a Cobb screen pass intended for running back Tony Dixon.

"Heartbreaking," was the word Brooks kept using.

See, timing is everything.

Just as the Kentucky offense played by far its best game of the season, the Kentucky defense picked a bad time to play its worst.

The Bulldogs rolled up 520 yards of total offense.

They produced 11 plays of 20 or more yards. Four of those came in the fourth quarter.

Surely part of that was because UK's best cornerback, Trevard Lindley, through no fault of his own, picked an unfortunate time to have patella tendinitis flare up in his knee so badly he couldn't walk, much less play, for most of the second half.

And after playing such a wonderful game, Cobb picked a bad time to make a rookie mistake, lofting a screen pass into a thicket of Bulldogs, trying to make a play where there was no play to be made.

"Unfortunately, this was one that could have been in the win column," Brooks said. "And it would have been huge for us."

It would have pushed Kentucky's record to 7-3 overall and 3-3 in the conference. It would have matched last year's victory total, with two games left to play. It would have put the Cats in position for a juicy bowl game.

"You never know when something you haven't been doing well, starts getting better," Brooks said. "And then something you've been doing really well, doesn't do as well as it had been doing. And we had two things like that happen today."

A bad time for that, indeed.