Sidelines with John Clay

Georgia breathes sigh of relief; Kentucky laments loss. Plus more Big Blue Links.

Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship kicks the game-winning 25-yard field goal as the Bulldogs beat Kentucky 27-24 at Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 5, 2016.
Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship kicks the game-winning 25-yard field goal as the Bulldogs beat Kentucky 27-24 at Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 5, 2016. Associated Press

Big Blue Links for Sunday:

Kentucky shows it’s not quite ready to lead. My column says, “Then Kentucky started making the mistakes first-place teams don’t make. Garrett Johnson fumbled the ball away after a reception. Georgia kicked a field goal to pull within 21-16. The next possession, UK receiver Jeff Badet appeared to have caught a perfect post pass from quarterback Stephen Johnson only to have the ball get away and end up in the hands of the Dawgs’ Deandre Baker for an interception.”

Cats say they won’t let missed opportunity define season. Mark Story of the Herald-Leader writes, “Had UK won, the Wildcats would have been bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010, and the Wildcats program would have been riding a wave of recruiting momentum. Alas, Kentucky lost in a way that will haunt. Up 21-13 in the third quarter, Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson hit Garrett Johnson for a 21-yard gain on a third-and-6 from the UK 17.”

Georgia wins a wild one. Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph writes, “Final drive a masterpiece for Georgia: After Kentucky tied the game up thanks to an Austin MacGinnis field goal from 25 yards with 2:47 left to go, the Bulldogs executed a perfect game-winning drive. Twice, quarterback Jacob Eason found receiver Javon Wims for 12-yard gains. He hit Terry Godwin on a pass that he turned into a 16-yard gain. Then Sony Michel was able to get the ball inside the 10 for the final field goal try, which Blankenship connected on. “

Georgia gets a win and a sigh of relief. Mark Bradley of the AJC writes, “On a night when losing would have shoved Georgia below .500 and made even bowl-eligibility problematic, the Bulldogs trailed for 30 minutes and two seconds. It wasn’t always clear why they were trailing, given that they were clearly the better team. They outgained Kentucky 460 yards to 308. They also made three turnovers and managed to mess up a fourth-and-1 try by being flagged for a false start.”

Benny Snell’s big night doesn’t end the way he wanted. Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader writes, “When Benny Snell hears opposing defensive players start jawing at each other, he knows things are going well. ‘I hear them arguing and blaming it on one another but I’m just playing football, just keep moving,’ Kentucky’s true freshman running back said after his 114 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. “

Georgia gets a kick out of beating Kentucky. Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald writes, “On a Georgia football schedule that annually includes games against rivals Florida, Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia Tech, playing Kentucky usually doesn’t register much of a blip on the excitement meter for the Bulldogs. That’s because the results are usually predictable. The Bulldogs had won the last six straight, including the past three by an average of 33 points and were 55-12-2 overall and 26-7 here entering Saturday night. This time was different.”

Kentucky can’t get through the door. Derek Terry of Cats Illustrated writes, “The door to first place in the SEC East for Kentucky was wide open on Saturday night, but missed opportunities slammed it shut as Georgia’s Ricardo Blankenship drilled a 25-yard field goal as time expired to give the Bulldogs a 27-24 win. Kentucky had numerous chances to put some distance between itself and Georgia -- including a long pass to Jeff Badet that would have likely been a touchdown but was dropped and fell right into a defender’s hands -- but were unable to take advantage of any of them.”

Turnovers catch up to the Cats. Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause writes, “Two pivotal giveaways by Kentucky on consecutive snaps in the third quarter snuffed out promising opportunities. On the first, quarterback Stephen Johnson stepped up in the pocket and delivered the ball to a wide open Garrett Johnson, but the receiver was hit from behind and coughed it up. The Bulldogs turned that into a 49-yard field goal to trim UK’s lead to 21-16.”

Mark Stoops says UK lacked edge. Joe Mussatto of SEC Country writes, “Kentucky played in front of its biggest home crowd of the season with first place in the SEC East on the line, and yet, coach Mark Stoops and several players said the team lacked an ‘edge.’ Two weeks after a last-second kick saved Kentucky and sent the Commonwealth Stadium crowd into elation, a chip shot Georgia field goal sent fans packing in an ending that failed to live up to the dramatic events before it.”

Was Kentucky undermanned or undermotivated? Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal writes, “To hear Mark Stoops tell it, you would think his Wildcats lost through a lack of will. The head football coach of the University of Kentucky said his team failed to show enough ‘edge’ in its 27-24 loss to Georgia Saturday night. He complained that his players demonstrated an inappropriate amount of ‘urgency.’”

With first place on the line, UK falls. Rick Bozich of WDRB writes, “This is the strange dynamic that twisted around raucous and almost packed Commonwealth Stadium Saturday night: One minute it seemed that Kentucky was bound for first place in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference. The next minute the Wildcats were bumped back to their six-season quest of chasing bowl eligibility. Behind Georgia by seven. Ahead of the Bulldogs by one at halftime and then by eight midway through the third quarter. Back behind by three late in the fourth quarter. Tied with less than three minutes to play.”

Sloppy second half hurts UK. Chris Angola of the Kentucky Kernel writes, “With the loss, the Cats will not be in the running for the SEC East title. Even though that was a long shot, a win Saturday night would have guaranteed that UK would be going bowling for the first time since 2006. A sloppy second half proved costly for the Cats who led 14-13 at halftime, and again it was turnovers that held UK back. Despite leading the turnover battle 2-0 heading into the final 30 minutes, three costly turnovers came back to bite the Cats.”

Agony of defeat hits hard. Keith Taylor of KyForward writes, “The Wildcats were so close to making the big plays they needed during a third-quarter drought but simply failed to finish. Receiver Garrett Johnson fumbled the ball away following a big gain and a quarterback Stephen Johnson pass bounced off receiver Jeff Badet’s chest into the hands of Georgia defensive back Deandre Baker, ending a potential momentum-clinching drive for Kentucky.”

Florida’s loss to Arkansas could change season. Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun writes, “They trudged slowly off the field as cheap fireworks popped behind them in the Arkansas twilight. Bruised, battered and beaten badly, it was a complete opposite of a week ago in Jacksonville. Here, Jim McElwain looked down at the artificial turf as he headed to the tunnel. Players limped off. Alex Anzalone had an arm in a sling. Cam Dillard was the last one off wearing shorts and sporting crutches, wincing with every step as his left knee barked at him.”

Tennessee wins easily without what’s his name. Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press writes, “ Jalen Who? One day down the road — way, way down the road — the University of Tennessee football team may actually miss Ol’ What’s His Name, that former Big Orange running back who wore jersey No. 1. Lament or loathe that guy, ball carriers who stand 6-foot-4, weigh 240 pounds and can run with the wind aren’t easily replaced.”

Jalen Hurts makes the difference for Alabama. Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News reports, “Jalen Hurts was the difference between a win and a loss Saturday night inside Death Valley, where it’s difficult to come out victorious and deafening for an opposing quarterback. That may be an oversimplification of what occurred in a 60-minute slugfest between two of the better defenses in the country.”

LSU gets that disappointing feeling again. Scott Rabalais of The Advocate writes, “ArDarius Stewart took a reverse handoff and looked like he would run for a mile. But LSU’s John Battle closed the green gulf like a heat-seeking missile, throwing Stewart into the Alabama bench for just a gain of 3 yards. Leonard Fournette slammed into the line, clawing for something close to the meager 2.1 yards per carry he was able to chip out of that stone wall of a Crimson Tide defensive front. It was like that all game long Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.”

Mississippi State shocks Texas A&M. Michael Bonner of the Clarion-Ledger reports, “Mississippi State repeated its tradition of playing “Don’t Stop Believing” between the third and fourth quarters Saturday. The song echoed throughout Davis Wade Stadium in four previous games this season, but as the lyrics wrestled for dominance with noise from 58,407 cowbells, it felt different. This fourth quarter mattered against No. 4 Texas A&M. Less than an hour later, Mississippi State captured a 35-28 victory.”

Auburn wins without playing well. Guerry Clegg of the Columbus Ledger-Enqurier writes, “Undoubtedly, some critics will view Auburn’s 23-16 win over Vanderbilt as unimpressive. They will note how they nearly lost at home to an improving but still underwhelming Commodores team. Sometimes, though, a victory due to sheer determination and resolve can be more impressive than a blowout. Saturday’s win at Jordan-Hare Stadium was one of those occasions.”

SEC football standings

East

SEC

Overall

Florida

4-2

6-2

Kentucky

4-3

5-4

Tennessee

2-3

6-3

Georgia

3-4

5-4

South Carolina

3-4

5-4

Vanderbilt

1-4

4-5

Missouri

0-5

2-7

West

SEC

Overall

Alabama

6-0

9-0

Auburn

5-1

7-2

Texas A&M

4-2

7-2

LSU

3-3

5-3

Arkansas

2-3

6-2

Miss State

2-3

4-5

Ole Miss

1-4

4-5

Remaining SEC football schedule

Nov. 12

  • Mississippi State at Alabama
  • LSU at Arkansas
  • Auburn at Georgia
  • Kentucky at Tennessee
  • Ole Miss at Texas A&M
  • South Carolina at Florida
  • Vanderbilt at Missouri

Nov. 19

  • Chattanooga at Alabama
  • Mississippi State at Arkansas
  • Alabama A&M at Auburn
  • Florida at LSU
  • UL-Lafayette at Georgia
  • Austin Peay at Kentucky
  • Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
  • Missouri at Tennessee
  • Western Carolina at South Carolina
  • UTSA at Texas A&M

Nov. 24

  • LSU at Texas A&M

Nov. 25

  • Arkansas at Missouri

Nov. 26

  • Auburn at Alabama
  • Florida at Florida State
  • Georgia Tech at Georgia
  • Kentucky at Louisville
  • Mississippi State at Ole Miss
  • South Carolina at Clemson
  • Tennessee at Vanderbilt
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