The Bulldogs (11-0, 8-0 SEC, No. 1 CFP) clinched the Eastern Division title last week and were aiming for another perfect finish to league play. They became only the third SEC team since 1992, after Alabama (2008-09) and Florida (1995-96), to go 8-0 in the league in a row.
Georgia’s success wasn’t easy in cold, windy conditions, and it settled for three field goals from Podlesny before McIntosh’s TD provided the cushion it needed.
“We’re going to play games like this in these weather conditions,” said coach Kirby Smart. “But I’m really proud when our guys have their backs to the wall, how they struggle with what they’re doing.
“Certainly we could have played better, probably in the red zone. They could have stopped some drives defensively; We gave them a few conversions on penalties. I have to give a lot of credit to Kentucky for bouncing back and being a really physical football team.
Georgia’s chance to complete the lead ended with downs at Kentucky’s 1. The Wildcats made it interesting with a 99-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Will Levis to Barion Brown. Levis’ two-point conversion pass failed, and the chance to make it a one-goal game died when Matt hooked Ruffalo’s field goal to the left after a low, rolling snap.
Kentucky (6-5, 3-5) then turned it around on downs and lost for the fifth time in seven games.
McIntosh hit a career-high 26-yarder 19 times for the Bulldogs, who defeated Kentucky 365-297 and 247-89 on the ground.
“It was really big,” McIntosh said of his TD. “We had driven the ball all over the field but we knew we had to score on that drive to come out strong and get the ball rolling to the ground. We had been preaching at halftime that we had to go out there and start stronger and be physically at the scrimmage line.
The senior defenseman’s previous best rush was 90 yards on 16 attempts against Florida last month.
“Kenny ran the ball really well tonight,” added Smart. “Probably could have been more but he had to share with a few other guys.”
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett completed 13 of 19 for 116 yards with an interception.
Levis completed 20 of 31 for 206 yards with an interception for Kentucky, who dropped their 13th straight against Georgia.
Chosen to finish second behind Georgia in the East, the Wildcats were ranked as high as No. 7 on the AP Top 25 in late September before suffering painful divisional losses to South Carolina, No. 5 Tennessee and a shocking 24 of the latter Week down came a -21 home loss to Vanderbilt that ended the Commodores’ 26-game SEC losing streak.
Georgia’s second-ranked scorer (11.6 points per incoming game) stayed stingy, holding Kentucky to just 119 yards before halftime and going scoreless for three quarters. Kentucky’s 99-yard TD drive from a goal-line stand spoiled the Bulldogs’ shutout bid, but they limited the Wildcats to just 3-of-11 in third and 1-of-3 in fourth.
It wasn’t pretty, but Georgia should maintain its place at the top of the AP Top 25 and college football playoff rankings.
Georgia: Denied their usual offensive offensive prowess by Kentucky’s rigid defense, the Bulldogs had to settle for whatever they could get their hands on. The numbers ended decently, converting 6 of 12 third-down chances and edging out possession from the Wildcats (30:02-29:58). Their stingy defense scored a shutout in three quarters, highlighted by Kelee Ringos intercepts Levis in the end zoneand held off Kentucky’s last-ditch attempts to get it close.
Kentucky: The Wildcats couldn’t do anything but go upstairs after an all-around disastrous performance against Vanderbilt and did whatever they had to do to slow Georgia and pull off a few crucial defensive stops. They still faced a 16-point hole, although Levis did his part with his arm and feet to get them on the board against a bullish ‘Dawgs defense.
“After a tough defeat a week ago, our priority was to motivate them to compete at a high level,” said coach Mark Stoops. “It took a lot of digging and soul searching and the competitive nature of our players to reinvest and get involved and make that kind of effort. We came up short, but the effort, the preparation was there.”
Georgia meets rival Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Kentucky host state rivals Louisville on Saturday and are aiming for their fourth consecutive win.
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