ATHENS -- Just when it looked like the clouds were beginning to part for the Georgia defense, Kentucky struck with a true freshman quarterback and a playmaker in the backfield.
After holding the Wildcats to 63 yards and six points in the first half Saturday, the Bulldogs defense was immediately backed up against its goal line after a fumble on the second half's opening kickoff. The Cats quickly scored and continued to put up numbers.
Kentucky had nearly 100 yards and 14 points in that third quarter before completing a big bomb with a 60-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter from Morgan Newton -- starting in place of Mike Hartline, who is out for the season -- to Derrick Locke that tied the game 27-27. Fewer than 3 minutes later, Kentucky had taken a lead it would never relinquish.
What had looked like it might be an easy Georgia victory with a 20-6 halftime lead was turning into a fight that most of the Sanford Stadium crowd hadn't expected.
"I feel we were still in a position to make plays," said cornerback Vance Cuff, who was second on the team with eight tackles Saturday. "There's just a lot of plays that we left out there on the field that could have been made. We've just got to tighten those screws; we've got to always come out and be a better team."
The second-half performance was not what the defense was looking for after showing signs of moving in the right direction the previous three weeks.
After surrendering a quick 14 points to Auburn last week, Georgia's defense gave up only three more points in the final three quarters, with another seven coming on an Auburn kickoff return.Then, two quarters into the Kentucky game Saturday, the Wildcats had put just six on the board.
That's nine points in five quarters against the Georgia defense. And taking it all the way back to the Florida game, the Bulldogs defense had surrendered a total of 26 points in the previous 11 quarters through the first half Saturday.
Any improvement would have been welcome from many for a group that gave up 41 to Florida, 45 to Tennessee, 41 to Arkansas and 37 to South Carolina in a year that has seen plenty of ups and downs on defense.
Kentucky looked like it was well on its way to continuing the better trend for the Georgia defense until the bottom fell out in the third and fourth quarters, with the Bulldogs giving up 197 yards and, more important, a deciding 28 points.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said the biggest change came with that fumble to start the second half, which gave the Wildcats a lift that lasted the rest of the game.
"I think part of it was just they had that spark; they got excited after that first score," Richt said. "Their offense, and their entire team, I'm sure, they came out of the locker room determined to turn it around. Something happens that quick for you, it gets you excited. They just began to make some plays, throwing and catching."
When they did, Kentucky's offense started picking up large chunks of yardage and scored more than 30 points for the fifth time this season, the other four instances coming against Miami (Ohio), Louisiana-Monroe, Eastern Kentucky and Louisville.