Kirby Smart: Georgia Bulldogs played Kentucky like ‘wrecking ball’

ATHENS – Kirby Smart doesn’t know who Miley Cyrus is.

That was one of the more stunning revelations in the aftermath of Georgia’s 51-13 win over Kentucky Saturday night. We’ll attempt to explain.

The coaching staff used a wrecking ball analogy all week to explain to the team about staying connected and working together as a team will eventually bring down the biggest and strongest of buildings.

“We showed wrecking balls all week,” Smart said. “We said it’s going to get more and more and bigger and bigger, and the bigger the wrecking ball is, well, force equals mass times acceleration. A lot of mass and a lot of acceleration.”

A short while later, a reporter returned to the wrecking ball analogy and said she couldn’t get the Miley Cyrus song, “Wrecking Ball,” out of her head.

Asked to explain the analogy again, Smart interjected: “I don’t know who Miley Cyrus is.”

“You never heard the song ‘Wrecking Ball,’” Smart was asked.

“I know Eric Church sings about a wrecking ball,” the coach replied.

With the interview room awash in laughter, Smart returned to his previous explanation.

“Force equals mass times acceleration,” he said. “What is mass? More hats, that’s mass. More acceleration, more speed. We wanted that going into them and we wanted to be connected in our physicality.”

No matter the explanation, it worked. The Bulldogs thoroughly dismantled the Wildcats, rolling up 608 yards of offense and holding them to 55 yards rushing and just 183 offensive yards.

“They beat us in every area,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “It’s hard to come up with an opening statement after a beatdown like that.”

In a few words, the Wildcats were hit like a wrecking ball.

Vanderbilt (2-5, 0-3 SEC) is up next for the Bulldogs next Saturday in Nashville (noon, CBS).

Here are five other things we learned Saturday.

Beck’s big day

Georgia first-year starter Carson Beck had a career day at quarterback. The junior from Jacksonville completed 28-of-35 passes for 389 yards and 4 touchdowns while playing only three quarters against Kentucky. He completed his first 13 passes of the game, which is just two shy of the record shared by Quincy Carter and Eric Zeier.

Beck also became the first signal-caller since Aaron Murray in 2013 to string together three straight 300-plus passing games. He also had 313 yards last week against Auburn and 338 the week before that vs. UAB.

“He showed tonight he’s the real deal,” said junior tight end Brock Bowers said, who had his third straight 100-yards-plus receiving game with 139 Saturday. “He balled out.”

Said Smart: “Carson was really in rhythm early, and that’s what happens when you can run the ball and the offensive line protects.”

Running the rock

Lost in all of the passing yards – Georgia actually had 435 as a team -- was the fact the Bulldogs actually were able to run the ball quite well. Kentucky entered the game with SEC’s best rushing defense and ranked fifth nationally at 78 yards per game. Yet, the Bulldogs ran for 173 yards.

Most of that came from the legs of running backs Daijun Edwards (54) and Kendall Milton (47), who split 17 carries between them. Milton was returning after missing most of the last three games. His 8 attempts were his first carries since the Ball State game.

“One thing this team has is grit,” said Milton, a 6-1, 220-pound senior from Fresno, Calif. “No matter who we’re playing, no matter what kind of game it is, we’re going to grind it out and get the job done. So, luckily we started out fast tonight and got the job done. But I had to doubt this team would.”

Wildcats grounded

A week after Ray Davis went for 280 and four TDs against Florida and Kentucky rushed for 329 as a team, the Wildcats managed only 55 yards on the ground against the Georgia defense.

Davis, the SEC’s leading rusher coming in at 118 yards a game, finished with 59 on 15 attempts (3.9 ypc). The senior transfer from Vanderbilt did have a 26-yard touchdown off a screen pass and 36 receiving yards overall.

“We were just playing off each other and feeding off each other all game,” cornerback Kamari Lassiter said. “That’s something we’ve been working on since the offseason, playing connected and being able to play fast and physical and go out there and have fun. We were able to do that tonight.”

With Georgia stuffing the run early and the Wildcats quickly falling behind three scores, Kentucky was forced to start throwing the ball a lot. It did not go well.

Transfer quarterback Devin Leary was sacked three times and completed only 10-of-26 passes for 128 yards. Both of Kentucky’s scores came on TD passes, however.

“We knew we had to man up at the end of the day and show what this defense can really do,” said linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson, who had four tackles and two sacks.

Fast starters

Georgia came into the game averaging just 3.4 points per game in the first quarter, or 17 the entire season. The Bulldogs had 14 a little over 10 minutes Saturday and 21 less than four minutes into the second quarter.

Starting fast was something Georgia set out to do. Beck, who was the speaking captain among the four captains representing the Bulldogs at the pregame coin toss, could not have been happier that Kentucky won the toss and deferred to the second half.

“We were going to defer if we would’ve won the toss,” Beck said. “But I was hoping we’d lose the toss because I wanted us to get the ball first. That was just my mindset. Obviously, I’m on offense and I wanted to have a fast start.”

Now at the halfway point of the season, Georgia’s offense appears to have developed an identity as a pass-oriented team that’s looking to throw the ball all over the field. But Beck thinks that was just Saturday’s preferred mode of transportation.

“Shoot, I think we can do it on all levels, the run game, the pass game,” Beck said. “The way our offensive line showed it can play – we had, like 180 rushing yards tonight – I mean, to do that, to comfortably hand the ball off, you can suck them up and throw it over their head. I think we were a complete offense.”

Specialists shine

After missing three short kicks early in the season, freshman place-kicker Peyton Woodring seems to have found his legs. He made three more field goals Saturday, including a career-long 42-yarder right as the first half expired.

Overall, Georgia had a very good night on special teams. It could have been even better, but a long punt return by Mekhi Mews was nullified by a block-in-back penalty. Mews also mistakenly did not field a punt that rolled dead at the Bulldogs 5.

Flanker Ladd McConkey was able to play a second consecutive game after missing the first four with a mysterious back ailment. His contributions weren’t quite as great as last week at Auburn when he made three third-down conversion catches and finished with four overall. But McConkey did have one 11-yard reception which went for a first down.

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