Meanwhile, Bennett was trusted to throw only 13 passes. He completed nine for 131 yards. His first interception came when he tried to throw the ball over and/or through Phil Hoskins, a 6-foot-5 defensive tackle who was maybe two feet from the 5-11 Bennett.
“Except for me, I thought we played well today,” Bennett said.
Said Smart: “He did some good things. He didn’t get a chance to throw the ball because we were able to run the ball.”
Then: “He didn’t get a chance to make some plays because we didn’t have to.”
Georgia’s first touchdown came at the end of a 12-play drive, all 12 having been runs. (Technically, one was a called pass; Bennett wound up scrambling.) The Bulldogs' first official pass came with 25 seconds left in the first quarter.
It would have been fascinating to see what might have occurred had Kentucky showed anything – anything at all – on offense. But Joey Gatewood, making his first collegiate start in lieu of starter Terry Wilson, could manage no completion longer than 11 yards. The Wildcats held the ball for 35 minutes, but did next to nothing with all that possession.
Said Bennett: “It was a slow-moving game, a grinder of a game. We ran the ball; they ran the ball. The clock moved fast.”
(To which we say: Thank heaven for small favors.)
Georgia defensive back Richard LeCounte (2) tackles Kentucky quarterback Joey Gatewood (2) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Oct. 31, 2020, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Credit: Bryan Woolston
Credit: Bryan Woolston
In the second quarter, Kentucky strung together a 19-play drive that spanned 10:28 and covered 77 yards. It ended in a field goal. The Wildcats would run only three more plays in Georgia territory, none inside the 40. Kentucky entered the game ranked 87th nationally in total offense, 92nd in passing yards.
With a No. 2 quarterback going against a splendid defense, the home side’s only chance was if the Bulldogs messed up mightily. To its credit, Georgia did not. Neither of Bennett’s interceptions left the Bulldogs in dire field position. (Note: Receiver George Pickens missed the game because of injury.) The Bulldogs throttled down – their longest gain came on a dinky Bennett pass that James Cook took 46 yards – and simply dared Kentucky to score a touchdown.
Georgia’s penultimate possession ended with Bennett finding Cook for 2 yards on third-and-7. Punting from nearly midfield, Jake Camarda pinned the Wildcats deep. Kentucky took the ball with nine minutes remaining. It ran 12 plays over 4:53 and gained – this beggars belief – 33 yards.
The Bulldogs took the ball with 4:10 remaining. Only after a fourth consecutive run did Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, who had three timeouts at his disposal, stop the clock. By then, 1:53 remained. Yes, Georgia did more than enough to win, but we can’t say their opponent went out in a blaze of glory.
Said Bennett: “We knew Kentucky was going to play the way it did on offense. We knew they were going to try to take the ball out of our hands. We started out running the ball and kept doing it.”
And that worked – against a 2-4 team without its starting quarterback. Uppermost on everyone’s mind is whether the Bulldogs can reasonably expect to beat Florida, which is bad on defense but sleek on offense, with its quarterback being asked to do so little.
Said Bennett: “We’ve just got to score more points. We’ll be all right.”
And maybe they’ll do both – score more and be all right. This is a great defensive team, and it’s not bad at running the ball. If memory serves, Vince Dooley won six SEC championships and a national title doing little else. But Dooley last coached on Dec. 31, 1988. The game has changed a bit since.