The recent vintage of Kentucky football has relied on a mindset of running the football between the tackles with power back Benny Snell Jr. to fashion a 7-3 record going into this past Saturday afternoon's matchup with SEC East Champion Georgia.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs have not one but two power backs in seniors Nick Chubb and Sony Michel doing the same thing between the hedges in Athens. The duo combined for over 200 yards rushing as Georgia ran over the Cats 42-13.
Let’s assess the Wildcats' performance, shall we?
OFFENSE: C. I am very hesitant to throw the Cats offensive performance under the bus. Looking at the performance statistically, UK QB Stephen Johnson was 12-22 for 138 yards and no interceptions. Benny Snell carried the rock 22 times for a solid 94 yards. Snell now has 1,107 yards rushing and 16 TDs this year with one regular season game remaining. And over his two years in Lexington, Snell has 2,198 rushing yards, moving into 8th place in Wildcat history.
Interesting tidbit, UK is 12-2 when Snell has a rushing TD. Senior wide receiver Juice Johnson caught 4 passes for 36 yards. Johnson now has 2,140 yards receiving in his Wildcat career, fourth best in school history. All told, UK had 262 yards of total offense. But again, Georgia has an elite defense, even though they had one letdown against Auburn.
DEFENSE: C-. Again, I feel like UK tried to do everything they could do to slow the Dawgs down, but to little avail. UGA had 504 yards of total offense, 381 of which was on the ground. Georgia has arguably the best rushing tandem in the league in senior backs Nick Chubb (151 yards on 15 carries) and Sony Michel (87 yards on 12 carries) not named Alabama’s Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough.
But the Cats held Georgia QB Jake Fromm to 9 completions and 123 yards. But, when you have not one, but two, Cadillacs in the garage like Chubb and Michel, you don’t drive the family grocery getter, do you?
SPECIAL TEAMS: B. The best part of the Cats' performance again was special teams. Kicker Austin MacGinnis was 2 for 2 on field goals and averaged 64 yards per kickoff. Punter Matt Panton was solid again, averaging 42 yards on 5 punts. Return man Lynn Bowden Jr had 72 yards of all-purpose yardage. Another solid performance.
Overall, it was a tough night in Athens again for Big Blue. The Dawgs hold a 57-12-2 series edge on the Cats. But let’s look at a couple of bright spots. The Cats are 7-4 and 4-4 in the SEC. I know we coulda been, shoulda been this year. But if I told you 3 years ago that we would be a) 3rd place in the SEC East this year (and 2nd place last year) and b) .500 in the league for two years in a row, you’d take it right? We have to take it as growth, and ask any teenager who has growing pains; it hurts, but it’s a part of life. The program is growing. I’ll take it, and you should too.
The regular season concludes next Saturday with a home date with archrival Louisville at the Big Supermarket. The Cats still have so much to play for. An 8th win puts the Cats in possibly a New Year’s bowl date. A loss doesn’t mean the end of the road for UK; the Cats would probably be bowling in Nashville or Memphis. But a win over a U of L squad with question marks abounding possibly puts UK somewhere due south and warm over the Holidays. Not a bad deal, right?
Shane Shackleford is a writer and retired teacher/coach residing in Speedwell, Tenn. You can reach Shane via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook at Shane Shackleford, or Twitter @shack_daddy_1.