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JOE COX: Will A New Face at QB Jump Start UK Against Georgia?


There’s no way around the fact that Kentucky (2-3) threw an offensive stinker in last week’s 20-10 loss at Missouri. UK’s defense held its own with Missouri’s efficient offense, but the Wildcat offense was stuck in mud -- 145 total yards, eight first downs. It was ugly.


But Thursday afternoon brought the news that the Wildcats will be without QB Terry Wilson for this week (and rumors suggest, perhaps beyond that) and Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood will start at QB for the Wildcats.


As for Gatewood, the 6-foot-5, 22-pound sophomore, is 2-for-5 passing for 18 yards in brief action in relief of Wilson this season. His size should make him a more physical, but likely less elusive runner than Wilson. But can he throw? It’s fair to say the second question is whether anyone will catch the ball if he does throw it. Aside from on-again, off-again senior Josh Ali, Kentucky’s receiver corps has done little to distinguish itself in the first half of the 2020 season.


Of course, Gatewood has a tough matchup in his first start Saturday (SEC Network, 12 noon ET), with UK facing a Georgia defense that has been one of the toughest in the SEC. The No. 5 ranked Bulldogs have allowed just 65.5 yards rushing per game. They are coming off a 41-24 loss to Alabama, but it’s worth remembering that Georgia led that game at halftime.


UGA has its own pending QB situation. Former walk-on Stetson Bennett has emerged as an unlikely starter at UK after a season opt-out, an unresolved injury, and an ineffective start from a higher-ranked signal caller left UGA on their fourth choice at the position. Bennett has a wealth of talent around him, and Georgia has shown flashes of brilliance.


For Kentucky, can a worn-down defense, presumably again without nose guard Quinton Bohanna, keep the Wildcats in the game? Gatewood will have to make some plays. After last week, any meaningful offensive strength will be a welcome sign. Running back Chris Rodriguez was slated by offensive coordinator Eddie Gran to see more carries this week, but Georgia’s size and speed make for a tough matchup in the ground game.


Perhaps Kentucky can spring some big special teams plays. Kicker Matt Ruffolo connected on a 50-yard field goal in the Missouri game, and obviously, punter Max Duffy is among the nation’s best players in his role. Freshman Mike Drennen is slated to get his first start at wide receiver, and he might provide a boost to the return game as well.


For UK, the season has ultimately been pretty simple. The Wildcats forced six turnovers against Mississippi State and four against Tennessee. They won both games fairly easily. They forced zero turnovers combined in the other three games. They lost all three. Georgia averaged just under two turnovers a game. In order to have a chance, Kentucky probably needs to make that number three or four.


Offensively, if the Wildcats can develop (or find) some kind of offensive identity, it would be a positive sign. Gatewood looks like a solid quarterback, and the job is apparently his for the moment, so he should have the luxury of not worrying about splitting snaps. Georgia comes off a loss and then a bye week, so it’s equally possible that they’ll be super-motivated or a little flat.


If Kentucky get a flat Georgia, if Gatewood helps the passing game, and the special teams have a good day, this is a game the Wildcats can win. That said, it’s a lot of ifs, and a series of games that’s ended on the other side of the ledger the last 10 times. As I said against Tennessee, I need to see it to believe it. Perhaps THAT is Kentucky’s good omen. But until then…


Georgia 28, Kentucky 13


Around the SEC

LSU 38, Auburn 24

Ole Miss 42, Vandy 10

Alabama 45, Mississippi State 7

Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 20

Florida 41, Missouri 31

Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County and has written or co-written nine books. His most recent, "A Fine Team Man: Jackie Robinson and the Lives He Changed," was released in February 2019 and can be ordered on Amazon or at many local bookstores. Joe is an attorney and lives in Logan County with his wife and children. You can reach him at jrcox004@gmail.com.

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