Cats defense struggles in loss to Bulldogs, 34-17

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LEXINGTON, KY (UK Athletics)- Terry Wilson connected on 23 of 29 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown, but the 11th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats fell to sixth-ranked Georgia 34-17 on Saturday afternoon at Kroger Field.

Georgia (8-1, 6-1 SEC) got on the board first, using a 65-yard punt return by Mecole Hardman to get great field position at the Kentucky 23 yard line. From there, the Bulldogs needed just four plays to get in the end zone. Quarterback Jake Fromm hit Isaac Nauta on a four-yard touchdown pass, and Rodrigo Blankenship added the extra point to give Georgia a 7-0 lead.

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After the teams traded punts, Kentucky drove into Georgia territory, but after catching a Wilson pass, C.J. Conrad fumbled, halting the drive at the Georgia 33 yard line. After a Kentucky penalty, Georgia drove to the UK 26 yard line before Fromm fumbled a high snap, and UK’s Josh Allen recovered at the UK 34, ending the Georgia drive. The first quarter ended with Georgia leading 7-0.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Kentucky mounted its best drive of the game, to that point, taking the ball inside the Georgia 10 yard line, but a penalty and a sack forced the Cats into a 34-yard field goal attempt by Chance Poore. The kick was good, and Kentucky cut the deficit to 7-3 with 8:23 left in the half.

Georgia would answer on the ensuing drive, going 75 yards in 14 plays, culminating with a 20-yard touchdown rush from D’Andre Swift. Blankenship’s extra point was good, and the Bulldogs took a 14-3 lead with 2:28 left in the first half.

Georgia appeared to be ready to add to its lead late in the half, but Fromm fumbled at the UK 29 yard line, and Allen recovered again, thwarting the threat. Georgia led 14-3 at the break.

On the first drive of the second half, Georgia marched 78 yards in nine plays, ending with an Elijah Holyfield four-yard touchdown run. Blankenship connected on the PAT, giving the Bulldogs a 21-3 lead with 10:20 left in the third quarter.

After a Kentucky punt, Swift struck again, this time carrying 83 yards for the touchdown. Blankenship’s PAT gave Georgia a 28-3 lead with 7:56 left in the third quarter.

The Cats would not go away, turning the next possession into a scoring drive. Kentucky covered 75 yards in nine plays, ending with a Benny Snell, Jr. touchdown, the 42nd of his career.  Poore’s PAT was good, and Kentucky cut the Georgia lead to 28-10 with 3:45 left in the third quarter. On that rush, Snell eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season, becoming the first running back in school history to accomplish that feat.

Georgia led 28-10 after three quarters, and the Bulldogs added a field goal early in the fourth quarter to lead 31-10. But Kentucky went on another scoring drive, covering 75 yards in just seven plays and 2:43, ending with a spectacular 31-yard touchdown catch by A.J. Rose. Poore’s PAT cut the Georgia lead to 31-17 with 9:01 remaining in the game.

The Bulldogs would add a field goal to provide the final margin of victory.

Kentucky returns to action next Saturday, visiting Knoxville to take on SEC Eastern Division rival Tennessee at Neyland Stadium. Kickoff time for that game has yet to be determined.