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Kentucky Wildcats 34, Georgia Bulldogs 27: Chicken Little Was an Optimist

Two weeks ago, my son was under the weather. Last week, my daughter caught what had ailed her big brother. This week, I took ill, and I felt worse and worse throughout the day on Saturday, leading me ultimately to the conclusion that I should eschew the season’s final home game and watch the clash in the comfort of my living room. Needless to say, that was a good decision, despite the fact that it forced me to listen to Bob Davie’s insipid commentary, in which he actually said, "We’ll get back to the game in a second" as a play got underway.

What is there to say about last evening’s sorry display between the hedges? In a night game at home, the Georgia Bulldogs held a two-touchdown halftime lead on the athletically overmatched and injury-riddled Kentucky Wildcats, who had not won in Sanford Stadium in more than three decades. The Red and Black should have won in a walk. Instead, the Classic City Canines failed in every phase of the game after intermission, repeating a litany of errors that has become so commonplace as to be comical in the course of losing a game that should have been put out of reach on the Bulldogs’ first possession of the second half.

Statistically, Kentucky never should have been in this game. The Bulldogs outperformed the Wildcats in passing yards (291-137), rushing yards (196-123), first downs (22-15), and time of possession (33:13-26:47). That ought to be a recipe for success, particularly for a team that has home field advantage on its side. The usual suspects reared their ugly heads, however, as two interceptions, two lost fumbles, and five fifteen-yard penalties, almost all of them at the most inopportune times imaginable, doomed the ‘Dawgs.

(Incidentally, while this game certainly cannot be blamed on the officiating, an out-of-place umpire greatly aided on one Wildcat score and the conspiracy theorists were given additional grist for their mill on Randall Cobb’s third-quarter touchdown, which did not draw an unsportsmanlike conduct flag despite his having noticeably and needlessly altered his stride en route to the end zone. Does anyone doubt that a Georgia player who did exactly the same thing would be penalized?)

Virtually every number indicates a Georgia victory. Joe Cox threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns. Washaun Ealey and Caleb King amassed 77 yards apiece, with each doing so on fewer than twenty carries. Tavarres King rose up in the absence of A.J. Green to make three catches for 109 yards, while Orson Charles and Rantavious Wooten both caught touchdown passes.

It was as though the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets---who had the week off, and who most assuredly were watching last night’s game unfold---had their voodoo dolls handy and asked themselves, "What is the most painful way we can cause the ‘Dawgs to lose?" They could not have done much better than giving Georgia a two-touchdown halftime lead, beginning a Keystone Kops-like second half with a fumble on the opening kickoff, and letting the contest unravel gradually with a game-tying 60-yard pass to Derrick Locke on which the Kentucky tailback zipped past several flailing would-be tacklers and scampered to paydirt with nary a Georgia defender near him, a ten-play Georgia drive covering 67 yards and nearly five minutes that ended in a fumble at the Wildcats’ one yard line, and a first-down interception on the Bulldogs’ last desperate possession.

The Classic City Canines were outscored 28-7 after intermission by a team that hadn’t scored more than 26 total points in any previous conference outing. The 34 points conceded to the Blue and White by Georgia put the Bulldogs in the same category with Louisville (which gave up 31 points to Kentucky), Louisiana-Monroe (36), and Eastern Kentucky (37). This is the state of Red and Black football.

This isn’t the worst season in Georgia gridiron history; it isn’t even the worst of my lifetime, or of my conscious remembrance. However, the ‘Dawgs could equal the seven losses sustained by the Red and Black in the disastrous 1990 campaign and no one who is not a partisan homer would suggest that the Bulldogs have any chance of avoiding embarrassment (much less of winning) next Saturday night at historic Grant Field. Our team is going to limp into the postseason at 6-6 to play in a meaningless game that has the potential to do as much psychological harm as physical good.

The last sixteen games, during which the ‘Dawgs have gone 9-7 and conceded 34 or more points eight times, have set this program back fifteen years. Our team hasn’t played four consecutive quarters of solid football in all three phases of the game since January 1, 2008. In the last four years, Georgia has gone 2-2 against Kentucky. We are where we were in the mid-1990s and we face a massive rebuilding job, one which will require replacing at least some of the contractors and masons currently assigned to the task.

In short, the loud thump heard in Athens last night was either the sound of the bottom falling out of Georgia football or the sound of Uga VII rolling over in his grave.

Go ‘Dawgs!