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Georgia Bulldogs 29, Kentucky Wildcats 24: When Winning Is Worrisome

Aaron Murray set a school record in the Georgia Bulldogs' 29-24 win over the Kentucky Wildcats in Saturday night's SEC showdown, but the Red and Black came away from the victory more concerned than confident.

Tavarres King led the prolific Georgia receiving corps on Aaron Murray's record-setting night in Lexington.
Tavarres King led the prolific Georgia receiving corps on Aaron Murray's record-setting night in Lexington.
Andy Lyons

Before Saturday night’s win over the Kentucky Wildcats by the Georgia Bulldogs, I expressed my hope that the Red and Black receiving corps would find its inner Fred Gibson. In that respect, my wish was granted; eight Athenians caught passes over the course of the evening, with six of them averaging at least ten yards per reception.

Tavarres King corralled nine passes for two touchdowns and 188 yards, just 17 shy of his school-record 205 receiving yards from last year’s bowl game. Malcolm Mitchell also tallied nine receptions for 103 yards, and both Chris Conley and Arthur Lynch brought in TD passes from Aaron Murray, who went 30 of 38 on an interception-free night on which he threw for a career-high 427 yards and broke David Greene’s record as the Bulldogs’ all-time leader in touchdown tosses.

Add in the fact that the Classic City Canines put up 504 yards of total offense, did not turn the ball over, and retained possession of the pigskin for more than 32 minutes of clock time, and it would appear you had the recipe for a win every bit as dominant as the one I predicted before the game.

A funny thing happened on the way to a blowout, though. The ‘Dawgs committed eight penalties, failed to card so much as a single takeaway, and surrendered 206 rushing yards to what previously had been a Kentucky offense that was much worse than merely pedestrian. Marshall Morgan missed one extra point and banked a successful short field goal off of the upright. The Georgia defense gave up a methodical touchdown march on the game’s opening series and conceded points in every quarter. The Wildcats moved the chains on seven of 15 third- and fourth-down plays, while Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for 70 yards on 18 carries.

An overall lackluster effort by the Red and Black was ameliorated by big plays, including a game-tying first-quarter connection from Murray to King covering the 66 yards separating Georgia from the end zone, a 48-yard second-quarter hookup between Murray and King that set up another score, and a 27-yard strike from Murray to Mitchell as part of the 89-yard drive that afforded the ‘Dawgs a twelve-point fourth-quarter lead. In the end, the visitors’ reliance on intermittent offensive explosiveness to bail out spotty special teams and a suspect defense gave this game a decided, and decidedly disconcerting, 2008 feel, providing to the proceedings an ominous undercurrent as the Red and Black faithful cast a wary eye toward Jacksonville, where the hated Gators await.

A bizarre night ended oddly when, up by five and facing a fourth down at the home team’s 16 yard line, the Bulldogs eschewed the 33-yard field goal that would have given the visitors an eight-point lead late in the fourth frame and, weirdly, went for it, turning the ball over on downs with time left on the clock and affording Kentucky a last chance, however faint. Though all is not entirely hopeless---South Carolina also fiddled around with Kentucky, one week before annihilating Georgia, after all---such inexplicable lapses, both by the players and by the coaches, suggest strongly that, in 2012, as in 2008 and in 2011, the Bulldogs are apt to finish with ten wins without really defeating anyone particularly noteworthy.

What happens by the St. John’s River, though, is for the future, so, for now, Bulldog Nation may feel free to exhale, and to be grateful for, if not pleased with, the win in Lexington, and to be glad that some small yet dedicated segment of the Georgia faithful enjoyed the opportunity to gather together at the Blind Pig Tavern to roast a goat (metaphorically), partake of food, fun, and fellowship, and witness a Red and Black victory, however strangely and only partially satisfactorily attained. As always, our thanks go out to the Blind Pig for hosting the Goat Roast, to podunkdawg for orchestrating everything about the event, and to all those who were kind enough to take the time to attend.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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