Rinse and repeat, the Bulldogs are headed back down the road to Atlanta next month.
Between a dominating run game and a salty defensive effort, No. 6 Georgia wrapped up the SEC East on Saturday afternoon with a 34-17 plastering of No. 9 Kentucky that will allow fans of the red and black to book yet another trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2018.
While that same group will inevitably keep dreaming of a rematch of the national title game when the time comes next month, Kirby Smart’s team first had to turn Lexington back into a basketball town after weeks of intense focus on the gridiron. Georgia did wind up taking frenzied crowd at Kroger Stadium out of the game early thanks to big plays in all three phases: a three-and-out turned into a 65-yard punt return by Mecole Hardman turned into a touchdown on the opening drive just four snaps later.
If it wasn’t clear coming into the afternoon, the Bulldogs certainly made sure everybody knew they meant business in capturing their second consecutive division title. Especially when it came to running the football.
Elijah Holyfield was a workhorse on the ground, churning away to the tune of 115 yards rushing with a short touchdown run thrown in as well. As good as he was coming out of the backfield though, teammate D’Andre Swift was that much better: 156 yards and two incredible touchdown runs, the latter of which went for 83 yards to the house that was the longest given up by the ‘Cats all season.
Quarterback Jake Fromm was so-so in throwing for 113 yards and that touchdown pass on the first drive of the game but otherwise did most of his damage turning around and handing the ball off. Backup Justin Field also saw several snaps but mostly used his legs to chip in with 26 yards rushing.
As for Kentucky, they will have to wonder what could have been as the game was fairly close until the visitors started to pull away in the third quarter. Injuries and ejections also hampered their effort as star tailback Benny Snell (73 yards, 1 TD) was banged up with a balky ankle and safety Darius West was tossed for targeting. Not to be out done, starting offensive guard Bunchy Stallings was ejected for contacting an official on an extra point attempt.
Quarterback Terry Wilson was far from the reason why his team lost the game, throwing only six incompletions on his way to 226 yards passing and a bonkers score (below). The offense got behind the sticks often on third down however and their signal-caller had hardly any time to throw with all the pressure in his face (four sacks), but the team did not give up and kept fighting to the end.
Though the loss dropped Mark Stoops‘ crew to 7-2 on the year and prevented them from securing an elusive trip to the conference title game, it was still not hard to lose sight of the fact that this has been a special season in the bluegrass state. There’s still a shot at a potential New Year’s Six bowl when all is said and done — to say nothing of a potential 10 win campaign in the regular season for the first time since 1977.
Those will be concerns for another day as Georgia fans can go ahead and click purchase on their SEC title game tickets. It’s becoming a familiar sight for the program under Smart lately as the Bulldogs leaned on their run game to smash another opponent and take the air out of the division early once again.