UK loses a heart breaker to Georgia in a very winnable game, 27-24

UK loses heart breaker to Georgia - Photo by Brendon Miller
UK loses heart breaker to Georgia – Photo by Brendon Miller

UK had Georgia on the run and unfortunately in what has become a much too familiar happening, UK had a 3rd quarter meltdown where they lost a fumble and tossed an interception to keep Georgia alive. UK’s defense was strong most of the game, but being on the field alot in the second half wore them down and allowed Georgia to move down the field to get in to field goal range. It was a disappointing loss for  a UK team that had turned their season around. The Cats have at least one more very winnable game this season to get to the coveted Bowl Eligible 6 wins.

UK vs Georgia Photos by Brendon Miller

KENTUCKY POSTGAME NOTES – Commonwealth Stadium –

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky is 5-4 overall, 4-3 in the Southeastern Conference. Georgia is now 5-4, 3-4 in the league.
      • Saturday was Kentucky’s first SEC home loss of the season. UK went 3-1 in SEC home games this season.
  • Georgia leads the all-time series in games played 56-12-2, including a 27-7 mark in games played in Lexington.
  • Kentucky will return to action Sat. Nov. 12 when it travels to face Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn. The game will be at noon ET on the SEC Network.

Kentucky Team Notes

  • UK’s game captains were senior center Jon Toth, junior wide receiver Jeff Badet, junior linebacker Courtney Love and senior defensive lineman Courtney Miggins.
    • This was the sixth time this season that Kentucky has used those four players for captains. UK is 4-2 with Toth, Badet, Love and Miggins as captains.
  • Kentucky is 2-2 in 2016 when leading at halftime and is 12-3 under head coach Mark Stoops when leading at halftime.
  • Prior to tonight’s loss, Kentucky had won 31 straight games when leading at the end of the third quarter. UK is now 4-1 on the year when having a lead at the end of the third quarter, including 14-1 in the Mark Stoops era.
  • The Kentucky defense had seven tackles-for-loss in the game, which was its second highest total of the season.
  • Georgia had three tackles-for-loss in the game, which is the lowest total a defense has had against Kentucky this season.
  • The Wildcats went 4-for-4 in the redzone with three touchdowns and one field goal.
  • Kentucky’s 186 rushing yards were the most Georgia has allowed this season on the ground.
    • Benny Snell is the only player to rush for over 100 yards against Georgia this season.
    • Snell is the first UK player to rush for over 100 yards against Georgia since Artose Pinner on Oct. 26, 2002.
  • Kentucky had three rushing touchdowns in the game and has had at least one rushing touchdown in each of its last 12 home games.
  • Kentucky forced three turnovers in the game, which was its most forced turnovers against an SEC opponent since Sept. 27, 2014 against Vanderbilt.

Kentucky Player Notes

  • Freshman running back Benny Snell, Jr. made his first career start in the game Saturday, rushing 21 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
    • Snell rushed for a three-yard touchdown in the first quarter and a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter, breaking the UK record for most total touchdowns by a freshman with 10. Randall Cobb scored nine touchdowns as a freshman in 2008.
    • He eclipsed 100 yards on the ground for the third game in a row, and fourth time this season overall. Snell’s 100-yard game tonight tied the school’s freshman record for most 100-yard rushing games in a season. The other two UK players to accomplish that feat were Moe Williams in 1993 and Chris Jones in 1979.
    • Snell is the first UK player with a rushing touchdown in three consecutive games since Derrick Locke in 2010.
    • Snell is the first freshman with a rushing touchdown in three consecutive games since Randall Cobb in 2008.
    • Snell had the most rushing yards for a UK player against Georgia since Derick Logan had 140 yards on Oct. 26, 1996.
    • Snell is the third freshman in school history with a 100-yard rushing game against Georgia. The other two were Derick Logan in 1996 and Moe Williams in 1993.
    • Snell has the most rushing touchdowns in a single season (10) since Derrick Locke had 10 in 2010.
    • Snell currently has 775 rushing yards this season, which already is the second most ever by a freshman in a season for UK. Moe Williams had 928 rushing yards as a freshman in 1993.
    • Snell is the first freshman with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games since Derick Logan on Oct. 26 – Nov. 9 – Nov. 16, 1996.
    • Snell has the most rushing yards (435) by a UK player in a three-game span since Rafael Little on Oct. 29 – Nov. 5 – Nov. 12, 2005. He had 436 during that three-game span.
    • Snell is the first freshman in school history with 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in three consecutive games.
  • Junior running back Stanley Boom Williams rushed 14 times for 77 yards and one touchdown.
    • Williams now has 2,239 career rushing yards, sitting seventh most in program history.
    • Williams needs 379 more rushing yards to tie Derrick Locke for sixth all time on UK’s career rushing list.
    • Williams reached 3,000 career all-purpose yards in the game, sitting at 3,034.
  • Junior wide receiver Garrett Johnson had two catches for 33 yards.
    • Johnson now has 1,304 career receiving yards, ranking 16th on UK’s career receiving yard list.
    • Johnson needs 20 more receiving yards to tie James Whalen and Rafael Little for 14th on that list.
  • Junior wide receiver Jeff Badet had two catches for 34 yards in the game.
    • Badet now has 1,245 career receiving yards, ranking 19th all-time in UK school history.
    • Badet needs 44 more yards to tie Chris Matthews for 18th all-time on that list.
  • Sophomore safety Mike Edwards had 13 tackles in the game, which was a career high.
    • Edwards has had 10 or more tackles in three games this season.
  • Sophomore linebacker Jordan Jones had 10 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, one fumble forced and one pass breakup in the game.
    • Jones now has 87 tackles to lead Kentucky on the season, adding 8.0 tackles-for-loss.
    • Jones has recorded 10 or more tackles in three games this season.
  • Sophomore linebacker Josh Allen had eight tackles in the game, his second best output of the season.
    • Allen now has 44 tackles for the season, including 6.0 tackles for loss.

Kentucky Football Postgame Quotes

Kentucky vs. Georgia 

Commonwealth Stadium – Lexington, Ky.

Nov. 4, 2016

Head Coach Mark Stoops

MARK STOOPS: It was a very difficult loss. There’s a lot of disappointed people in that locker room, and I feel for them because I think, again, I think our hearts and our minds are in the right place.

We had really good preparation all week, and I really didn’t feel like we had an edge about us today though. I just didn’t like – just a certain look in our eye. I think our players wanted it to happen, and I don’t know, I just got to do a better job of getting them to play with that mentality and that edge and that urgency to play with, in particular defensively. They did to us what we have been doing to people: possessing the ball, getting some quality first downs and it’s a team loss. Starting with me, I need to do a better job and across the board we all can do better. It is disappointing because it is an opportunity that is there and we didn’t make enough plays. The game comes down to several plays. You don’t know any which play is going to make the difference, but you can look at 2-3-4 play out there that change the outcome, so give them credit. They made them and we did not. We need to do a better job and I expect our players to bounce back and practice with that urgency and play with a better mentality next week. It wasn’t for the lack of effort from them or anything like that. They were prepared. It was a great atmosphere. I thank the fans because that was an awesome atmosphere to play in and our players loved it. They wanted to win, but we just have to do a better job, starting with me. I thank you for the support of everyone that was in the stadium. We certainly wanted to deliver for the fan base. We will come back strong next week.

  1. Mark, you guys have been playing with fire on turnovers all season, do you think that finally came back to bite you a little bit?

MARK STOOPS: No doubt. No doubt about it. The turnovers were a big part of it. I think we were up 2-0 at half in turnovers. To me, we didn’t play as good as we could in the first half but we did get a couple of turnovers that helped us. Then we put it on the ground three times and lose it two times in the second half. That cannot happen because it was putting the defense in some bad spots and those possessions really hurt. I think they were one-two-play possessions and that hurts to run back on the field. That is a really physical team. Our team has been playing very physical and they grounded it out and made some plays when necessary.

  1. Talk about your thought process on the MacGinnis field goal and the penalty. He had hit a 54-yarder before.

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I just felt like at that point we were going to take the penalty and try to pin them. I believe we went three and out and got the ball right back, regardless. So if you pin them, then you are in great shape. If you miss it, you give them great field position. Once we got the penalty, I was going to take the delay of game and punt and try to pin them inside the 10. I think that was the right strategy at that point.

  1. Did you consider calling a timeout at the end, once they got in field-goal range?
    MARK STOOPS: I did, but there wasn’t — at one point they were going so slow, if we could have got a tackle for loss it would have been a long field goal. So, I wanted, at that point, you’re gambling with wanting them — you want to take snaps away from them, too, because we had them at that point it was, whatever, in that range of 25-, 30-yard line where it wasn’t a gimmie. And so you’re trying to see if the clock will run out and they have a longer field goal. Because they had two timeouts, I don’t think I could have saved much.Q. During the win streak you guys really controlled the clock, but today they got several more minutes. Was it more of what they were doing or what you were doing?
    MARK STOOPS: Both. Again, I think that – both – they did some good things. We needed to play more physical. we needed to make cleaner tackles and get off on some third downs. They converted 6 of 14, but we only converted 3 of 13. So possessions hurt.

    When, again, we were off balance. And then the turnovers don’t help either when you’re reeling a little bit and just a couple plays.

    Q. Was that time of possession discrepancy and then for the defense to be on that field in the last drive trying to make a final stop, I mean, do you think it caught up with them at all?
    MARK STOOPS: I don’t know. I think our guys were playing hard. We need to execute better. And it started, and I’ve been on them — I was on them from the beginning of the game until the end about urgency. And, again, we had a miscommunication on one of those where we should have been rolled into the boundary on the play that they, that we looked, soft cornered, and we weren’t supposed to be.

    And so that’s the urgency that I’m talking about. That’s the difference between winning and losing. It takes extreme discipline in pressure situations. And we didn’t execute it tonight.

    Q. You talked in the past about nights where it felt like things were teed up for you guys in this program. Was this one of those nights where, obviously, you go into the night with a chance to take over first place in the east?
    MARK STOOPS: No doubt.

    Q. And then all those things you have the lead —
    MARK STOOPS: No doubt about it. But we’re going to keep on swinging and keep on going back to work. So we’re not going to let — you win and you lose. And these guys are battling and they’re in the arena, and they’re competing and coaches are working hard and we’ll all stay together and we all can do a better job and we will. We’ll go back to work, but we’re not going to stop. And we had some good times and tonight was a hard loss and it was teed up. And, again, I said that, and I appreciated that support because it was a great environment and you wanted to deliver, and again, a game comes down to a few plays.

    Q. Talking about how this program has changed and these guys have changed, with all the things that went wrong, (what does it say) that your guys kept coming back and obviously you were able to ride Benny (Snell) all the way down there and get a field goal?
    MARK STOOPS: Yeah, you have a great opportunity, and it was a good game. Both sides did some good things and some bad things, but our players battled, and we certainly had an opportunity to win the game. And we didn’t. But yeah, there was certainly things we could have done better, and I would like to execute better in the two-minute situation at the end.

    Q. When you guys were trying to stall a little bit offensively now that you look back, do you wish you went to that Benny more earlier when there’s that stretch where it was either a quick three and out or a turnover?
    MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I think you could always — yes. I think that certainly that’s fair. I was thinking that and talking to them about that, yeah, on a possession or two. But you can’t let anyone call — I had some calls that I wish I could do over, too. I definitely do.

    Q. Talk about Benny, that he was able to play that way on that last drive. What does it say about him?
    MARK STOOPS: It says a lot. He has great heart and great toughness and maturity for a freshman, that’s for sure. And we talked about it with Boom (Williams) and with him and all of our guys that they were going to be tough yards today. We needed to grind them out, and we did, and we came up a little short.

    Q. Does it tell you that your guys lack the edge, as you put it, and how do you manufacture that?
    MARK STOOPS: I don’t think you can manufacture it. I think that, I don’t know if you can offset it. Our guys really had good preparation. To me, you could see things during the week sometimes, and I didn’t see that (today). I saw great urgency and I saw us preparing to win the game, but I didn’t feel like we played that way today defensively. I just didn’t. And offensively, really, because look at the plays that we left out there. Look at the – there’s a lot of things we could do better.

    Q. In that third quarter on those back-to-back drives, it looked like Stephen (Johnson) was maybe having something going and then with the Garrett (Johnson) fumble and then Jeff (Badet) dropped that deep pass. How did you see Stephen respond to that or what was that like out there?
    MARK STOOPS: Well, he’s a resilient guy. We talk about it all the time. That’s not going to affect him. No, I didn’t see anything with him. We just had to put our players in the best situation to move the ball and try to get that last score. It gets hard when you get in the red zone and they got a bunch of guys in there and they’re a physical group.

    Q. What did you think of Jordan Jones’ play?
    MARK STOOPS: He plays hard, he plays with an edge all the time. So he’s playing good.

    Q. You won with a last second field goal and then you lost with a last second field goal. What can you learn from this, take away from this?
    MARK STOOPS: There’s always things that you can do better and that we’re always going to do that. We’re going to look at ourselves and look at every situation and try to execute better in critical situations. And there’s certainly things we can do better and start — like I said, it starts with me and there’s a few calls in particular that I wish I could have over and didn’t happen. But I thought our guys made some critical stops and were battling and grinding it out, and when they were at 16, I think, that’s when we needed to make a stop there.

    UK Student-Athletes

#15 Stephen Johnson, Junior, QB

On turnovers …
“We knew that it was going to come down to who had the least amount of turnovers. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game between both teams. We knew we had to protect the ball and we didn’t do that tonight. We had some really good plays.”

On what he saw on the throw to Dorian Baker in the end zone …
“I saw press-man coverage on the outside. I just knew that he was going to beat him. I just need to put that ball there with less air and put it where he can catch it and where the defensive back can’t get a hand on it.”

On the deep ball that bounced off Jeff Badet’s hands for an interception …
“I really didn’t see it. I just threw it and saw him go to catch it. I didn’t see the end result. I saw it on the big screen. I told him I’m going to keep coming to him. He made one mistake. That’s not going to change anything. I told him to keep his head up.”

On losing on a field goal vs. winning off one and the learning experience from the game …
“They had the ball last. We just need to start working on Monday. We can’t dwell on this. We face a good team next week and we’ll have to fight to win that one.”

#26 Benny Snell Jr., Freshman, RB

On what allows him to be powerful on the run and carry the team at times …

“This group of guys that I’m surrounded by, I love them to death. I just try to play hard. I want to get the first down and win the game.”

On where the team will go from here …

“We’re just going to keep growing like we do each week. We came up short this week. We’re going to fix our mistakes, throw it behind us and keep it moving.”

On if he hears any of the opposing players say anything when he has a successful drive or run …

“I hear them arguing and blaming it on one another. I’m playing football. I just keep it moving.”

On if he gets tired running the ball on opposing defenses so much …

“No, sir. I don’t.”

#15 Marcus McWilson, Senior, S

On if the defense got tired after being on the field so much …

“We were on the field a lot but it’s no excuse to be tired. You got to have the will power. You got to be willing to fight through when you’re tired through the adversity. I mean, I’m sure their guys were tired too, but yet they had long drives, extended drives, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to give them anything easy.”
On how they will respond going on the road next week …

“It’s a road game but were all playing on the same field so it’s anybody’s game. Like I said before, 50 percent of the teams lose on Saturday.”

#18 Boom Williams, Junior, RB

On losing after coming off of strong wins …

“It sucks very badly, especially when you lose to a last-second field goal. It is probably one of the worst ways you can lose besides a Hail Mary at the end of a game.”

On what the team will take from this loss …

“Just got to keep playing. Three games ahead of us. Strong Tennessee (team) next week so we just have to come out, practice well and prepare well, and play a good game against a Tennessee team in their stadium, which we knew is going to be very hard. So we have to do what we do and be able to make plays.”

On if they knew Florida had lost and possibly moving up in the SEC standings …

“Yeah, I think everybody was very aware. I think that we just came up short and then missed some critical plays that could’ve turned the whole game around. So that’s what happens when you don’t make those routine plays against a good team like Georgia. It comes back to bite you in the end.”

#2 Dorian Baker, Junior, WR

On being over the hurdle this season …

“This was just a big opportunity for us to capitalize on the situation given to us. For us to fall short today was just – it kind of grounded us a little bit and it will just allow us to come back and get ready to work.”

On picking up the pieces of the loss …

“The pieces are there. We just have to learn how to finish. We were up the whole game and we just keep thinking there are ways to get better and we have to keep gashing it down and gashing and gashing and not let up. Even though we were winning, still, it’s possible that they can come back, and they did. So they did and got the win, so congratulations to them. We just have to come back and work harder.”

On if it’s attitude or simple mistakes costing the game…
“Just a lot of mistakes. Not a lot of mistakes, but little mistakes that that were really big at the end of the game, in the game, towards the end of the game. Everything adds up.”

On being of the losing side of a game …

“Being on the other side of that, it hurts. It hurts deeply and it’s just because you sit there and you watch the time go down and you know that they are going to kick the field goal. So, we are just – it hurts. It hurts and you have to take your time and think about what is going on and what you could’ve done wrong and what you could’ve done better. So it’s painful.”

On having the fade pass attempt to him at the end of the game …

“I didn’t know how close I was to out of bounds until the ball was in the air. I think that was a big play there but I knew that if I did catch it, I would be out of bounds anyways. So, it doesn’t hurt to put your hand in and make the tip (and try to catch it).”

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement …

“I have a lot of respect for that football team we just beat and their coach. I know a lot of people talk about them being Kentucky, but that’s a good football team. They’re an extremely physical football team. They know how to run the ball and they run it really well and they play really hard on defense. So, make no qualms about it, that’s a god team. And I’ll brag on my team a little bit: They never quit, they fight as hard as any group I’ve ever been around and they just challenge each other. They challenge each other on the sideline and they respond when adversity hits. I can’t thank those kids enough for that because it’s been tough and those guys bought in and really have done some good things. I’m proud of them.”

On his level of confidence and strategy going into the game-winning drive …

“Well, Jim (Chaney) and I after the kickoff concluded that we were going to be patient. Our goal was to give us a chance to win but not give them a chance to win, which is tough because you go out there and run it a few times and punt, then you question everything; you go out there and throw it, the clock stops, so you have to call plays that can be successful. Nobody panicked. The clock was rolling a lot, but every Monday and every Thursday we do that drill. We give them situations, and sometimes it’s less time and sometimes it’s more time. But I think Jacob (Eason) managed it well. He made some good decisions with the ball. We threw and caught the ball on that drive. Imagine that. Throw and catch. We threw and caught the ball. When we do that, we’re a balanced team. And when we’re a balanced team, we’re a good team. But when we don’t catch it or we don’t run efficiently, it hurts us. But, I was proud of the way the kids executed in that situation; even Sony (Michel) during the last run. We told him to get what he can get. If he can get in the middle, get in the middle, and he did. And I’m also proud of Rodrigo (Blankenship). Who would’ve thought after the spring game and everything else that that guy would hit four field goals? I’m so happy for him because he has worked so hard. He’s been drilling those things in practice lately, so that’s why we’re willing to put him out there.”

On Blankenship hitting the last field goal …

“The last one? I knew he was going to hit it. The 49-yarder? I was hoping.”

On Blankenship’s character after losing the job as kicker and getting it back …

“Maybe it was just a bad coaching decision. Maybe he should’ve been kicking the whole time. But, he’s a high character kid and I appreciate all he does. He never stops. They had a lot of challenges in camp where we would try to challenge them to see who could kick better. He didn’t win all those, but he was resilient about it. He kept coming back and he now — all we need him to do is kick off better. That’s what I want him to do: I want him to kick that ball off in the end zone.”

On his confidence in Blankenship …

“He does that in practice. So, it’s easy to show confidence in players who do things well in practice. People think practice doesn’t matter. Practice matters. He has hit a lot of field goals in a row at practice and the team almost gathers around and they just count them out. If he gets five shots, he’ll make all five and everyone is going nuts. He’s just really in rhythm, and I think a lot of that credit should go to (Trent) Frix too. He whips that thing back there fast, gets plenty of time and Jacob is a really good holder. But the kid has ice in his veins right now. He’s doing a really good job.”

On Eason in the fourth quarter …

“I don’t know that anything happens as much as we let it happen. We give them a chance to take over the game and do that. He does not feel pressure. That’s just the kid. He has a very calm demeanor, which is what you want a quarterback to have composure wise. He really doesn’t get flustered, and I’m proud of him for that. Hopefully he can grow and develop from that.”

On coaching (Isaiah) McKenzie tonight

“McKenzie is a thrill a minute. I was more upset with him about not calling out the ball rolling on the ground next to our player. That’s something that we control, something that Isaiah controls, something we practice. You point at the ball. You let the guy know it’s there so he gets away from it. Well, he didn’t do that so I was upset about that. Now the ball rolling down there on the 1-yard line, that’s going to happen. If you can’t catch it, it’s going to happen, and he was trying to be aggressive and make a play when he tried to catch it. And I thought it was pretty close to catch interference, but they didn’t call it so it wasn’t and he ended up fumbling one there. But, again, the kid is an aggressive, really-hard-practicing kid, and he sets the identity for our special teams a lot of the time.”

Georgia Student-Athletes

#98 Rodrigo Blankenship, Freshman, PK

On not having missed a kick in a while …

“I’m just trying to take it one kick at a time. That’s the only way to go with kicking really, you just take it one step at a time and you move on, and short-term memory after every kick. Whether it’s make or a miss, you’ve got to treat it the same way and be able to move on to the next one.”

On the attempt that counted when UK had one timeout left …

“You’ve got to be ready for anything. So taking my steps back, I’m just thinking, ‘I’ve got to get a smooth swing and knock it through.’ Timeouts, I mean, it’s a part of the game.”

#6 Javon Wims, Junior, WR

On his performance as an individual and the team as a whole …

“Just whenever plays were there to be made, when my number is called I have to make them. I have a responsibility to my teammates. You know, we work hard in practice, and my number was called, so I just went and made plays.”

On the big game next week vs. Auburn …

“Oh yeah, that’s another really good team. There are no breaks in (the) SEC. We have another tough opponent next week. We are going to have a really good week of practice leading into it.”

#2 Maurice Smith, Senior, QB

On UK going with a freshman in the Wildcat formation …

“Oh yeah, we knew they were coming. I mean you have got to give your hats off to them. I mean, they played great and they really gave us a challenge that was physical and I think we just outplayed them. Finally we showed that we could play, and this is a good win for the team.”

On how the turnovers were in the second half …

“Oh, it was big. You know, Coach always says that turnovers come in bunches, and we knew that once we got one that the second one would come. We just have to keep fighting, stripping at the ball, and I think we really got lucky and blessed with the one that (Jeff Badet) caught because it just fell in his hands. But it was just a big blessing.”