LEXINGTON, KY - Mark Richt talks about Georgia's 29-24 win over Kentucky.
Georgia staves off upset-minded Wildcats
The flirtation wasn't good enough to overcome a brilliant passing performance by the Bulldogs' Aaron Murray, though, who completed 30 of 38 passes for a career-high 427 yards and four touchdowns to help Georgia turn back the Wildcats, 29-24.
Kentucky (1-7, 0-5 SEC) entered the game as a 28-point underdog, but found itself leading 7-0 in the first quarter, 14-7 in the second and 17-16 with 10:46 left in the third quarter.
Each time the Cats threatened, Murray had an answer. His fourth TD pass of the game set a new Georgia career record (75) and gave the Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) enough cushion to escape Lexington with a hard-fought win.
"Very excited about the victory," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "It's great to be able to go on the road in the SEC and get the win. I think Kentucky did a fantastic job tonight. My hat's off to coach (Joker) Phillips and his team... A lot of big plays had to be made."
Those big plays included a 66-yard strike from Murray to Tavarres King in the first quarter, a 48-yard connection from the same duo in the second quarter to set up another Murray-to-King score, and a 22-yard TD pass from Murray to Chris Conley with 5:01 left in the third quarter to give Georgia the lead for good.
A controversial running into the punter call against UK in the fourth quarter helped seal the deal. The WIldcats appeared to be blocked into Georgia punter Collin Barber, but were called for the infraction to give the Bulldogs a fresh set of downs after being initially being held to three and out.
The second chance was all Murray needed, who hit on passes of 22, 1, 27, 6 and 9 yards with only one incompletion in between before a 10-yard TD pass to tight end Arthur Lynch to give the Bulldogs a 12-point lead with 7:51 to go.
Kentucky responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped by Raymond Sanders' 3-yard touchdown run to make it a five-point game with 3:59 remaining, but the Wildcats' onside kick attempt failed and Georgia was able to run all but nine seconds off the clock.
Coming off an embarrassing 49-7 loss at Arkansas last week in a game that was called off due to dangerous weather conditions in the third quarter, Kentucky bounced back to play one of its most inspired games of the year. The Cats rushed for a season-high 206 yards and held Georgia to a season-low 77 yards rushing.
Kentucky also broke its 20-game streak of not scoring an offensive touchdown in the first quarter when Morgan Newton connected with Aaron Boyd on a 4-yard touchdown pass to cap the Cats' first drive of the game.
"I thought our team played with great effort," UK coach Joker Phillips said. "... We rushed the ball, which gave us a chance. Again, we've got to do a better job of throwing and catching, but no one can say this team is quitting."
The loss ensured that UK will have a losing record for a third consecutive year under Phillips and miss a bowl game for a second straight year, but the UK coach says the players have to continue playing for each other.
"We got some seniors in there. We're motivated to play for those guys," Phillips said. "Those guys have done a good job of leading this young team. I can tell you this, those young guys are going to fight their tails off for those seniors who have been with us for a long time."
Kentucky hits the road for its first visit to new SEC member Missouri next weekend.
* Kentucky dropped to 47-20 since 1946 in Homecoming games.
* UK faced its fifth Top 25 opponent of the season. Those teams are 37-7 in games excluding the Cats.
* The Cats' 24-point output was the second-most surrendered by UGA this season.
* Senior quarterback Morgan Newton threw his first touchdown pass of the season and rushed for his first touchdown of the season with a 2-yard keeper in the second quarter.
* Junior running back Jonathan George set a new career high with 87 yards rushing. His previous best was 52 versus Kent State and Florida earlier this season.
* Kentucky's Demarco Robinson completed his first career pass in the second quarter, a throw-back pass to quarterback Jalen Whitlow for a 33-yard gain to set up UK's second score of the game.
* UK freshman defensive back Fred Tiller recorded a career-high eight tackles.
* UK sophomore defensive back Eric Dixon recorded his first career sack.
* Georgia's Murray set a new school record for single-game completion percentage (78.95).
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