Scout.com/Jeff Drummond

Turnover woes finally catch up with Kentucky Wildcats in 27-24 loss to Georgia

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky Wildcats entered the month of November with a rare opportunity to move into first place in the SEC's Eastern Division despite a turnover margin that suggested they were playing with fire.

On Saturday, it finally burned the Cats. 

Georgia took advantage of one fumble and one interception by Kentucky on a night which saw the Bulldogs rally from behind to claim a 27-24 win on Rodrigo Blankenship's 25-yard field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter at Commonwealth Stadium. The kick snapped UK's three-game winning streak and kept the Cats a half-game behind division-leading Florida on a day which saw the Gators lose 31-10 at Arkansas. 

"A very difficult loss," UK head coach Mark Stoops said. "... It's disappointing because it was an opportunity that was there, and we didn't make enough plays."

Kentucky (5-4, 4-3 SEC) led 21-13 late in third quarter when the first turnover bit the Cats, a fumble by receiver Garrett Johnson after a 20-yard reception at the UK 38 yard line. That set up a 49-yard field goal by Blankenship to trim the deficit to 21-16.

On the Cats' next play from scrimmage, quarterback Stephen Johnson appeared to find Jeff Badet for what would have been a 77-yard touchdown pass on the deep ball, but the UK wideout dropped the ball, and it bounced into the hands of Georgia defensive back Deandre Baker. 

Earlier in the disastrous third quarter, Kentucky saw a 44-yard field goal by Austin MacGinnis taken off the board when tight end C.J. Conrad was called for holding on the play.

"The game comes down to several plays," Stoops said. "You don't know any which play is going to make the difference, but you can look at two, three, four plays out there that changed the outcome."

Georgia (5-4, 3-4 SEC) played the role UK had handled so well to this point in the season, overcoming three fumbles of its own by leaning on a strong rushing attack and solid defense. The Bulldogs rushed for 215 yards, including 127 by Sony Michel and 85 by Nick Chubb. 

Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason added 245 yards passing and one touchdown for Georgia, which held a 460-308 advantage in total offense.

Kentucky got 114 yards and two touchdowns from freshman running back Benny Snell, while junior running back Boom Williams added 77 yards and one score. Snell is the only opponent to rush for more than 100 yards against the Bulldogs this season.

"I have a lot of respect for that football team we just beat and their coach," UGA head coach Kirby Smart. "That's a good football beat. They're an extremely physical football team."

In this All Wildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the highlights from UK's loss... 

WHAT WENT WRONG:

Kentucky entered the game dead last in the SEC with a minus-11 turnover margin. Somehow, the Cats had seemed immune to it to this point. The miscues cost them dearly on this night, leading to three points on the board for Georgia and seven coming off the board for UK. Add in the field goal that was negated on a penalty, and the Cats saw a 13-point swing on self-inflicted mistakes. Meanwhile, UK was only able to convert one of three UGA fumbles into points.

GAME BALL:

Sony Michel, Georgia --  While Nick Chubb has drawn more accolades during his career with the Bulldogs, his backfield mate has been a major headache for the UK defense the last two years. Michel rushed for a career-high 165 yards against the Cats last year in a 27-3 win at Georgia. His 26-yard run with 9:12 remaining in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs their first lead since they grabbed a 7-0 advantage on their opening drive of the game. 

BY THE NUMBERS:

1st - Home SEC loss of the season for UK.

10 - Touchdowns by Benny Snell set a new UK freshman record, eclipsing Randall Cobb's old mark of nine.

13 - Tackles by UK safety Mike Edwards to lead the Cats.

31 - Game winning streak snapped when the Cats held a lead at the end of the third quarter.

186 - Rushing yards by UK, the most that the UGA defense has surrendered this season.

2002 - The last time UK had a 100-yard rusher against the Bulldogs (Artose Pinner).

QUOTABLE:

"We're going to fix our mistakes, throw this game behind us, and keep moving." -- UK running back Benny Snell. 

UP NEXT:

Kentucky returns to action next Saturday at Tennessee in a Noon ET kickoff on the SEC Network. The Volunteers (6-3, 2-3 SEC) defeated Tennessee Tech 55-0 earlier today in Knoxville. 


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