ATHENS, Ga. --- Missing their top offensive player proved to be little more than an afterthought for the Georgia Bulldogs, who got massive performances by Verron Haynes and Fred Gibson to compensate for the loss of leading rusher Musa Smith in a 43-29 victory over Kentucky on Saturday.
Haynes, a senior fullback who entered the game with 193 total yards and one touchdown this season, steamrolled his way to 159 and three touchdowns against an outmanned Wildcat defense. Gibson, a freshman wideout, made the most of his 6-foot-4 frame en route to a school record 201 yards receiving on nine catches and scored twice.
No. 17 Georgia (5-1, 4-1 SEC) also got a career-high 364 yards passing from redshirt freshman David Greene, who tossed three TD passes and rushed for another as the Bulldogs amassed 591 total yards.
"Well, that was wild," Georgia coach Mark Richt said of watching the two teams put up 1,084 total yards. "I shouldn't have thought it would be any different. I kept telling these guys to be ready for a war. If not, they were going to faint. The good news is: We didn't faint."Their combined efforts couldn't have come at a better time. Kentucky (1-6, 0-5) had led 22-7 in the second quarter behind the rejuvenated Jared Lorenzen, who was spectacular in his second start of the season. The sophomore left-hander, who was replaced for six games by Shane Boyd after a poor performance in the season opener, completed 32 of 54 attempts for 377 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a score to help keep the Cats close throughout.
"We did a great job today, but we couldn't finish up at the end," Lorenzen said. "We need to work on finishing strong."
It marked UK's 14th consecutive SEC loss, but the second straight week the Cats nearly upset a league contender.
"I enjoyed watching them play," Kentucky coach Guy Morriss said. "They played their hearts out, they played hard, and they gave it everything they had. I thought that they left a great effort out on the field.
"It was great to see our passing game kind of start clicking a little bit more. Jared had a great day, and some of our receivers started stepping up and making plays. There were some good catches today. That was nice to see... When you go out and do it right, those are the results you get."
Kentucky got big peformances by three receivers --- Derek Abney (7-69), Dougie Allen (6-65) and Aaron Boone (5-94, 2 TD). It was a career-high in all three categories for Boone, a junior college All-American who was slow to adjust to the Cats' system, but has now caught a touchdown pass in three straight games.
Turnovers, something UK avoided in the first half to build a 22-14 halftime advantage, proved to be the downfall in crunchtime.
Georgia used a zone blitz to confuse Lorenzen and pick off a pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. That halted a UK drive which had reached the Bulldogs' 38-yard line with the score tied at 29. Two plays later, UGA got a 56-yard touchdown pass from Greene to Gibson to take its first lead since 7-0 on its opening possession.
The second costly miscue game with about seven minutes to go as the Cats were marching for what could have been the tying score. Lorenzen completed passes of 11, 18, 10 and 9 yards to set up a 13-yard strike to Derek Abney. The UK receiver made a valiant effort to reach the end zone, but was met with a crunching blow by Georgia safety Jermaine Phillips. The ball was dislodged inside the 2-yard line, and the Bulldogs came up with the recovery.
"There's never a good time for turnovers," Morriss said. "We had the lead and we were battling to get to the end of the game, but turnovers killed us."
Georgia responded with touchdowns on four of its five possessions in the second half. The only time the Bulldogs didn't score, they were attempting to run out the clock on the final drive.
"It just got out of control," Morriss said. "...I don't know if they made any adjustments. I didn't see much change in their offense. I think they just began to use the big offensive line and wore us down. We're really thin at the defensive line and linebacker spots right now, and we're seeing that take its toll."
In addition to its three second-half turnovers, Kentucky hurt its chances with 12 penalties for 109 yards.