LEXINGTON, Ky. - From a statistical standpoint, a quick look at the final offensive numbers, one might have gotten the wrong idea about the outcome of Saturday night's game between Kentucky and visiting Georgia.
Not only did the Wildcats outgain the Bulldogs in total yardage (423-to-290, but Kentucky held onto the football for almost five minutes more.
But between four first-half turnovers and a five-touchdown performance by Washaun Ealey, the Bulldogs were able to fend off the Wildcats in a shootout at Commonwealth Stadium, 44-31.
"It was a great day for the offense," quarterback Aaron Murray said of Georgia's third-straight win. "Washaun, I think, pretty much had his best game of his career today. I think everyone is pumped up about what we did today."
Ealey certainly had no complaints.
Not only did the sophomore rush for 157 yards on 28 carries, but he set a school record with his five rushing touchdowns, his final one coming with 13:53 in the third put Georgia up 41-17.
Ealey now shares the school record for most TDs scored in a game with Robert Edwards, who did it against South Carolina in 1995 (4 rushing, 1 receiving). Ealey notched his third career 100+yards rushing game. He had a career-high 183 in a win over Ga. Tech last year and 123 against Vanderbilt last week.
"I feel like I am doing stuff that I should have been doing during the offseason and right now we are on a roll," Ealey said. "Hopefully, we can stay that way."
Defensively, Saturday's results offered a mixed bag.
Although the Bulldogs (4-4, 3-3) were certainly pleased with forcing four first-half turnovers, resulting in 14 points, the 31 points, 353 yards passing by Wildcat quarterback Mike Hartline left a little to be desired.
However, after the game, head coach Mark Richt chalked that number up to the fact the Wildcats (4-4, 1-4) were forced to play the entire game from behind.
"I think it had a lot to do with being behind and throwing a lot," Richt said. "At the very end we were trying to make them use as much clock as possible, but they throw and catch the ball very well."
For the Bulldogs, the victory was huge on a couple of fronts.
First, it allowed Georgia to even its record at 4-4, 3-3 in the SEC, which at least from a mathematical point of view, keeps the Bulldogs alive for the Eastern Division title, although it's still going to take wins over Florida and Auburn while South Carolina must still lose two of its final three to Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida.
As was the case in wins over Tennessee and Vanderbilt, Saturday's contest was never really in doubt, although Kentucky did manage to recover an onside kick following a late touchdown pass of 9 yards from Hartline to Raymond Sanders to draw within 44-31.
But unlike last week against South Carolina, there would be no miracle, as the Bulldog defense shut the Wildcats down on four straight plays to end the game.
"What can I say? We needed the win," linebacker Justin Houston said. "We needed it big."
With the running game working so effectively, Murray only attempted 12 passes, completing nine for 113 yards.
A.J. Green caught six balls for 86 yards.
The first half was certainly enjoyable if you were a Georgia fan.
First it was the defense, forcing a fumble on Kentucky's opening possession following the first of 2.5 sacks by Houston, which forced the ball loose into the hands of Cornelius Washington for a first down at the 24.
Four plays later, Ealey bulled in from 3-yard line, the first of three touchdowns he would score in the first half.
But before that, it was Brandon Boykin who following a 41-yard field goal by Craig McIntosh, returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to pad the lead at 14-3.
For Boykin, it was the fourth kickoff return he's brought back for a touchdown in three years.
"That was huge. Anytime you can get a touchdown that fast it's big," Richt said. "Last week (against Vanderbilt) was probably the worse I had seen them in a while. We did not have a good kickoff return a week ago, but this week we challenged them, Coach (Tony) Ball made some nice adjustments and I was happy with the way they responded to it."
Ealey later added a pair of 2-yards, the latter coming after a fumble that Houston recovered at the Wildcat 5.
"A couple of times they ran on us and it was a nine-man front," Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said. "You've got nine guys in the box and the only reason we didn't have 10 is we wanted to put somebody over the top of (A.J.) Green."
Kentucky finally found the end zone with 1:09 in the second on a 35-yard touchdown from Hartline to La'Rod King to make the halftime score 28-10.
"I was really proud of the way we came out ready to play again," Richt said. "We were very fortunate to get the turnovers we got and the kickoff return, and even the fourth-down stop. We did miss a field goal that could have been problematic, but you've got to give Kentucky credit. The (halftime) score was the same as it was last week (against South Carolina) and they came back. If we hadn't put some points on the board, I think they would have won it again."
Georgia returns to action next Saturday when its takes on Florida in Jacksonville.
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