ATHENS, Ga. - Before the sun had set at Sanford Stadium, the end was in sight.
Kentucky's five-year streak of bowl games was over. The end of the season was just seven days away.
Georgia kneeled out the final seconds after grinding out a 19-10 win over the Wildcats on Saturday afternoon. The loss eliminated Kentucky (4-7, 1-6 Southeastern Conference) from bowl contention and gave the Georgia (9-2, 7-1 SEC) a spot in the SEC Championship game on December 3.
"We were playing for that extra game," Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said. "We were playing for our pride. We were playing for our university I'm proud of the effort that they gave."
The Kentucky defense held Georgia to just 19 points and 317 yards, but the Kentucky offense couldn't build on that. The Wildcats took a 3-0 lead early and retook the lead in the second quarter when freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith hit Tyler Robinson in the end zone for a touchdown, but they would be stuffed the rest of the way. After taking that 10-6 lead, the offense disappeared.
Eight turnovers - four by each team - gave the Wildcats a chance to take control. But after registering 152 yards of offense in the first half, Kentucky would find just 13 the rest of the way. Smith took four sacks after the break and struggled to complete all but the shortest of passes as Kentucky's running game withered away.
"I thought we got off to a good start," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "Our guys competed, I thought we made some plays. I thought we definitely left some plays out there, no doubt about that. And then in the second half, they just turned their guys loose to rush the passer and that gave us a lot of problems."
It wasn't on the defense, though.
Georgia found just two more yards on Saturday than their season-low. They had 81 yards combined on their five scoring drives as the defense forced five field goals, including several while defending a short field.
"I want to praise the efforts of all of our kids," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "They battled hard. I'm very happy for our guys. Disappointed for them, but not in them."
No player had a bigger effort than senior linebacker Danny Trevathan. Kentucky's All-American candidate at linebacker tied his career-high with 17 tackles. He also finished with two forced fumbles, three tackles for loss and a sack.
"I just want to win whatever game is in front of me," he said. "If we play our game like we played today, everything should take care of itself."
It wasn't enough this time. The offense had just two yards in the third quarter as Georgia retook the lead. Kentucky wouldn't score again after Robinson's touchdown reception.
Minter said it was perhaps the defense's best game of the season. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray completed just 16-29 passes for 162 yards. The secondary smothered
All that's left for Kentucky is a final home game against Tennessee on Nov. 26. As Kentucky's bowl streak ended Saturday, they'll have a chance to break a 26-year losing streak to the Volunteers in the final game of the season.It'll be the final game for Kentucky's seniors, who entered the program as the bowl streak was just beginning.
Trevathan was subdued after the loss, focused on the final week of practice rather than the end of his career, which is just around the bend.
Phillips, however, was emotional.
"Did this team quit?" Phillips said. "Was this team lacking toughness? If you've never competed, you don't understand this thing. If you've never experienced victory or you've never experienced defeat, you don't understand this. You're talking out of turn if you've never competed once. This team does not quit. It does not lack effort."
-Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell was knocked out in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. He had just two carries for 11 yards after entering the day fourth in the SEC with 821 rushing yards.
Crowell was considered the No. 1 tailback in Georgia in the class of 2011. He signed with Georgia, leaving fellow Peach State natives Josh Clemons and Marcus Caffey to sign with Kentucky.
-Kentucky scored a field goal on its opening possession to take a 3-0 lead, but the Wildcats have now gone almost a full year without scoring a touchdown at any point in the first quarter. The last time Kentucky scored a touchdown in the first quarter was against Tennessee in 2010, when Derrick Locke had a 17-yard touchdown run against the Vols with 9:50 left in the first quarter.
-Senior receiver Matt Roark had a 46-yard reception on the first drive of the game, but had just two receptions for five yards the rest of the game. Roark's reception accounted for 27.8 percent of Kentucky's entire offensive output for the game. No other play for Kentucky went for more than 16 yards.
-Trevathan's 17 tackles tied a career high. With his big day, he moved into 10th place on the all-time tackle list in school history. He has had 17 tackles in three different games this season, but has not been able to break that mark in his career. He has 21 career games with at least 10 tackles, including in 17 of the Wildcats' last 20 games.
-Georgia sophomore linebacker Jarvis Jones had a big day of his own. He had 2.5 sacks in the game and leads the SEC with 12.5 this season. Jones, who had four sacks against Florida earlier this year, is 1.5 sacks away from tying Bulldog great David Pollack for the single-season school sack record. Pollack had 14 sacks in 2002.
-Kentucky has never won back-to-back meetings with Georgia in Athens. The Wildcats won in their last trip to Sanford Stadium, claiming a 34-27 win in 2009. They had a chance to break that streak, but couldn't capitalize.
Freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith sprained his right (throwing) shoulder but was able to return to the game. His right arm was in a sling after the game.
Freshman defensive lineman Christian Coleman will undergo X-rays on his elbow on Sunday.
Junior center Matt Smith, who was injured in the first half, did not return. Phillips said the team opted to stick with senior Jake Lanefski because he was playing well.