ATHENS, Ga. – Sixth-ranked Georgia held a two-hour workout Wednesday in preparations for its upcoming SEC road contest against 11th-ranked Kentucky.
The Bulldogs and Wildcats meet in a pivotal game with the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division crown at stake as they both enter with 5-1 league records and 7-1 overall. Speaking on the SEC head coaches weekly teleconference before practice, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart discussed the challenges of playing at Kentucky.
“We’re excited about getting ready to go to Lexington, the team has been working hard, and we know it will be an electric atmosphere, and that’s what you come to the SEC for to play in these kinds of games,” said Smart. “Certainly, we played up there two years ago, and it was a night game, and I thought it was a really, really great atmosphere, and a lot of our kids remember that. They’ve got a really good football program, Mark (Stoops) has done a tremendous job with this team.”
The Wildcats lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 13 points a game and have been even better in SEC games where the scoring defense checks in at 12.3 points a game. Meanwhile, Georgia enters the contest ranked second in the SEC in scoring offense at 38.6 points a game including 35.8 in SEC games. Smart was asked about the matchup between Kentucky’s defense and the Bulldog offense.
“It will be our biggest challenge to date,” said Smart. “We haven’t played a defense with this much experience, size, stature, and really just statistically one that this strong. It’s a really good test. They do a great job. They have all the parts. When you think about it, you want experience, they got it, you want fast linebackers, they got it, you want big d-lineman, they got it, you want stature in the perimeter, they got it. It’s a perfect storm of development and of experience. They don’t make many mistakes. They make you beat them, and they got really good players doing it. It should be a great challenge for our guys.”
When talk turned to Georgia’s rushing attack this season, Smart was asked how the tandem of junior Elijah Holyfield and sophomore D’Andre Swift have handled the load. They have combined for 1,025 yards on 168 carries with nine touchdowns this year.
“They’ve done really well, really physical, run hard, have had a lot of explosive runs,” said Smart. “They’ve got a good offensive line unit,” said Smart. “Also, they are benefitting from the fact that they have a little more experienced quarterback when you start talking about a second-year guy versus a first-year guy, and that’s helped them. They are in a really physical league against tough physical defenses that play in the SEC. It’s always a challenge to try and gain rushing yards, but I think they’ve filled those shoes nicely. Nobody would ask them to be Sony (Michel) or Nick (Chubb), just be themselves, and they’ve done a good job doing that.”
Following the workout, Swift and senior center Lamont Gaillard and met with the media about the Kentucky game.
#8 sophomore running back D’Andre Swift
On feeling like himself during the Florida game after rushing for over 100 yards…
“I’m definitely feeling better than earlier in the season, still a little banged up, but definitely feeling better.”
On the fourth quarter and the second-half running game against Florida…
“We just did a great job in the second half. First and foremost, converting on third down, Jake [Fromm] did a great job of putting us in the right position and just as you’ve seen on third down, the offensive line did a great job of moving those guys off the ball so our backs just ran the ball.”
On how the running game will factor into the game against Kentucky…
“I feel good about running the ball every time. Our line backers do a good job of plugging the hole really fast so as running backs, we have to be more patient.”
#53 senior center Lamont Gaillard
On whether or not experience matters in a game like Saturday’s matchup at Kentucky…
“Experience matters, definitely, but not for this game. I think both teams are ready to play, both teams are ready to come out and give it their all. We’re ready to come play on Saturday and that’s all we need.”
On the challenge of defending the SEC East title…
“It’s definitely motivation for us, we don’t want to lose, of course, and we’re playing for the SEC East and I think we need to come out and play our ball. If we play our ball, we’re going to do well in this game.”
On comparing Kentucky’s defense to that of Florida’s…
“They’re all good including the front seven, good [defensive backs]. Kentucky plays fast. They’re both physical. It’s going to be a great matchup but for us, it stays the same. We just need to play our game and focus on us.”
Saturday’s kickoff at Kroger Field is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.