LEXINGTON, K.Y. — Trailing by as many as eight points late in the third quarter, Georgia rallied to defeat Kentucky 27-24 capped by a 25-yard game-winning field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship as time expired Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.
The Bulldogs’ started their drive towards the game-winning kick on their own 25-yard line with 2:47 remaining. Georgia freshman quarterback Jacob Eason engineered the 9-play, 67-yard drive, completing 4-of-4 passes for 42 yards. In addition, junior tailback Sony Michel added 22 yards on three carries. For the game, Eason completed 17-of-31 passes for 245 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Michel, who carried the ball just three times last week against Florida, rushed for a game-high 127 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, on 19 carries.
“Cool and calm,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart regarding the game-winning drive. “Relax, don’t panic, give us a chance to win and don’t give them a chance to win—and that is what happened. And we have a great field goal kicker right there.”
Blankenship, a redshirt freshman, recorded a career-high 13 points, going 4-for-4 on field goals and 1-for-1 on extra points. Prior to his 25-yard game-winner, he made a 25- and 42-yarder in the second quarter, followed by a 49-yard kick in the third quarter.
“I’m just trying to take it one kick at a time,” Blankenship said following the victory. “That’s the only way to go with kicking really, you just take it one step at a time and you move on, and short-term memory after every kick. Whether it’s make or a miss, you’ve got to treat it the same way and be able to move on to the next one.”
Trailing 14-13 at halftime, things looked bleak for the Bulldogs when Kentucky freshman tailback Benjamin Snell Jr. rushed for a 1-yard touchdown at the 9:15 mark in the third quarter to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 21-13. A victory for Kentucky, coupled with the loss by Florida to Arkansas earlier in the day, would have signified a first-place standing in the SEC East for the Wildcats.
However, after Kentucky regained possession, Georgia defensive back Maurice Smith jarred the ball loose from Wildcat receiver Stephen Johnson and recovered it on the opposing 38-yard line. Four plays later, Blankenship cut his team’s deficit to five points at 21-16 with the 49-yard field goal—his career long.
At the 9:13 mark in the fourth quarter, Michel’s touchdown run gave the Bulldogs a one-point lead. On the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, Eason found freshman tight end Isaac Nauta for the score, giving Georgia a 24-21 advantage. The Wildcats then put together an impressive offensive drive to the Bulldogs’ nine-yard line before they gained just two yards in three plays, resulting in a game-tying field goal by Austin MacGinnis.
Defensively, freshman defensive lineman Julian Rochester and junior linebacker Reggie Carter led Georgia with eight tackles apiece en route to holding the Wildcats’ offense to 308 yards. Rochester also notched his first-career sack and forced fumble. Sophomore cornerback Deandre Baker snatched his first-career interception in the third quarter.
“They never quit and they fight as hard as any team I’ve been around,” head coach Kirby Smart said of his squad following the win. “They challenge each other on the sideline and they respond when adversity hits.”