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Latest Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Once again, we turn to the always-dependable Ken Sugiura to brush us up on all things Georgia Tech. Sugiura has been covering the Yellow Jackets as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s beat reporter every year since 2011 and a few before that. So there isn’t a better expert on The Institute or its mercurial coach, Paul Johnson. Sugiura also knows a thing or two about hoops. Much to the Yellow Jackets’ chagrin, Sugiura recently followed the basketball team to China. So he was there when a few of Tech’s players were questioned by police for the Pac-12 China Game tournament about a shoplifting incident. All the Yellow Jackets were cleared, but UCLA’s players were not, and that resulted in an international incident that Sugiura had well-covered. We’re not going to bother Ken with those details today. We’ll stick to events closer to home and particularly the 110th renewal of Tech’s rivalry with Georgia that has come to be known as “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate.” First, a quick refresher on Ken’s background. He’s a Michigan graduate who grew up in Northfield, Ill., outside Chicago. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and three young children. You can read his stories on the Tech page of the AJC.com website, and he’s a great follow on Twitter @ksugiuraajc generates some of the funniest Facebook posts you’ll ever see. Here are his answers to my questions this week: 1. So, Duke. What happened there? As Clark Griswold famously said, “I couldn’t have been more surprised if I had woke up with my head sewn to the carpet, Eddie.” Sugiura: That’s a tough one to figure. I’ve covered the team since 2011, and it was one of the three or four most perplexing results that I can recall. Tech had just come off a big win over Virginia Tech and was playing a Duke team that had lost six in a row and was not playing well on offense. Further, Tech was playing for bowl eligibility and first road win. Plus, it’s a league game. The offense started out doing its job, scoring touchdowns on three of four first-half possessions. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall has been difficult to handle for all of Georgia Tech’s opponents, Virginia Tech included. (John Amis/AJC) The defense, which has generally done better than in years past but has had its flaws, got run over. Duke scored on its first seven possessions, and they weren’t cheapies, either. One of the drives was 20 yards, but the rest were in the 60- and 70-yard range. Paul Johnson summed it up quite accurately after the game. “They went through us like we weren’t even out there.” What made it particularly odd was that Tech typically doesn’t lose games like that. If you’ll remember, in the Tech-Georgia series, there’s really only one game that got out of hand since Johnson’s hire prior to the 2008 season, the 2012 game. (A game and team that Johnson has referenced this week, saying this UGA team compares with that one as the best Bulldogs team he’s faced.) And it’s been largely the same way in ACC play. Johnson was mystified/furious after the game, I think. With so much on the line, the defense played probably its worst game of the year. Missed tackles, missed assignments, poor effort, the whole deal. The offense, as the score got out of control and Duke controlled the ball, didn’t do much, either. It’s just been a strange season, which we can get into in the next question. 2. Please educate all us of tunnel-visioned on Georgia’s season kind of what went wrong for the Yellow Jackets to end up where they are at the moment. Weren’t there some relatively high expectations for this year’s squad? Sugiura: It’s just been an odd year. Johnson called it “screwy” on Tuesday. Go back to 2016 — Tech finishes with wins over Virginia Tech, Virginia, UGA and Kentucky in the bowl game — the defense was playing better at the end. B-back (fullback) Dedrick Mills led the team in rushing as a true freshman. A lot of key pieces (besides quarterback Justin Thomas) were back. There was reasonable hope that this team could make a run at the ACC Coastal. Then Mills was dismissed in August (which didn’t prove to be a huge deal, but started the year oddly). The Jackets outplayed Tennessee in the season opener at Mercedes-Benz but lost in double overtime. A game against UCF was canceled because of the hurricane. Tech went to Miami and, in a driving rain, lost by one point after the Hurricanes converted a sort-of fluky 4th-and-10 in the final minute. That kind of set the tone. The defense has often failed on drives going into halftime or at the end of regulation. Pass protection hasn’t been very good. (Despite Tech being run-heavy, it matters). It rained heavily in three of the four road games, all losses. Meanwhile, Tech has won every game at home. Play overall has just been inconsistent, not just game to game but half to half. Given what we’ve seen over 10 games, I believe this is a team that, at least on paper, is good enough to be ranked and to be in the hunt for the division and, on its best day, could give Clemson a run for its money in a hypothetical ACC title game. I’m not joking when I say this team has the capacity to be 9-1. But something is clearly missing. 3. Is Tech going to be able to get a make-up game for missing Central Florida? If not, would the NCAA or the bowl association make exceptions for these 5-win teams that lost games to storms this year? Sugiura: It looks less and less likely. Tech administrators have been trying to set something up, but haven’t been able to find a willing partner. It’s a small pool (teams that for some reason will only play 11 regular-season games or played at Hawaii and didn’t play a 13th game – if you play at Hawaii, you get a 13th regular-season game or Hawaii itself and have December 2 free). Tech will only play an FBS school. (I’m guessing at least in part because they already have a win over an FCS team) And not many are keen on playing Johnson’s spread-option offense with no preparation. So it looks like the Jackets will have to beat UGA to go bowling, else miss out for the second time in three years after having made 18 consecutive bowls. (I believe Tech and UGA started their bowl streaks the same year.) They could conceivably get a waiver from the NCAA, claiming they tried to get a 12th game, and they also would have a shot as a five-win team as their APR is high, but there’s 78 slots and 70 are already taken. Four more for sure will be spoken for (there’s four games this weekend between teams that are 5-6), and there’s a number of other five-win teams (and four-win teams with two games left) that can also secure bowl eligibility with a win. If they get to 78, Tech (or any other five-win team) will be out of luck. 4. How much would you say Paul Johnson’s well-timed wins over Georgia over the years, and in two of the last three years in particular, have contributed to his longevity as Tech’s football coach. And is all well for him on that front? Johnson: It’s helped, certainly. The first one in particular (2008) I think gave him a lot of credibility and won him a lot of fans, given that Chan Gailey had gone 0-6 against the Bulldogs. Plus, a lot of Tech fans have loved that he doesn’t back down from mighty UGA and is not shy about poking fun at the SEC. I don’t know that he would have been in any particular trouble had Tech lost in 2014 or 2016 specifically. In the former, Tech was already going to the ACC title game and had beaten Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech. In 2016, the season had already turned around nicely. But, certainly, the fact that he has proven himself as someone who has beaten Georgia is good for his security. And he is safe. I think the people that matter are in his corner. He and Tech’s new AD, Todd Stansbury, have a good relationship and Stansbury is trying to give Johnson what he’s asked for (new locker room, more staff, etc.) 5. What matchups do you like best that favor the Yellow Jackets against Georgia this year? Sugiura: “That’s a tough one. I don’t need to tell your readers that UGA is pretty stout. Johnson was raving about the team and players (Jake Fromm, Javon Wims, the running backs, the front seven, special teams, etc.) and I don’t think he was trying to flatter anyone. But Tech’s strength is probably the core of its offensive line. Guards Parker Braun and Shamire Devine and center Kenny Cooper have at times been dominant up front, getting surge off the snap and clearing lanes for B-back KirVonte Benson and quarterback TaQuon Marshall, and then reaching the second level to influence linebackers. Basically, Tech really can’t win if it can’t run the ball (barring some craziness), and I think it’ll be incumbent upon those three to lead the way. That said, Tech doesn’t normally see the likes of John Atkins, Trenton Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter all the time, guys that are bigger and more athletic than the standard-issue ACC defensive lineman. SUGIURA’S PREDICTION: My hunch is that this is asking too much for Tech. Georgia is, obviously, a very good team, with a dominant run game capable of mashing Tech’s defenders. If Duke can do it, obviously, then presumably the Dogs can, too. And the fact that the Jackets are still trying to play with consistency and play their assignments 10 games in is troubling. I could see it getting away from Tech like the 2012 game (the 42-10 UGA win that I particularly remember for Bacarri Rambo stripping the ball from A-back Robbie Godhigh just as he was crossing the goal line). The Jackets’ special teams haven’t proven that they can provide a game-changing play, either. But, then, it’s the same team that really should have beaten Miami on the road and did beat Virginia Tech at home. Tech’s just a baffling team. The Jackets have generally defended the run fairly well, so you’ve got a strength-on-strength situation there. As much as UGA has to play for, I imagine Tech players are a little embarrassed about the Duke game and have bowl eligibility on the line beyond bragging rights. Their win over the Hokies followed another embarrassing loss, to Virginia. As a few people have said to me, it won’t surprise me if the game ends in a rout in Georgia’s favor or if Tech wins in the style it did in 2014 and 2016. But I suspect it’ll be closer to the former than the latter. Let’s go with — UGA 31-17. The post Opposing View: An upset from a ‘baffling’ Tech team ‘may be too much to ask’ vs. UGA appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – It’s the question everybody wants to ask but one for which there is no easy answer. Who should Georgia want to meet in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama or Auburn? The Bulldogs have been sitting here as Eastern Division champions officially since Nov. 4 and unofficially for weeks before that. It didn’t take very long into this season to realize that the Bulldogs were going to be the class of its side of the league. Kirby Smart (R) is 1-1 against Gus Malzahn and Auburn as Georgia’s head coach. Meanwhile, Alabama was kind of always penciled in for the West. A while back, there might’ve been a few folks who already had the Crimson Tide written down in big, bold Sharpie considering the way their season was going, and how everybody else over on that side was doing. Certainly, nobody was talking about Auburn. If the Tigers weren’t written off after that 11-sack debacle to Clemson in Week 2, they were by the time they blew a late lead to LSU on Oct. 14. But then Georgia-Auburn happened on Nov. 11 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the mighty Tide incurred a few key injuries and suddenly looked of-this-world and now everybody’s wondering just which one of the teams from the next state over will end up in Atlanta on Dec. 2. We’ll all find out for certain on Saturday when Auburn and Alabama clash in the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium. In a rivalry that has produced many classic confrontations, they’re expecting another heart-stopper. A line that saw Alabama favored by two touchdowns before Auburn did what it did to Georgia had been reduced for four skinny points at last check. That’s the smallest point spread in that game since 2010, when the Tigers were 3.5 point underdogs. Auburn won 28-27 that year, by the way. So, if the sixth-ranked Tigers win again this year, the Bulldogs can look forward to playing arguably the hottest team in the country and one that already beat them by 23 points two weeks ago. If No. 1-ranked Alabama pulls through as oddsmakers tell us it will, Georgia gets to play the program that equates playing in the SEC title game to stopping by the store for some milk and bread on the way to the playoffs. The Crimson Tide and coach Nick Saban have played in and won in the last three SEC championships. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs still have a little meat on their bone as well. It may be an off year for Georgia Tech (5-5), but history tells us that the Yellow Jackets will make Saturday’s gathering at Grant Field as agonizing as possible, right down to the final cut block and B-back dive. The last four in the series have been decided by an average of one touchdown, and only twice has the game been decided by more than one score in the last nine years. But regardless of what happens in that endeavor, the Bulldogs will be keeping their appointment in the glistening new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Word is they’ve even cleared a spot next door for some extra parking for all those UGA fans. So which team does Georgia have the better chance to beat? I’d say the blue-and-orange clad opponent would be best suited for that purpose. I know, I know. I was there. I saw how Auburn dominated both lines of scrimmage in that last game. The Bulldogs struggled to run the football and stop the run and protect the passer like we’ve seen at no other time this season. I saw Kerryon Johnson running up and down the field all night. Barring injury, I’m assuming coach Gus Malzahn will bring all those guys to Atlanta with him. But I also suspect the Tigers also will need a couple of extra buses to bring their confidence up I-85 with them as well if they happen to beat the Tide. And that’s not necessarily a good thing. They might be coming with too much. Auburn also is a different team outside the confines of Jordan-Hare. I’m not sure how evident it was to those watching on television, but I know the folks inside that stadium on that night of Nov. 11th know that team wasn’t going to lose to anybody entering that space. The place was a powder keg, and the Bulldogs lit the fuse with their freakishly ill-timed personal foul penalties and special teams’ gaffes. This time around, Georgia will hold a neutral-field advantage. By the time the game kicks off (Dec. 2, 4 p.m.), Bulldogs’ fans will have had nearly a month to snap up tickets. And any extra ones floating around after the Iron Bowl surely would be headed for red-and-black hands. Bama fans hold more renewable tickets to the SEC championship game than any other team. In those parts, to pass them over to Auburn fans would be sacrilege. The word on the street is that Alabama is suddenly vulnerable. The Crimson Tide has lost four linebackers to injuries over the course of the season, the latest two earlier this month. But they still have senior Rashaan Evans, one of the SEC’s best linebackers, and freshman Dylan Moses has played great since being pressed into duty. He’s yet another former 5-star that Bama simply plugged in. Meanwhile, quarterback Jalen Hurts and that Alabama offense look scary good. The Tide is averaging 43 points a game this season, tops in the league. Yes, Jarrett Stidham and Auburn can move the ball, too, and did against Georgia. They were able to even muster together a few plays beyond Johnson running the ball one way or another. But in terms of having to defend one of these two teams, Hurts and his running ability coupled with Calvin Ridley and everything else the Tide brings to the table makes them to more troublesome of the two. None of which is to say Georgia doesn’t have a shot against Alabama. I think the Bulldogs have a shot at beating either one of these teams. Against Auburn, they might even be favored. Against Bama, they’re a decided underdog. The post Alabama or Auburn: Against which team would the Georgia Bulldogs have best shot? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Coaches will always tell you that they never look ahead, that they never look past the next opponent. That hasn’t been the case with Georgia in regard to Georgia Tech. In fact, the Bulldogs have been preparing for the Yellow Jackets at least once a week throughout the entire season, and several times during the preseason as well. Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who had let that slip a couple of times throughout the season, made no attempt to cover that up on Monday during his weekly news conference. He explained that the Bulldogs have been taking a couple of periods in the Monday practices all season to concentrate on defending the Yellow Jackets’ confounding triple-option offense. In addition, UGA spent some time working on Tech, along with a few other future opponents, during the bye week in mid-October as well. “I felt like you have to familiarize yourself (with it),” Smart said. “Really the players, if nothing more than your scout team, can only be so efficient doing something they don’t do all the time. But they can be as efficient as possible. So those Mondays have been really critical for them. Those Mondays have been critical for our young players who haven’t been exposed to it. We have worked really hard on that. And then we spent some time in the off week.” It seems that Smart has always been giving the Yellow Jackets a little extra attention. That happened even last year, before Tech came to Sanford Stadium and served the Bulldogs with a gut-punching 29-28 loss. Smart had brought in Brian VanGorder, then not long fired as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, as a special consultant a couple of weeks before UGA hosted Tech. How much it helped is unclear. The Yellow Jackets weren’t necessarily the ground-game juggernaut they can be sometimes – they rushed for 226 yards on 42 carries – but they managed to score 14 points in the final 6:28 to pull off a 28-27 upset. Suffice it to say, Georgia wants to do better this year. While Georgia Tech 5-5 (4-4 ACC) is experiencing a down year, its offense remains as potent and troublesome as always. The Jackets are averaging 319.3 yards rushing and 30.2 points per game. What makes them particularly difficult to handle is their style is unlike any other team Georgia plays all year. Smart went as far as referring to Tech’s offense as “a dinosaur.” “They’re not the norm any more,” Smart said. “People don’t prepare to play that. When you think about high school football, it used to be that people ran the triple (option) in high school and a lot of the most successful programs in this state had been a part of that. It’s slowly gone the other way, where teams, it’s almost like a dinosaur, people don’t do it anymore. So people don’t know how to defend it. So it’s challenging.” Hence, Smart’s decision to work on it a little all year as opposed to just a lot in the final week of the regular season. Georgia’s defense has been very good against the run this season. It has been very good against everything, actually. The Bulldogs rank fifth in nation in total defense, giving up just 276 yards per game. Only Alabama, with 87.4 yards per game, has given up fewer rush yards in the SEC than UGA (105.6 ypg). Then again, the Bulldogs haven’t defended anything like this all season. Probably the closest thing they’ve seen was what Auburn does, and that was more run-pass option than pure option. “It’s tough,” said senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who had eight tackles against the Jackets a year ago. “The triple option, you’ve got to read your keys and have eye discipline and all that.” Defenders hate facing it because it all the reads required negate any edge they might have in athleticism. Meanwhile, much of the offensive line’s work is predicated on cut blocking. That means defensive linemen and linebackers can expect a lot of contact below the waist. Ankle, knee and foot injuries aren’t uncommon. “You’ve got to keep running your feet; if you don’t you can get rolled up,” said Georgia noseguard John Atkins, who will be facing it for the fourth straight year. “You try your best to stay (upright) but you’re going to get tweaked sometimes.” Cut blocks and a gashing run game are just part of the issue. Since the Jackets run the ball 84.2 percent of the time, their passing game tends to be particularly effective – and potentially devasting – when they decide utilize it. Tech receivers add 21.7 yards per catch. Ricky Jeune has five touchdowns, including an 80-yarder against Virginia Tech two weeks ago. That came to roost against the Bulldogs last year. While the Yellow Jackets executed run-oriented, fourth-quarter scoring drives of 94 and 46 yards for their come-from-behind victory last year, it was pass plays of 23-, 39- and 16 yards that did the most damage. So what’s the remedy? “Eye discipline,” Smart said Monday. :It’s what got us last year. You don’t have good eye discipline, you don’t have good eye transfer, they can get you. And they watch every play. They know when you mess up. It doesn’t take them long to figure out, ‘whoops, he’s not looking at the right thing,’ and then they expose you. And you say, ‘well, the alternative is don’t be so aggressive with them,’ but you have to stop the run. They do a good job with what they do.” Georgia’s defense has been done exceptional work this season. We’ll find out Saturday if a season’s worth of preparation makes a difference. “They’re playing a unique style of offense and they got to buy into that, they’ve got to embrace it,” Smart said of Georgia’s defense. “I think our seniors will. As a matter of fact, I know they will. They have already talked to me about some ways we’re going to practice and things we’re going to do to help with that. So, I’m excited about that part and they’re ready to take the challenge on.” The post Georgia has devoted time all season to defending Tech’s triple option appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Total domination. This was the plan all along for this season. That’s what we’re now learning from the Georgia Bulldogs, and those notable seniors in particular. Having played their last home game, which resulted in another blowout win over an SEC East opponent, the Bulldogs are allowing themselves to talk a little about what they’ve achieved this season. That hasn’t been the case all year, you know, with that whole “next game” mantra and all. But some things have been achieved at this point. UGA (10-1, 7-1 SEC) finished undefeated at home for the first time in five years, for instance. In case you haven’t heard, the Bulldogs have won the SEC’s Eastern Division championship. And not by a little. With that 29-point victory over Kentucky this past Saturday, they outscored their division brethren 247 points to 72, or an average score of 41-12 per game. It was as thorough and complete a domination as we’ve witnessed by Georgia. So, clearly, the right team will be representing the division when the SEC Championship commences on Dec. 2 in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And that was the plan. Georgia is exactly where it intended to be at this point. Well, almost. “It didn’t go exactly how we wanted,” senior tailback Sony Michel said. “We planned on winning every game. Ultimately, things don’t always go as planned. But, you know, this is the type of season we planned on having.” Ah, yes. There was that anomaly that occurred on The Plains two weeks ago. Unfortunate, but not fate altering. Georgia can still win out and achieve all those preseason goals. But there remains one more box to check. Since Saturday, a lot of people have asked me if I thought there was any danger in Georgia tripping up against its archrival, Georgia Tech. You know, that team that just fell to Duke, 34-20 giving up 319 yards rushing. Normally, I’d say yes to that. “Of course.” Throw out the records and all that business when it comes to Tech and that Clean Old-Fashioned Hate rivalry. But I’m going to say no. And here’s why. Here, I return to all those seniors — and “The Big Four,” in particular. I return to that scene of last December and what Nick Chubb had to say about what happened at Sanford Stadium in the last game, of the year. “The last game didn’t go how any of us wanted,” he said. “It kind of hurt inside. I’m a very prideful guy.” That was Chubb nearly a year ago. He was explaining the reasons he intended to come back his senior year. There was the 29-28 loss to Tech. There was the way the Bulldogs lost, giving up 14 points in the final 6:28. And then there was what happened after the loss. You might recall that about the half of the field-side hedges on the north side of the field were left bare. It’s a scene these seniors haven’t forgotten. It was also Georgia’s second loss in three years to the Yellow Jackets. That’s the main reason why the Bulldogs are no danger of overlooking their 5-4 opponent this week. Losing to Georgia Tech is not cool in these parts. Leaving school with a losing record to that school borders on sacrilegious. “That was one of the things I thought about personally, something I needed to come back and finish,” senior Lorenzo Carter said. “I had unfinished business. I didn’t want to leave having a losing record to Tech. Right now I do. All the seniors do. So we wanted to come back play our ball and finish strong.” Said fifth-year senior John Atkins: “That’s what a lot of guys came back for, losing to Tech last year. You don’t want to lose to Tech in your last year. I mean, we’re not thinking about the SEC yet. Tech’s the next game. We’ve just got to go out against them and play ball.” Regardless of that has happened to this point, Georgia has had a great season. It has been a special year no matter how one slices it up. A win on Saturday gives the Bulldogs 11 wins. The school has managed that many wins only nine other times, the 13-1 season of 2002 being the most ever. They’ve left a regular season undefeated and untied only three times. With that goal thwarted, the Bulldogs don’t want to relent on anything else. Least of all, Georgia’s seniors don’t want to leave with the smudge of another loss to Tech. Because of what Georgia has done to this point, Kirby Smart is in line for coach of the year, nationally as well as for the SEC. But when talk turns to what the Bulldogs have accomplished this season, he fully deflects the praise and redirects toward his fourth-year guys. The true value in all that, Smart pointed out Monday, is theirs is a gift that will keep on giving. The seniors’ willingness to “buy in” to what Smart and his staff have been selling since they showed up will pay dividends with all those underclassmen that will coming back next year. “I know you see (their leadership) on the field,” Smart said. “But you don’t get to see it in the meeting room; you don’t get to see it when a guy’s late; you don’t see it when a guy does some undisciplined penalty out of bounds and they grab the guy. That part is what they bring of setting a standard, the standard that we want to play to, they help set that standard.” That includes not losing to Georgia Tech but once every seven or eight years. Certainly not two of every three years, or three of every four. The last time Georgia lost three to the Jackets in such a short span was 1998-2000 when coach Jim Donnan dropped three in a row, and he was out of a job at the end of it. Between the buy-in for the future and going out on top against Tech, these Bulldogs aren’t about to let up. “We came back for a bigger purpose and we’re still working toward that,” senior outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said. “Everything’s been nice till now but it’s all about how you finish.” Said Michel: “I think most definitely we have built a foundation for our coach, offensively and defensively,” Michel said. “The guys have bought in to what we’re trying to do; the standard is set. And I think the bar is only going to be raised when we leave. I’m excited for this program. Great things are ahead. We have guys here who are willing to learn. It’s crazy to see what’s going to happen.” The post It’s about Georgia Tech and a whole lot more for UGA’s seniors appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – It was just another win over Kentucky, and another lopsided one at that. But Georgia’s celebration afterward was different. It was evident this one really meant something. And it did. With their 42-13 win over the Wildcats, the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs (10-1, 7-1 SEC) finished undefeated at Sanford Stadium for the season. It kept them undefeated against the Eastern Division, something that hadn’t been done since the SEC went to divisional play, and rinsed away a nasty taste that had remained in their collective mouths since getting thumped by Auburn a week earlier. “Adversity doesn’t build character; I personally believe adversity exposes character,” coach Kirby Smart said afterward. “There was an opportunity with last week’s loss to see how we respond. I think the character of our group is clear, led by our seniors. They’ve accepted the new staff. They were willing not just to buy in to our new way, but they’ve been selling it to our younger players, and that’s been a big part of being a good people. I’m really proud of these guys to do some things that haven’t been done before here.” It wasn’t as easy as the final score may indicate. Georgia trailed 3-0 and led only 7-6 into the final five minutes of the first half. But then the Bulldogs poured it on. They’d score 21 points over the next 11 minutes, then buried the Wildcats like they have so many other opponents in the fourth quarter this season. Now Georgia resets its sights on archrival Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets (5-5) will be looking to get bowl eligibility next Saturday in Atlanta. The Bulldogs, with their ticket already punched to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the SEC Championship, have bigger game to hunt. But they’re intently focused on handling local business first. It won’t be hard. The Yellow Jackets knocked them off 28-27 a year ago. “We know what’s coming up next week,” Georgia tailback Nick Chubb said. “We’re looking forward to it.” Here’s how the Dogs did against Kentucky: OFFENSE: A With 508 yards gained, the temptation is to say that the Bulldogs played great on offense. And they were excellent for much of the game. But they also were a little slow to get moving, and another early turnover – this one Jake Fromm interception – quickly left them behind on the scoreboard. What finally got Georgia moving was the passing game. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney began to turn Fromm loose with first-down passes early in the second quarter, and that in turn loosened up Georgia’s running game. Tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel retired for the night early in the fourth quarter having combined for 238 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Fromm finished with 123 yards on 9-of-14 passing and hit Javon Wims for a 27-yard touchdown. Wims finished with six catches for 83 yards. DEFENSE: B Obviously, the Bulldogs played much better than they did a week ago at Auburn. But they still showed some vulnerabilities. Kentucky tailback Benny Snell was tough for them to bring down. He finished with 94 yards on 22 carries and scored a touchdown. The Wildcats also put together scoring drives of eight, seven and seven plays and possessed the ball for half the game, or 29:40. In the end, though, Kentucky was held to just two field goals and 140 yards in the first half and, averaging 361 yards and 27.9 points, finished with just 262 total and half its scoring average. Aaron Davis grabbed an interception for Georgia, Roquan Smith had a team-high nine tackles and a sack and the Wildcats were 3-for-12 on third down. Now all that goes out the window as the Bulldogs will have to re-learn how to defend the triple option. SPECIAL TEAMS: A Georgia got back on track on special teams after penalties and mistakes spoiled its work last week at Auburn. Mecole Hardman added another 81 yards in returns, highlighted by a 35-yard kickoff return and a 20-yard punt return. Cameron Nizalek nearly had a punt blocked but was roughed – and briefly injured – on the play, resulting in a Georgia first down. He finished with a 48-yard average on two punts. Rodrigo Blankenship did not have a field goal attempt but he finished with four touchbacks on six kickoffs, which ties him with Hall of Famer (and his kicking coach) Kevin Butler for the school record with 51. COACHING: B Kirby Smart gets high marks for navigating Georgia through the emotional wreckage left in the wake of the 40-17 loss to Auburn that plunged the Bulldogs from the top ranking in football. The Bulldogs continue to hurt themselves with penalties. They were flagged seven times for 59 yards and were called for two more personal fouls. Initially, Georgia seemed obstinate about running the ball on first down no matter what, calling rushes on first down nine consecutive times to start the game. But when they finally started to mix it up, they were moved the ball at will and finished with 25 first downs, the second highest total this season. OVERALL: B It was good night for both UGA fans and players. The Bulldogs finished a perfect 6-0 at home for the first time since 2012, which also happened to be the last time they went to the SEC Championship game. They did it by feeding the football to their senior stars, Chubb and Michel, and getting dominating performances from the defense and special teams. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a very, very good night to be a Bulldog. The post Report Card: Kentucky helps the Bulldogs get back on track appeared first on DawgNation.