No. 6 Georgia tops No. 11 Kentucky 34-17 to clinch SEC East
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — D’Andre Swift ran for a career-high 156 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries against Kentucky’s vaunted defense and No. 6 Georgia beat the No. 11 Wildcats 34-17 on Saturday to wrap up its second straight Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title.
Swift had an 83-yard breakaway in the third quarter that gave Georgia (8-1, 6-1, No. 6 College Football Playoff) a 28-3 lead. He also had a nifty 20-yard scoring run in the second period when the game was close.
Elijah Holyfield ran for a career-high 115 yards on 18 carries, scoring on a 4-yarder in the third quarter.
Georgia rushed for a season-high 331 yards to earn a spot in the SEC championship game Dec. 1 in Atlanta.
“It’s huge,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “It’s not been easy. It’s never easy. People I think sometimes get spoiled when you win. These are good programs. These are good teams. Give our kids a lot of credit because their backs were against the wall kind of two weeks in a row and they came out fighting. They came out scratching and clawing.”
Kentucky (7-2, 5-2, No. 9 CFP) has never reached the SEC championship game, which has been played every year since 1992.
“They beat us in all phases,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “They really played a good football game. There’s many things we will take from this. We’ll learn an awful lot.”
Kentucky entered the weekend with the nation’s top scoring defense and hadn’t allowed anyone to exceed 20 points all year, but it couldn’t slow down Georgia’s tandem of Swift and Holyfield.
Before Saturday’s game, the only player to rush for as many as 75 yards against Kentucky was Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams, who ran for 138 yards in a 20-14 overtime victory over the Wildcats. Swift and Holyfield were both over the 100-yard mark by the end of the third quarter.
Kentucky dominated time of possession through the first 1 1/2 quarters, but still trailed 7-3. That’s when Swift started to give the Bulldogs some breathing room.
With Georgia facing second-and-17, Swift made a move around a defender at the line of scrimmage, made another move between two Wildcats about five yards downfield and shed a tackle inside the 5 to complete a remarkable 20-yard touchdown run.
Swift’s touchdown gave Georgia a 14-3 late in the second quarter. Georgia fumbled away a scoring opportunity late in the first half but got the ball to open the second half and extended the lead to 21-3 on Holyfield’s touchdown.
On Georgia’s next series, Smith raced through a big hole on the left side of the line and didn’t appear to get touched on his 87-yard sprint to the end zone. Before that play, Kentucky hadn’t allowed a run from scrimmage longer than 34 yards all season.
Georgia: The Bulldogs’ fearsome rushing attack was the difference in the game, but Georgia’s pass rush also started showing signs of life. Georgia had four sacks Saturday after entering the weekend with an SEC-low 10 sacks all season. Georgia now won’t have to play another true road game all season. The Bulldogs have home games with Auburn, Massachusetts and Georgia Tech the next three weeks.
Kentucky: The Wildcats reached Georgia territory on three straight first-half possessions and only had three points to show for it. That proved critical when a defense that had carried Kentucky all season couldn’t slow down Georgia’s rushing attack. Kentucky got more bad news in the third quarter when safety Darius West drew a targeting penalty that will knock him out for the first half of its game next week at Tennessee.
Georgia may need some help to get up to the top five, though this victory likely assures the Bulldogs remain in control of their postseason fate. Kentucky figures to drop a few spots in the Top 25 and likely will leave the top 10 in the CFP rankings.
Georgia hosts Auburn.
Kentucky visits Tennessee.