ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Aaron Murray can’t leave Georgia with a SEC championship. He still can walk away with a win in his final home game.
Georgia wasted a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback led by Murray in last week’s 43-38 loss to Auburn. Kentucky will play at Georgia (6-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) on Saturday night, perhaps hoping the Bulldogs’ focus is still on last week’s loss which ended the team’s SEC championship hopes.
Kentucky (2-8, 0-6) will try to end its string of 14 straight conference losses.
Kentucky’s only wins have come against Miami (Ohio) and Alabama State. The Wildcats must beat Georgia or Tennessee to avoid their second straight 0-8 finish in the SEC.
First-year coach Mark Stoops said he saw reason for encouragement in last week’s 22-6 loss at Vanderbilt.
“Under some tough circumstances with the wins and losses not going the way we want, I thought our preparation was right and I thought our attitude was right and I thought our fight was right,” Stoops said. “… I thought last week was as good as we’ve played all year with that mentality, a toughness and a desire and a hunger across the board to go out and win.”
Here are five things to watch as Kentucky visits Georgia:
ANOTHER MILESTONE FOR MURRAY: Murray, a senior, needs only 108 yards passing to reach 3,000 yards for the fourth straight season. He set the SEC record for career completions in the 43-38 loss at Auburn. He also set SEC career records for yards passing, total offense and touchdown passes this season.
REBOUND FOR WHITLOW: Kentucky sophomore quarterback Jalen Whitlow completed only 14 of 28 passes for 120 yards and threw four interceptions against Vanderbilt. Whitlow threw only one interception in his first nine games.
FOCUS ON GEORGIA DEFENSE: Georgia has allowed more than 40 points in three games and at least 30 points seven times this season. On a day seniors will be honored, there are only two seniors on Georgia’s two-deep depth chart on defense — starting nose tackle Garrison Smith and backup safety Connor Norman. Auburn had 323 yards rushing, the high mark allowed by the Bulldogs this season. It will be important for Georgia to contain the Kentucky running game led by running back Raymond Sanders and Jojo Kemp and put pressure on Whitlow.
TIME FOR A PICK: Linebacker Josh Forrest has the Kentucky defense’s only interception, putting pressure on the secondary to end its drought. Stoops said it would help the defense if the offense could take a lead, putting pressure on Georgia’s offense to put the ball in the air. “The lead helps,” Stoops said. “It’s no mystery we’re struggling to score points. … Most teams know that with the way we’re struggling to put the ball in the end zone it would be careless to throw the ball up and put it in a bad situation. You have an opportunity to get lots of interceptions when your team is scoring a bunch of points and the other team is playing from behind. We know that hasn’t been the situation this year.”
TACKLE FOR TACKLE: Georgia and Kentucky have the SEC’s top three leaders in tackles. Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson holds the lead with 110, followed by teammate Amarlo Herrera (91) and Kentucky senior middle linebacker Avery Williamson (88).