Every week, UGASports.com teams up with 11Alive.com and hands out grades for Georgia’s football game, and this week, with the Dawgs back in the win column, it’s a happier review.
This is our report card from a 27-24 win over Kentucky.
Freshman Jacob Eason threw for only 131 yards against the Florida Gators last week but bounced back against the Wildcats with a 245-yard performance. The past three games for Eason have been a roller coaster in terms of grades, with a ‘B’ against Vanderbilt, a ‘D’ against Florida, and now a ‘B’ against Kentucky. There were moments he was off target in Lexington, and the freshman has shown that growing pains are a real thing when you are starting at quarterback in the SEC. He has also shown tons of promise and why he was indeed a five-star recruit. Eason had a nice 38-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie in the first quarter and did not have an interception. The Dawgs needed a big win to keep the season afloat, and Eason helped do just that.
Running Backs: B-
After an abysmal performance from the running backs against the Gators, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel bounced back with a combined 231-yard performance against Kentucky. Michel averaged 6.7 yards a carry and also had a rushing touchdown. The junior seemed to be running with purpose against Kentucky, but his companion, Chubb, looked to be a little out of sorts. Though Chubb had 98 yards, he fumbled the ball twice and still does not look to be the star that everyone grew accustomed to seeing earlier in his career. This group will be up against an extremely talented defensive line next weekend at home against Auburn, so it will be interesting to see if they are able to put up the same type numbers that they did against the Wildcats.
PHOTOS | UGA vs. UK
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B+
Javon Wims finally had his coming-out party against Kentucky, tallying five catches for 90 yards, with a nice 51-yard catch sprinkled in. The Eason-Isaac Nauta connection continues to blossom, and this week was no different. Nauta, a fellow true freshman, caught three passes for 47 yards and looks as if he is going to be a go-to target for Eason in years to come. Another freshman, Riley Ridley, had two drops, something that’s plagued the Dawgs all season, but McKenzie made up for it with a nice 38-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game. If the Bulldogs want to beat the Tigers next weekend, they are going to have to rely heavily on the wide receivers because the running game could stall out very early on.
Offensive Line: B
Offensive line coach Sam Pittman must have lit a fire under his offensive linemen because his group looked much different than they did against Florida last week. Granted, Kentucky’s front seven is not on the level of the Gators, but it was still impressive to see Eason not having to scramble for his life and be able to stand in the pocket and make throws. They also kept Eason’s jersey clean, with no sacks allowed. The run blocking was much improved, and Michel and Chubb capitalized on the line’s ability to get down field. Yes, Kentucky managed several tackles for loss, but, as a whole, this group looked far improved, which is more than we have been able to say in the games leading up to this one.
Overall Offense: B
The offense hit Kentucky in the mouth early with a nice touchdown drive, but they also stalled out at times throughout the game. Eason had a bounce back performance from a game that most fans want to forget ever happened, and Chubb and Michel both got going on the ground. Wims being able to get involved in the passing attack should pay huge dividends down the line, and Nauta looks to already be a grown man playing tight end. The offense still has work to do to become a consistent unit, but, in a week where they needed a win, they were able to get it.
Defensive Line: C
After holding the Gators to 100 yards on 48 carries, the Wildcats gained 186 yards on the ground to go along with three touchdowns. The freshmen duo of David Marshall and Julian Rochester are only getting better, as the former tallied four tackles and a sack, while the latter led the team with eight tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. The fourth quarter was not the defensive line’s best quarter, as they allowed a few wildcat formation rushes to break free. But overall, they did enough to help Georgia win the game.
Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick had seven and six tackles, respectively, but it was a bit of a forgettable performance for each. One of the surprises from the game was Reggie Carter and his eight-tackle performance, which this unit needed at the time. The outside linebackers did not register a tackle for loss or a sack, and Lorenzo Carter did not even register a tackle. If this group plays like this against Auburn on Saturday, they could be in for a long day in Athens.
Sophomore Deandre Baker continues to impress after taking over the right cornerback position from Juwuan Briscoe, as he came up with a much needed interception despite initially looking beat. His counterpart on the left, Malkom Parrish, had a solid night of limiting Kentucky’s wide receivers and broke up a would-be touchdown in the end zone. Kentucky’s quarterback, Stephen Johnson, completed only 50 percent of his passes for 103 yards. Additionally, as a group, the secondary did a good job of stepping up and stopping potentially long runs from breaking free to the end zone.
Overall Defense: B-
The defense did not show up and have as stout of a performance as they did against Florida last weekend, but they were able to hold Kentucky when they needed to in order to win the game. The freshmen on the defensive line continue to impress, and they look like a unit that can-- and will be-- relied on heavily moving forward. While the linebackers did not step up and get pressure that often, the secondary did have an interception and did a good job limiting the Kentucky passing attack. Next weekend against Auburn is going to be a true test for the young front, as the Tigers are unafraid of pounding the ball forward with their running game.
Special Teams: A-
The MVP of the game was the kicker, Rodrigo Blankenship. Yes, you read that right. Blankenship finished 4-4 on field goal attempts, with a 25, 42, 49, and a game-winning 25-yard field goal next to his name. Blankenship also had three of his kickoffs go for touchbacks. The kicking game was a question mark for most of the season, but Blankenship seems to have silenced the critics after his performance against Kentucky. Marshall Long also showed improvement in punting, but Isaiah McKenzie has to be more careful about his decisions to field the ball in the return game, as his fumble was almost very costly for the Bulldogs.