It has been well documented throughout the season that UK football hasn’t shared the same success as the basketball team in the inexperience department.
En route to setting career highs with 30 completions and 427 yards, Georgia’s junior quarterback, Aaron Murray, led the Bulldogs to a 29-24 victory, as he lit up a Cats’ secondary that at one time featured an entire freshman unit.
“Again, as long as you don’t allow them to throw over your head. That’s the thing, we’ve given up the X plays, which has cost us,” Phillips said. “You don’t want them to run on you. It demoralizes you as a defense. “
We have to help the young guys out by getting some pressure on the quarterback.“
Freshman cornerback Cody Quinn said while the team had a lot of mistakes, it played through them and has to continue to improve.
“I’m learning more, I didn’t play well today, I made too many mistakes,” he said. “The intensity was high and people were competing, and it showed today.”
Unlike last week’s 49-7 loss to Arkansas, where the Cats gave up a career high five touchdowns to senior quarterback Tyler Wilson through three and a half quarters, Saturday played out with the Cats going toe-to-toe with the nation’s No. 11 team.
“This team does not quit,” Phillips said. “Again, we have a young team that comes to practice excited to play, excited to practice, and that’s the type of effort you seen tonight.”
UK came out swinging, as it went 13 plays for 84 yards, ending with the insertion of senior quarterback Morgan Newton in the red zone, where he ran once and completed a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Aaron Boyd thereafter. Newton’s score was UK’s first offensive touchdown in the first quarter since the team scored in the 2010 regular season finale against Tennessee.
Georgia’s success through the air was stalled until the end of the first quarter when Murray found junior wide receiver Tavarres King for a 66-yard touchdown, a play UK defensive coordinator Rick Minter recalled from 1993 when he was at Notre Dame and Georgia head coach Mark Richt at Florida State.
Although it was a pass play that got things rolling for the Cats, it was the run that set the tone throughout the night’s loss.
Newton scampered into the end zone for his second score with 11:54 remaining in the second half to give UK a 14-7 advantage.
King would soon strike again on a one-yard reception, but the extra point was missed, allowing the Cats to continue with a 14-13 lead.
The Georgia defense, without senior linebacker Jarvis Jones, forced the Cats two punt on two ensuing possessions, giving Murray one last chance to drive the field for a late-half score.
With help continued aid from King, he got the Bulldogs to the eight-yard line for a field goal that pinged off the upright to give the away team a 16-14 advantage at halftime.
The Cats’ third quarter produced only an early field goal for a short-lived lead. Another series of throws by the Bulldog’s Murray culminated with him finding sophomore wide receiver Chris Conley, who escaped defenders for the Bulldogs final lead obtaining score of the night.
Midway through the fourth the Bulldogs’ passing game found the end zone again for a 12-point edge over the Cats.
UK’s following drive allowed Sanders and George to move the Cats down the field.
On a run off the right side, Sanders scored from three yards out, cutting the lead to five with 3:59 remaining.
As the Cats watched the onside kick attempt roll toward its players, two UK special team players leveled the oncoming Bulldogs, only for redshirt sophomore Connor Norman to dive over the Cats to obtain possession before it passed 10 yards.
“He was just waiting for the ball to cross 10 yards. Heads up play by him. Waiting, waiting, waiting. He thought the ball was across the 10 yard line,” Phillips said. “We didn’t get enough speed on the ball, the proper speed that we needed to get it executed.”
Despite getting one more possession, the Cats’ senior wide receiver La’Rod King was swarmed by defenders before having an opportunity to toss a lateral for some late game magic.
Sophomore running back Jonathan George led the way on the ground for the Cats with 12 carries for 87 yards — a career high. Senior Raymond Sanders followed him with his 73 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The quarterbacks of Newton and Whitlow tacked on a combined 62 rushing yards with a touchdown.
“I thought (offensive line) did a good job of opening up some holes,” Phillips said. “The running backs did a good job of getting behind their pads and continued to drive their feet and legs. But the credit goes to the guys up front.”
A power running game was one that was importantly stressed this week, according to George.
“The coaches emphasized to us that we have to come out and run the ball to have a chance to win this game. We all had the mindset to come out aggressive.”
With another loss in the books for UK, it is now assured of not making a bowl game for a second consecutive season.
Like Georgia from the week prior, the Cats await a Missouri team that gets to relish in the benefits of a week off.
“We got to get our troops healed up and get them ready to go back out there,” Phillips said.
“I can tell you this, those young guys are going to fight their tails off for those seniors who have been with us for a long time.”