The Wildcats vs. the Bulldogs: A historic matchup


Kentucky Wildcats running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (24) is tackled by a host of UGA defensive players during the University of Kentucky vs. University of Georgia football game on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. UK lost 14-3. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

On Saturday, Oct. 16, Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia, will host a matchup between the final two unbeaten teams in the SEC, as the No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats travel to take on the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs. 

“We are going to need to play our very best,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said. “There’s no question about that when you’re going in to play at Georgia.”

Stoops and the Cats will roll into Athens following a 42-21 drubbing of the LSU Tigers in Lexington to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1950.  

“Proud of the victory, thought our guys played very good this past week,” Stoops said. “We executed well in all areas. Fundamentally, we are doing some very good things, there is a lot to build on.”

The 2021 Kentucky team will look to follow in the footsteps of the Bear Bryant-led 1950 team, and move to 7-0 via victory in the Peach State.  

The 1950 Cats took down Georgia Tech 28-14 in Atlanta behind two touchdown passes from Vito Parilli. The Yellow Jackets went on to finish that season with a 5-6 record. Game seven for the 2021 Cats sees a much more daunting opponent. 

Georgia has allowed just 33 points through six games this season, a measly average of 5.5 points per game. The Bulldogs have allowed just two offensive touchdowns this season and have won their six games by an average of 34.3 points. 

“You see why they’re ranked the number one team in the country, leading and dominating in the defensive statistical categories and playing extremely well offensively. Just a complete football team,” Stoops said. 

Kentucky will come equipped with the SEC’s leading rusher in Chris Rodriguez Jr. as well as the conference’s top receiver in Wan’Dale Robinson, both of whom will be crucial to UK’s success on Saturday. 

“They [the Wildcats] have always been really great at stopping the run and running the ball,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “The weapons they have outside are obviously different, and the backs run so physical and downhill.” 

Rodriguez has accumulated 759 rushing yards on 120 carries, while Robinson’s 37 receptions have helped the Nebraska transfer rack up a league-high 527 yards. 

“The biggest difference is [UK] has a really great supporting cast,” Smart said. 

While Georgia may not have a league-leader in rushing or receiving, they do possess a multitude of talent all over the field.  

“They are so good and talented and can hurt you in so many ways,” Stoops said of the Bulldogs. “You have to take advantage of any and all opportunities that you have.” 

Zamir White leads the way for UGA out of the backfield. The running back has rushed for 354 yards and six touchdowns this season.

Brock Bowers sits atop the Bulldog receiving core, compiling four touchdowns and 315 yards on 20 receptions.

“As a freshman, really impressive player. [Bowers] is the guy that jumps out at you all year,” Stoops said. 

 The Bulldogs’ offense has remained steady under two different quarterbacks this season. Both JT Daniels and Stetson Bennett IV have thrown for a combined 13 touchdowns through six games. Daniels, who was tabbed the starter in preseason, has sat out the last three games due to a grade-one lat strain. Bennett has kept the UGA ship steady in Daniels’ absence. 

“Stetson is doing a great job of managing their offense and making impressive throws when he has to,” Stoops said. “You saw it last week, you see him working it and running their offense.” 

The challenge facing Kentucky is monumental. An opportunity for the Cats to control their own destiny is at stake. For coach Stoops, he’s just focused on what he can control: getting his Cats ready for Saturday.

 “We’re worried about ourselves and our preparation, that’s why we’ve been getting better as the season has progressed because of the way we’ve approached the weeks, the way we approached practice, and that will be no different this week,” Stoops said.