Season High: UK knocks off reigning SEC champ

Keenan Burton was hugging everyone who extended their arms toward him.

Jacob Tamme was crying seemingly uncontrollable tears of joy as he embraced family, friends and strangers.

Dicky Lyons Jr. found his dad and shared what Dicky Lyons Sr. called “the greatest moment” in either of their UK careers.

For the members of the UK football team, it was that kind of feeling.

Behind a 3-yard touchdown run by Tony Dixon with one minute remaining and a game-clinching interception by Trevard Lindley on the following drive, UK defeated defending Southeastern Conference champion Georgia 24-20 Saturday afternoon in Commonwealth Stadium in a game that broke the players, coaches and a goal post down.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am for the players, particularly the seniors,” head coach Rich Brooks said. “(With) what they’ve been through, for them to get a win like this against a team that Kentucky hasn’t beaten a lot in recent years is, I think, a signature win for them that they can remember for a lot of years.”

The win, UK’s first over Georgia in 10 years, moved UK into third place in the SEC East. The victory also gave the Cats their first winning record at this point in the season since 2002, and moved them within one game of becoming bowl-eligible. They can seal a postseason berth Saturday against Vanderbilt.

“We wanted to prove that Kentucky is changing and is on the rise,” tailback Alfonso Smith said. “Our team came together and proved that today.”

The game was still undecided when Georgia (6-4 overall, 3-4 SEC) scored with four minutes left to play on a 3-yard Danny Ware run, giving the Bulldogs a 20-17 lead.

But UK (5-4, 3-3) marched back down the field on an 11-play, 69-yard drive that culminated with Dixon’s run.

Dixon, who didn’t start because of a hamstring injury, replaced Smith in the third quarter after the freshman suffered a shoulder injury. The two combined to rush for 147 yards, UK’s second best rushing output of the season.

“Tony came off hobbling all week long with his leg, and ran his fanny off and got it in the end zone,” Brooks said. “We did a great job finding creases and holes and making plays.”

The Cats fell behind 14-3, which has been downfall for them in games past, but rallied behind the hands of senior wide receiver Keenan Burton.

Burton caught a 5-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter and then hauled in a 10-yard strike in the fourth quarter that gave the Cats their first lead of the game.

“Without Keenan, we would have lost this game,” Lyons said. “He was the player of the game, in my opinion.”

Both teams may have scored more if not for their own errors.

Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a second-quarter interception to UK linebacker Johnny Williams on the Bulldogs’ 5-yard line. But the Cats failed to take advantage of the Bulldog blunder after UK quarterback Andre Woodson tossed an interception of his own three plays later.

Following the pick, Georgia drove down to the UK 2-yard line but stalled when Stafford threw another interception, this time to UK safety Roger Williams.

Earlier in the week, Georgia head coach Mark Richt talked about how turnovers have plagued his team throughout the season. On Saturday, the trend continued as his team threw three interceptions and lost one fumble.

“We’ve turned it over way too much,” Richt said earlier in the week. “If we don’t quit turning it over, I don’t think we’ll win another game.”

When Lindley, a Georgia native, turned Stafford’s pass in the final minute into Georgia’s fourth turnover, the crowd of 62,120 erupted, knowing the game that would define Brooks’ tenure at UK thus far was won.

“A win like this against a team Kentucky hasn’t beaten in years is a signature win for them, and they’ll remember it for a lot of years,” Brooks said. “We’re 5-4 and 3-3 in the SEC East, and we’re ahead of Georgia in the standings. It’s been a long time since Kentucky’s been in that position.”