Georgia escaped with a 29-24 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday night, partly due to heads-up play by Connor Norman on a late Kentucky onside kick attempt.
Georgia's Tavarres King (12) wrestles with Kentucky cornerback Cody Quinn (16) to make this pass reception during the first half on Saturday in Lexington, Ky. The catch set up a Georgia touchdown.
After a late touchdown cut the Bulldogs lead to 29-24, Kentucky kicker Joe Mansour caught the nose of the football off the tee and waited behind a wall of Wildcat protectors for the ball to roll the legal 10 yards. Before Mansour could fall on the kick, Norman dived in and fell on the ball to give Georgia possession and seal the victory.
“It was a great play by (Norman),” said Georgia head coach Mark Richt. “Connor was heads up to go in there and snatch it and be strong enough to convince the officials it was his. It was a huge play.”
Norman’s play was one of many bizarre special teams plays for Georgia Saturday night.
Following Georgia’s second touchdown of the night, true freshman Marshall Morgan missed the extra point attempt, leaving Georgia with a 14-13 deficit. The missed extra point was Morgan’s fourth of the season.
“Marshall has struggled on the easy ones really,” Richt said. “The extra points shouldn’t be that way.”
Morgan made up for the miss by bouncing a 27-yard field goal kick off the left upright and through the goalposts to give Georgia a 16-14 halftime lead. With the kick, he improved to 5-for-6 on field goal attempts this season.
“I think (Morgan) has hit the uprights more than anybody in the nation, I would think,” Richt said. “He probably set a school record for that. He’s made most of them that ricochet. That one there had to be in just by a fraction. I saw the official, and I don’t even know if he was sure.
“You practice, and it goes like clockwork. You think you have it solved, and you get in the game, and he pulls it a little bit.”
In the fourth quarter, a Kentucky defender ran into Georgia punter Collin Barber after his punt, giving Georgia a fresh set of downs in a drive that ended with the final Bulldog touchdown of the night just nine plays later.
Keeping up with the Joneses
All-American outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was sidelined for Saturday’s game by an ankle injury, and the Bulldogs lost senior defensive end Abry Jones to an ankle injury in the first quarter.
“It would be nice if Jarvis was back,” said Richt, who was unsure if Jarvis Jones will be able to practice Monday or play next week. “He definitely could not have played tonight. He’s working hard at getting better. We brought him on this trip just to get him as much rehab as we possibly could.”
Richt seemed equally concerned with Abry Jones’ ankle as he did with Jarvis Jones’ injury.
“Abry’s ankle would be the biggest question right now,” Richt said. “I would think everyone else (who suffered injuries Saturday) would recover from what I’ve heard. I think everyone else will be okay.”
True freshman Jordan Jenkins received the second start of his career in place of Jarvis Jones, while the Bulldogs used a handful of lineman and linebackers to suppress the loss of Abry Jones.
“We have plenty of good players at Georgia,” Richt said. “We gotta play good regardless of who’s in there.”
Jenkins registered two tackles, including a half a tackle for loss, against the Wildcats.
“I think (Jenkins) did a good job,” Richt said. “I think he put some pressure on the quarterback at times … I thought he played hard. I thought he got after it. I don’t there were any major issues with him as far as assignments.”
Receivers King, Mitchell have record nights
Along with Aaron Murray’s career night, two of his top targets set records of their own Saturday, and for the first time since the 2010 Florida game, Georgia had two 100-yard receivers in a game.
Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell each set career highs for receptions against the Wildcats.
King caught a career-high nine passes for 188 yards, including six passes for 147 yards in the first half.
“You always want to do the best you can,” said King. “But I wasn’t expecting the numbers to be quite like they were, but I’m excited.”
King hauled in a 66-yard touchdown catch to put the Bulldogs on the board in the first quarter.
“Tavarres played exceptionally well,” Richt said. “That first touchdown he caught, I thought Murray overthrew him when he let it go. But (King) hit the after-burners and got it. He caught it on a dead run, and it was a beautiful play.”
It was King’s fifth career 100-yard game and his second of 2012. He now has 17 career touchdown receptions, which is good for fifth in school history.
Mitchell caught a career-high nine passes for 103 yards. The 100-yard performance caught even the receiver himself by surprise.
“Did I really (get 100 yards)?” Mitchell said. “I caught so many quick passes that I didn’t even realize that. That’s pretty cool.”
He added, “they gave up the inside a lot, so we just tried to take advantage of it. It is fun, but we have to ge the run game in. You don’t want to just keep passing the ball.”
Captains for Saturday’s game were senior nose guard John Jenkins, junior offensive guard Chris Burnette, senior defensive end Abry Jones, and true freshman safety Josh Harvey-Clemons…Abry Jones left the game in the first quarter with a left ankle injury and did not return…Junior Kwame Geathers recorded the first sack of his career in the first half… Georgia’s 97-yard scoring drive in the first quarter was the longest of the season for the Bulldogs. It was the longest drive for Georgia since a 99-yard drive against Ole Miss in 2011…Sophomore Chris Conley caught his first touchdown pass of 2012 and the third of his career in the third quarter…The Bulldogs are now 52-12-2 against Kentucky… Georgia improved to 14-4 under Richt following an open date.