With Georgia on the verge of playing for the Southeastern Conference title and the anticipation of Senior Day in Sanford Stadium, Saturday’s opponent has become somewhat of a third wheel.
Kentucky’s 1-6 conference mark creates a feeling of forgone conclusion. A win clinches a berth to Atlanta to play the Western Division winner on Dec. 3. But the Wildcats have taken two of the last five games against the Bulldogs, most recently a 34-27 win in Athens in 2009.
“People are underestimating Kentucky or whatever, but we have to win this game to get to the championship,” said senior cornerback Brandon Boykin. “They’ll be no drop-off in our play.”
Kentucky beat Georgia 24-20 in the 2006 game played in Lexington. It nearly won again in 2008, with a late Georgia score and interception preserving a 42-38 victory.
“We know we’ve had our struggles with them,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We’ve had many of them kind of go down to the wire. Any time we play Kentucky, we know they’re good enough to beat us, so that hasn’t changed.”
The loss in 2009, a Kentucky comeback due to 14 points off turnovers in the second half, still provides a sinking feeling for many seniors who will be honored Saturday.
There’s too much to lose, Boykin said, to look ahead to rival Georgia Tech or the SEC championship game.
“I don’t want to even think about not being prepared or us not going out and executing like we should,” he said. “We’re just preparing like it’s any other game. They have players that can make plays and if we’re not coming out prepared and excited like any other game, they can score on us.”
MORE THAN A PERSONNEL MATTER: Georgia’s kickoff unit has dramatically improved in the two games following its troubles against Florida on Oct. 29.
The Gators totaled 200 return yards in the 24-20 loss, including a 99-yard touchdown by running back Jeff Demps.
The kickoff woes led the Bulldogs staff to insert defensive starters, such as linebackers Alec Ogletree and Amarlo Herrera, into the unit.
“We overhauled our special teams,” Richt said.
Since then in games versus New Mexico State and Auburn, the unit is giving up an average of 23 yards per return.
The most noticeable changes include a rotation at kicker with Blair Walsh and Brandon Bogotay taking turns kicking off and the inclusion of more starters. Still, former walk-on Blake Sailors and freshman Quintavious Harrow remain with the group and both made significant tackles against Auburn.
“Obviously, the starters are going to bring something,” Sailors said. “It’s not like the walk-ons that were out there before were doing a bad job.”
While crediting the personnel change, Sailors says attention to detail has provided the biggest improvement.
“We’ve been really focusing on doing the little things, reading our indicators and staying in our lanes,” the redshirt sophomore said. “We’re still doing the same thing we were doing; it’s just that guys are focusing on the little things that turn out to be important.”
FORMER WILDCAT TO BE TURNED WRESTLER: Former Chestatee standout running back Lane Vasser, who originally had intentions of playing for Kentucky in 2007, is now in the developmental stages of a promising professional wrestling career.
Vasser’s younger brother, Chase, is a redshirt sophomore linebacker at Georgia. The brothers used to talk frequently about one day playing each other, but Lane’s athletic career changed directions.
He’s been on the World Wrestling Entertainment’s radar for more than a year now.
“The WWE saw potential in Lane,” Chase said. “He’s 6-2, 240 pounds and thick, but he does what little guys do. He does flips and jumps off the ropes. Everybody is attracted to him because he’s so big, but he’s able to do it.”
Lane appeared on two shows in October and a full-time contract with the WWE could come in the future, Chase said.