HEADLINE

No. 20 Kentucky seeking rare win at No. 1 Georgia

Field Level Media

October 04, 2023 at 2:43 am.

Top-ranked Georgia seeks to extend its national-best winning streak to 23 consecutive games when it battles No. 20 Kentucky on Saturday in Southeastern Conference play at Athens, Ga.

The Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0 SEC) have beaten the Wildcats (5-0, 2-0) 13 consecutive times since losing 34-27 at home in 2009.

Two-time defending national champion Georgia hasn’t looked as formidable as the past few seasons but is once again the class of the SEC as the regular season nears the midway point.

However, the Bulldogs trailed by 10 points early last weekend before rallying for a 27-20 road win over Auburn. Carson Beck tossed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Brock Bowers with 2:52 remaining to win it.

While Bowers (30 receptions, 413 yards) is an accomplished star, Beck is quickly making a name for himself as the quarterback who follows two-time national champion Stetson Bennett.

Beck has passed for 1,497 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He has completed 72.1 percent of his throws.

“I’ve seen a lot of resiliency from him,” Bulldogs guard Tate Ratledge said. “When things aren’t necessarily going our way on offense, he’s always uplifting, always encouraging, never really changes. He just keeps a level head and tries to help us push through that with him.”

The Georgia offense received a boost by having Ladd McConkey on the field for the first time this season against Auburn. The wideout who caught 12 scoring receptions over the previous two seasons had four catches for 38 yards against the Tigers.

Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart is hoping McConkey’s health will hold up after he missed four games with a back injury.

“I just know the medical advice we got was to shut him down. We did that,” Smart said. “He feels like he’s recovered. He feels good. He had to progress last week to the point of full speed. It didn’t bother him. The biggest thing for him now is the conditioning level and all.”

The Georgia defense hasn’t been so stout against the run, allowing 113.4 yards per game and 4.0 per carry.

That’s a concern with Kentucky star running back Ray Davis coming off a career-best 280-yard rushing performance in last Saturday’s 33-14 win over then-No. 22 Florida. That ranks third in school history behind Moe Williams (299 in 1995) and Lynn Bowden (284, 2019).

“I didn’t make history, our O-line made history,” Davis said. “We ran for (329 yards), so as a collective unit we made history. But for me, it was just going into another game and hitting holes and things were opening. I just have to see it right.”

Davis scored four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) against the Gators and feels the offense is just getting cranked up.

“We are evolving and getting better each day,” said Davis, who has 594 rushing yards on the season. “Those (linemen) are getting better. As an offense, we are getting better. We are not going to be content with this performance. We have a lot more left in the tank.”

Smart sure took notice of the performance by Davis.

“He’s an exceptional back. As good a back I’ve seen in a long time,” Smart said. “This guy’s smooth, explosive. He pass protects really well. He protects the ball. He’s aggressive in the way he runs.”

Wildcats quarterback Devin Leary was just 9 of 19 for a season-low 69 yards against the Gators. Leary passed for more than 200 yards in each of Kentucky’s first four games.

Overall, he has completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 1,129 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.