LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky played in front of its biggest home crowd of the season with first place in the SEC East on the line, and yet, coach Mark Stoops and several players said the team lacked an “edge.”
Two weeks after a last-second kick saved Kentucky and sent the Commonwealth Stadium crowd into elation, a chip shot Georgia field goal sent fans packing in an ending that failed to live up to the dramatic events before it.
It looked every bit the expected close game between two closely matched sides. The scoreboard showed as much, but the lack of “edge” Stoops and his players talked about was invisible until the postgame comments.
“I really didn’t feel like we had an edge about us today,” Stoops said after the loss. “I just didn’t like, just a certain look in our eye. I think our players wanted it to happen, I don’t know, I just got to do a better job of getting them to play with that mentality, with that edge and that urgency that it takes.”
Quarterback Stephen Johnson completed just 10 passed for 103 yards, but his finest moments were erased by the turnovers that have terrorized but not cost Kentucky up until Saturday night.
Receiver Garrett Johnson fumbled on what could’ve been a big play catch in the third quarter. A possession later, Stephen Johnson hit Jeff Badet in stride only to see the ball bounce from his hands and into the hands of a Georgia defender.
But the plays weren’t pointed to — effort was.
“I think we had more fight some other games,” Johnson said. “Like I think (Stoops) said, we expected to win this game. We didn’t fight to win this game.”
Georgia outscored Kentucky 14-3 in the final 25 minutes. The Wildcats were on the field eight minutes longer than the Bulldogs and it was up to the defense to make the final stop.
“The edge,” senior safety Marcus McWilson repeated Stoops’ word. “It was there sometimes. It wasn’t there all the time… You’ve got one guy walking around. And then maybe another, then another. It’s like a domino effect. It just spirals out of control.”
That edge snapped Kentucky’s three-game winning streak. Its bowl-clinching win — prolonged at least another week. Kentucky beating Georgia is not often the expectation, but it was Saturday night for the Wildcats.
And in a strange twist of fate the expectation was Kentucky’s detriment.