Georgia vs. Kentucky: An Underrated Rivalry
The history of Georgia versus Kentucky football pales in comparison to the Bulldogs’ rivalries with Auburn, Georgia Tech, Florida, Tennessee, and several others. This is abundantly clear, just on the sheer fact that the Bulldogs have a commanding 49-11-2 series lead between the two teams.
Some Georgia fans think of this matchup as more than just a mere football game.
Until a few years ago, many Bulldog fans made memorable trips to Lexington, Kentucky, when the game was held in late October and often at night. The Georgia faithful would watch horse races at Keeneland during the day and their Dogs at Stoll Field, and later Commonwealth Stadium, at night.
This every-other-year ritual ended in 2003 when the game moved to the month of November,a time of the year when Keeneland is closed.
Nevertheless, there is some rich football history between the Dogs and the Wildcats.
Facing Kentucky every season since 1956, Georgia has played only five other schools more than the Wildcats. In the 62 games, there have been thrilling victories, intriguing developments, and rare occurrences that make the Georgia-Kentucky football series more appealing than the average college football fan would expect.
I countdown, what are in my opinion, the 10 greatest Georgia-Kentucky games in history:
10) 1966: Georgia 27, Kentucky 15
On Georgia’s Homecoming and a day when mascot Uga I was replaced by his son, Uga II, Coach Vince Dooley’s Bulldogs found themselves trailing in the second half by a score of 15-14.
In the third quarter, quarterback Kirby Moore suffered an ankle injury and third-stringer Lynn Hughes was inserted.
Hughes had been Georgia’s leading passer on Dooley’s first team two years earlier but had not played quarterback in a full year. Normally a safety on defense, Hughes would eventually be named a consensus first-team All-SEC defensive back in 1966. An award he won for the second consecutive season.
Playing quarterback, Hughes promptly sparked Georgia’s offense, and his 10-yard scoring run and two-point conversion pass to Sandy Johnson in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs a 22-15 lead. Georgia would add a Bob Etter field goal and a safety in the final minutes.
Despite the somewhat close final score, the Bulldogs held a 379-122 advantage over the Wildcats in total yardage.
9) 1946: Georgia 28, Kentucky 13
In the first of only two meetings between the teams when both were ranked in the AP Poll (the second coming more than 60 years later in 2007), No. 8 Georgia was a slight favorite over No. 19 Kentucky, who was coached by a young, 32-year old Paul “Bear” Bryant.
The Wildcats scored a touchdown on the opening drive and then blocked a Georgia punt and began their drive at the Bulldogs’ 25-yard line.
The turning point of the game was Georgia end Joe Tereshinski—the first of four Tereshinskis to play at UGA—stopping Kentucky on four consecutive plays following the blocked kick and the Wildcats turning the ball over on downs.
The Bulldogs scored three consecutive touchdowns on a run by Charley Trippi, a fumble return by Johnny Rauch, and a run by Rauch.
After the Wildcats had pulled within eight points in the final quarter, Trippi caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Rauch to seal a Georgia victory. Besides a rushing and receiving touchdown, the sophomore Trippi, playing in only his third game on Georgia’s varsity, also completed four of six passes for 52 yards.
The loss would be the first of 17 games that “Bear” Bryant would coach at Kentucky, Texas A&M, or Alabama against Georgia. In his career against the Bulldogs, the legendary coach recorded a 12-5 mark, including 2-2 while at Kentucky.
8) 1994: Georgia 34, Kentucky 30
After being upset by Vanderbilt on its Homecoming day, Georgia looked forward to facing a dismal Kentucky squad. The Wildcats were averaging only 15 points and 279 total yards per game and were two-touchdown underdogs to the Bulldogs at home.
Nevertheless, it took a late Georgia rally and a Kentucky turnover in the final seconds to bring victory to the Bulldogs.
The Wildcats’ offense might have been bad, but Georgia’s defense was even worse as Kentucky compiled 425 yards and four touchdowns.
With 6:30 remaining in the game, the ‘Cats took a 30-27 lead when Georgia’s Eric Zeier was intercepted by Van Hiles. Van Hiles promptly returned the senior quarterback’s errant pass 61 yards for a touchdown. Zeier was picked off twice during the game, but finished with 420 passing yards and two touchdowns on 36 of 51 passing.
It took Zeier only five plays to move Georgia 66 yards for a touchdown, coming on a 28-yard pass to Hason Graham. Graham had 10 catches for 157 yards and hauled in both of Zeier’s touchdown tosses.
The upstart Kentucky offense would not quit, driving into Georgia territory late in the game, trailing 34-30. Carlos Yancy clinched the Bulldogs’ fifth win of the season by intercepting Kentucky’s Jeff Speedy at the 15-yard line with just 13 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats would finish the ’94 season with a 1-10 record, including losing their final 10 games by an average of more than 26 points per defeat.
7) 1977: Kentucky 33, Georgia 0
The ’77 game is memorable to Georgia and Kentucky fans for different reasons.
For the Wildcats, the 33-0 drubbing still ranks as Georgia’s worst defeat to Kentucky and the last victory for the ‘Cats in Athens. The eighth-ranked Wildcats would eventually finish the season 10-1, ranked sixth in the nation, and remain likely the greatest Kentucky team in history.
For the Bulldogs, the disturbing loss was one of six during the ’77 season—the only losing campaign of 25 years during the Coach Vince Dooley era. Georgia was held to eight first downs and 127 total yards, including just 47 rushing—the Bulldogs’ lowest rushing total since gaining 42 yards against Miami (Fla) more than 11 years before.
Regardless of the final score, the game was significant because of its halftime show honoring England’s Prince Charles.
The 28-year-old prince had been touring various parts of the United States and had been in Charleston, South Carolina the morning of the game, before flying into Athens.
As Prince Charles walked onto the field at Sanford Stadium during halftime, similarly to how Georgia fans chant “damn good dog” for mascot Uga, “damn good prince” was cheered by much of the sold-out crowd.
Also during halftime, James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, sang and danced to “Dooley’s Junkyard Dogs” in what would eventually be Georgia’s worst regular-season defeat in more than 15 years.
6) 2000: Georgia 34, Kentucky 30
A banged-up Georgia team played at Kentucky without its star quarterback Quincy Carter. Playing in Carter’s place was Cory Phillips—a sophomore who had thrown just six passes, completing two, in his collegiate career.
Phillips’ inexperienced showed early as he completed just one of his first six passes and the Wildcats had an early 13-0 lead. Then the young quarterback caught fire.
Late in the third quarter with the score tied 20-20, Phillips completed an 85-yard touchdown to freshman Damien Gary.
Kentucky’s own young quarterback, freshman Jared Lorenzen, who stood at 6'4" and 275 pounds, answered with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Quentin McCord. Lorenzen guided the Wildcat offense to 620 total yards against a Georgia defense that entered the game ranked eighth in the nation, yielding just 268.3 yards per game.
It was Georgia’s defense, however, that sealed a 34-30 victory when Lorenzen was intercepted for the second time by Cory Robinson with 45 seconds left in the game.
Phillips finished the game with 400 yards passing and four touchdowns, tying a school record.
Four games later against Georgia Tech, Phillips would pass for 413 yards. To date, besides Eric Zeier, he is the only Georgia player in history to have more than one 400-yard passing performance in his career.
Lorenzen, nicknamed the “Hefty Lefty,” would finish his career at Kentucky in 2003, passing for 1,250 yards, seven touchdowns, and adding three rushing touchdowns against the Bulldogs in four games. Even so, Lorenzen and the Wildcats were 0-4 against Georgia.
5) 1940: Kentucky 7, Georgia 7
In the first night game ever played by a Georgia team in Athens, the Bulldogs entered having lost two straight, while favored Kentucky was undefeated at 4-0-1.
Coach Wally Butts, in his second season at Georgia, had a personal rivalry with Kentucky Coach A.D. Kirwan, since both had been coaches at high schools in Louisville, Kentucky several years before.
Approximately 16,000 spectators in Sanford Stadium witnessed the Wildcats hold a 7-0 lead until late in the contest. With a few minutes remaining, Georgia took possession at its own 49-yard line and sophomore sensation Frank Sinkwich took over the game.
Sinkwich completed two passes for 33 yards and rushed four times for 18 yards, including a one-yard scoring run with 2:23 left.
Eighteen years before college football adopted the two-point conversion, Georgia’s Leo Costa’s point-after kick tied the game that eventually ended in a 7-7 deadlock.
4) 1987: Georgia 17, Kentucky 14
Only days after undergoing angioplasty to remove blockage in his arteries, Coach Vince Dooley and his Bulldogs hosted Kentucky on Homecoming.
Looking for its first SEC road win since 1984, Kentucky scored touchdowns on its first two possessions and had a 14-3 lead at the half.
At halftime, senior Georgia quarterback James Jackson was benched in favor of backup Wayne Johnson. Johnson came in and rushed for a touchdown midway through the third quarter to cut Kentucky’s lead to four points.
With six minutes left to play in the game, Georgia freshman Rodney Hampton was stopped on fourth-and-inches on the Wildcats’ seven-yard line. Kentucky was forced to punt after three plays.
Starting from the Wildcat 49-yard line, Johnson quickly moved the team for the go-ahead touchdown. Lars Tate scored from five yards out on a sweep with 1:08 left and Georgia possessed a 17-14 advantage it would not relinquish.
Hampton finished the game with almost twice as many rushing yards than any other player, gaining 123 yards on 19 carries. Georgia’s defense, after allowing 200 yards in the first half, yielded only 33 in the second.
3) 1988: Kentucky 16, Georgia 10
Alfred Rawls, a first-team all-state running back for Wilcox County High School in Rochelle, Georgia, signed with UGA in 1986 to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Herschel Walker. However, more than two years later, it was Rawls who would haunt, not help, the Bulldogs against Kentucky.
Rawls could not enter UGA because he did not meet the NCAA’s minimum academic standards. After two years at an Oklahoma junior college, Rawls decided not to enroll at Georgia because the Dogs were stacked at the tailback position. He chose Kentucky instead.
In 1988, the Bulldogs met the Wildcats as the 11th- ranked in the nation and eyeing an SEC title. Kentucky had a 2-4 record, were losers of eight consecutive SEC games, and had not defeated Georgia since 1977.
Trailing 10-7 in the third quarter, Rawls sprinted 48 yards down the sideline for a Wildcat touchdown as time expired in the quarter.
Down 13-10, Georgia could not muster any offense in the final quarter and Kentucky went on to win, 16-10.
Rawls out-dueled Georgia’s star tailback and Heisman Trophy-candidate, Tim Worley. Rawls rushed for 128 yards on 15 carries while Worley was limited to 99 yards on 19 rushes.
2) 1998: Georgia 28, Kentucky 26
In a battle of future NFL quarterbacks, Kentucky outplayed Georgia for most of the game but it was the 11th-ranked Bulldogs who were victorious in the end.
Kentucky’s Tim Couch quickly led the Wildcats to a 10-0 first quarter lead. However, Georgia quarterback Quincy Carter would then guide the Bulldogs to four touchdowns on four consecutive possessions. Midway through the third quarter, Georgia had a 28-20 advantage.
Late in the same stanza, Kentucky’s Derek Homer scored on a one-yard plunge to pull the ‘Cats within two points of the Dogs. In a bid to tie the game on a two-point try, Homer was stopped just shy of the goal line.
Protecting the two-point lead and trying to run out the clock, Georgia’s Ronnie Bradley fumbled at the Wildcat 24-yard line late in the ballgame.
Couch promptly moved Kentucky into field goal range with only a few seconds showing on the clock.
Holder Matt Mumme, son of head coach Hal Mumme, mishandled a bad snap and kicker Seth Hanson never got to try a 50-yard game-winning attempt. Mumme grabbed the low snap, rolled to his right, and threw a desperation pass that was intercepted by Larry Mann.
Couch threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns as the Kentucky offense rolled up 530 total yards.
Georgia’s Carter was brilliant, completing 10 of 14 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 114 yards on 14 carries, including a 49-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
In more than 11 years since the game, Carter’s rushing effort is the last time a Georgia quarterback rushed for 100+ yards in a single game and is one of only two such performances by a Bulldog quarterback since 1976.
1) 1978: Georgia 17, Kentucky 16
The 1978 Georgia Bulldogs were known as the “Wonderdogs.” Most preseason prognosticators predicted Georgia would finish close to or at the bottom of the SEC; however, the Wonderdogs came into the Kentucky game with a 5-1 record and were ranked 16th in the country.
Looking to build upon the 33-0 embarrassing defeat it dealt Georgia in Athens the year before, Kentucky led 16-0 midway through the third quarter.
With 6:49 remaining in the third, Georgia’s Willie McClendon, the SEC’s leading rusher, scored on a three-yard run. In the fourth quarter, quarterback Jeff Pyburn passed to tight end Ulysses Norris for a six-yard touchdown with 10:09 left. Rex Robinson’s PAT cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to two points.
With just over four minutes remaining, Kentucky kicker Tommy Griggs, who missed a PAT earlier, failed on his second critical kick of the contest, missing a 42-yard field goal.
Behind runs by McClendon and pass completions from Pyburn to Amp Arnold and Lindsay Scott, Georgia drove to the Wildcats’ 12-yard line in 12 plays.
With only seconds remaining in the game, Robinson’s 29-yard field goal was just successful, edging inside the left upright. The Wonderdogs had struck again, barely escaping Lexington with a 17-16 victory.
Perhaps more acclaimed than Robinson’s winning kick and the one-point comeback win by Georgia, is the radio call by legendary broadcaster Larry Munson, who hollered as Robinson’s field goal was successful, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!...The bench is unconscious. He kicked the whatchamacallit out of it!”