The Georgia Bulldogs had a bittersweet Senior Night game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday night, blowing out the hapless Wildcats 59-17 but not before losing star quarterback Aaron Murray in the second quarter to an ACL tear that ended his senior season two games prematurely.
Murray’s night started out as good as it could get, as the senior lit up the Wildcats’ defense for 129 yards and 4 touchdowns with 13 completions on just 14 attempts to put the Bulldogs up 28-10. However, the situation changed on Georgia’s third drive of the second quarter; Murray drove the Bulldogs down the field thanks to 5 completions for 54 yards but would take a shot from Wildcats defensive end Za’Darius Smith on a play in which Kentucky linebacker Khalid Henderson would make an interception, leaving Murray reeling on the field. Unable to put weight on his leg, Murray was carried off the field by trainers and taken to a local hospital for an MRI.
Although Murray’s exit was understandably upsetting and disappointing for the Georgia players in fans, the Bulldogs did not miss a beat without him thanks to the play of junior quarterback Huston Mason. Often compared to the situation the Bulldogs faced with David Greene and D.J. Shockley back in the early 2000’s, Mason has been praised by head coach Mark Richt and showed that it will more than likely be his job to lose in 2014, torching Kentucky’s defense with 189 yards through the air, a twenty-four yard touchdown pass to Todd Gurley just before halftime, and a one-yard rushing touchdown early in the third quarter. Despite the Wildcats’ struggles in 2013, the situation that Mason was pushed into certainly was not a comfortable one, yet he stood tall and helped the Bulldogs’ close out a blowout win.
As impressive as Georgia’s offense was in this contest, the play of the Dawgs on defense certainly deserves some kudos. The Bulldogs have struggled throughout the 2013 campaign with causing turnovers, but you would not have known that was the case by looking at Saturday night’s win. It seemed as if any time the Wildcats’ offense allowed Georgia the chance to knock the ball out they did so, shown in Kentucky’s three turnovers in this matchup. While Georgia’s defense as a whole played extremely well against the Wildcats, sophomore safety Josh Harvey-Clemons played like the unit’s MVP in this one, finishing the game with 6 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble. The efforts from Harvey-Clemons and the other ten men on the Bulldogs’ defense led to Georgia getting the win as well as holding an FBS opponent to under twenty points for the first time since beating Georgia Tech 42-10 last November.
The victory over Kentucky pushes Georgia’s record to 7-4 on the season with just one regular season game left: Saturday’s meeting in Atlanta against the 7-4 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the rivalry aptly named Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. The Yellow Jackets are looking to end Georgia’s five-game winning streak in a matchup that the Bulldogs have absolutely dominated for more than a decade (Georgia Tech is 1-11 in the last twelve games against Georgia). Although some excited Dawgs fans may believe Georgia will once again roll through Georgia Tech on their way to bowl season, it is important to keep in mind that the Bulldogs’ defense is young and has struggled this year; match this with a triple-option offense that can give even the best of defenses fits, and the result can be scary. Also, Aaron Murray’s absence for this game is very important, as it means Hutson Mason will get his first collegiate start. Can Mason handle the pressure of facing one of the Bulldogs’ biggest rivals? Only time will tell.