LEXINGTON, Ky. — Getting 282 pounds off the ground isn’t easy. Georgia defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs didn’t have a choice.
Stretching every last bit of his 6-foot-2 frame, Dobbs snared a screen pass by Kentucky quarterback Randall Cobb with his massive right hand and held on as he fell to the ground to preserve No. 14 Georgia’s wild 42-38 win over the Wildcats.
“I told myself it’s time to make a play,” Dobbs said. “Some of the coaches say I have the best hands on the team.”
Dobbs may have proved it after Kentucky drove to the Georgia 13 with less than a minute to play. On first down, Cobb drifted back and tried to flip the ball to running back Tony Dixon, a play the Wildcats had run effectively all day.
Not this time.
Georgia’s defense, finally got wise, sniffed it out and Dobbs’ acrobatic play allowed the Bulldogs (8-2, 5-2) to escape.
“They are not always going to be pretty, they’re not always going to be good,” said Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw for a career-high 376 yards and three scores.
Maybe, but wide receiver A.J. Green’s game-winning touchdown catch was both.
Facing 3rd-and-goal at the Kentucky 11 with 2:05 remaining, Stafford took the snap and almost immediately had pressure. Kentucky defensive end Jeremy Jarmon took a swing at Stafford and missed, and the quarterback rolled to his right and waited for something to develop.
Green, seeing his quarterback in trouble, gave Stafford a little head nod and jumped over three Kentucky defenders to make the catch and hold on after getting hit for the sixth — and final — lead change of a wild second half.
“He’s a candid dude with some ups,” Stafford said of Green. “He went up and caught it and he was so calm and cool.”
So was the rest of Georgia’s offense. Knowshon Moreno ran for 123 yards and three scores and wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi atoned for two fourth-quarter fumbles by hauling in a career-high eight receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown to keep Kentucky (6-4, 2-4) from upsetting the Bulldogs for the second time in three years.
“I was frustrated,” Massaquoi said. “I didn’t like the fact that (the fumbles) happened but I didn’t want to ponder on it so it would affect me.”
The Bulldogs needed all the mental toughness they could muster after squandering an early 14-0 lead and appearing to be on the way to a second straight defeat after getting embarrassed by Florida a week earlier.
Kentucky took advantage of some shoddy Georgia special teams and the steady play of Cobb to rally, eventually taking a 24-21 lead on a 9-yard touchdown run by Cobb early in the third quarter.
Cobb, who may have finally taken control of the starting quarterback job after competing with sophomore Mike Hartline for much of the season, finished with 82 yards and three scores while deftly leading the newly installed spread offense.
Yet it was the one play Cobb didn’t make that will stick with him. Cobb said he saw that Dixon was covered on Dobbs’ interception and knew the second he let it go that he should have thrown the ball away.
“This is going to stick with me for a long time,” Cobb said.
It would have stuck with the Bulldogs even longer if not for Dobbs, whose efforts helped the preseason No. 1 restore a little bit of order to the jumbled SEC.
“Everybody did enough, these kinds of victories aren’t so bad,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We certainly have to study everything again and see what went good and what went bad.”
Richt won’t have to look long to figure out the bad.
Kentucky dominated the line of scrimmage, rolling up 226 yards on the ground against the SEC’s second-ranked run defense and keeping Georgia’s high-powered offense off the field. Dixon had 61 yards and two scores for the Wildcats and little-used fullback John Conner had 26 yards and a touchdown and Kentucky had a nearly 10-minute advantage in time of possession.
While Kentucky kept grinding it out, needing 76 plays to churn out 331 yards of offense, the Bulldogs kept hitting big play after big play. Georgia needed just 57 plays to rack up 520 total yards.
Each time the Wildcats took the lead, Georgia would respond with a quick drive to go back in front.
Stafford made sure the Bulldogs made the best use of the few opportunities provided. Kentucky lost top cornerback Trevard Lindley with an injury in the second half, and the Bulldogs took off.
“There are times when one aspect of the team is going to be struggling a bit, and the other parts of the team have to pick them up,” Stafford said. “We were able to do that today. It was just an awesome win.”