Saturday's home finale against Kentucky already promised to be an emotional one for the Georgia Bulldogs and their legions of fans.
For 23 seniors, the 7:45 contest (ESPN2) will be their last in the friendly confines of Sanford Stadium.
But following Thursday's news that mascot Uga VII died in Savannah of an apparent heart attack, the tone for what was already going to be a memorable day for some takes on a somber note.
Oh, it's also a game the Bulldogs (6-4, 4-3) certainly need to win.
Although Georgia is guaranteed a bowl for the 13th straight year, the Bulldogs would no doubt like to move up in the pecking order, along with gain some added momentum going into next week's game at arch-rival Georgia Tech.
"It's a big game for us, no doubt," said head coach Mark Richt, who noted that his Bulldogs with a win can finish second in the SEC East behind Florida.
"I think the guys would take great pride at this point finishing second in the Eastern Division," he continued. "It's certainly something we can contain and something we can control. I think that is meaningful."
Rich Brook's Wildcats (6-4, 2-4) are in the same boat as the Bulldogs.
Kentucky is bowl eligible for the fourth year in a row, the first time that's ever happened in school history.
"Well, I think it's a tribute to the senior class that we have. This will be the fourth non-losing season, and if we win one more it should be the fourth winning season in a row. But the fourth non-losing season in a row, and that hasn't happened in 53 years," Brooks said. "That's a pretty significant thing. Bowl eligibility, there weren't as many bowls (back then), but there also weren't as many division one teams playing back when that streak was set. But the bottom line is whatever the circumstances are and this senior class has achieved something that no one else in school history has achieved."
Both teams could possibly be without key personnel.
Georgia will certainly be without All-Sec receiver [db]A.J. Green, who suffered an AC sprain in his left shoulder in last week's 31-24 win over Auburn, while Kentucky is unsure as to the status of its top playmaker, sophomore receiver/quarterback Randall Cobb.
Cobbs will be a game-time decision, according to Brooks.
"The doctors will advise me on what the best scenario is and we'll go from there," Brooks said of Cobbs, who is suffering from a bruised shoulder.
"It had been bothering him before the (Vanderbilt) game. It's a tough job when you take as many hits as those guys do. He's not the biggest guy in the world," Brooks said. "He is one of the most talented, but he's not one of the biggest."
Cobbs certainly gave Georgia all sorts of fits last year in Lexington, rushing 18 times for 82 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 12 of 20 passes for 105.
Freshman Morgan Newton is slated to start at quarterback for Kentucky, the Bulldogs fully expect to see Cobbs under center as well.
He leads the team in pass receiving (32 catches for 384 yards and two touchdowns) and is second on the team in rushing with 396 yards and seven touchdowns.
"He's a special type of guy," Georgia defensive end Cornelius Washington said. "They put him at receiver sometimes and then at quarterback so he is that hybrid type of guy. We are preparing for him as much as we can, so we just have to do what we can and hope for the best."
Based on Georgia's resurgent ground game, don't be surprised to see the Bulldogs rely on the run to keep Cobbs and the UK offense off the field.
Georgia registered 169 yards rushing against Auburn after rumbling for 304 the week before against Tennessee Tech.
Freshman Washaun Ealey bulled his way to a career-best 98 yards, while Caleb King earned the second start of his career, scored twice and ran for 68 yards.
"They run the ball very well, and they play action as well as anybody in the passing game. That will be a challenge for the defense - the lead sprint draw or the sprint draw pass. The recognition of those two things, attacking the run when they are running it, and getting the linebackers in pass coverage when they are throwing the ball," Brooks said. "That is something that will take a lot of discipline and work this week for our defense. Defensively, they are one of the leading teams sacking the quarterback as well as tackles for loss. Offensively, we have been challenged a little bit and we struggle to overcome negative plays. We cannot allow a lot of those, or we are going to have a difficult time."
NOTES: Georgia comes into Saturday's contest ranked third in the SEC against the run giving up an average of 120.3 points per game. The Wildcats rank next-to-last in rushing defense, allowing 177.6 yards per contest.
Uga VII will be laid to rest in a private ceremony sometimes Saturday morning before the 7:45 kickoff against Kentucky. UGA officials and the Seiler family have asked that the exact time of the ceremony not be announced.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!