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UGA Clinches in Style

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Georgia's performance was a testament to both toughness and tradition.

With a division title and a trip to the SEC Championship Game on the line, Georgia turned to a tried-and-true method, a brand that has long defined the Bulldogs: dominating at the point of attack. Georgia absolutely overwhelmed Kentucky in the trenches, outrushing the Wildcats 331 yards to 84. The Bulldogs, winning 34-17, left no doubt in Lexington. Georgia's performance was a testament to both toughness and tradition.   

In dominating an early contest at South Carolina, the Bulldogs took their first steps to Atlanta back in September; on Saturday, they sprinted the rest of the way.

Though Kentucky's Benny Snell, the SEC's leading rusher, was the story entering the weekend, Georgia's duo of D'Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield stole the show. Together, they ran 34 times for 271 yards and three touchdowns. The end result was a new team-high in rushing production. Defensively, the Bulldogs limited Snell to 73 yards on 20 carries. Georgia won both sides of the line of scrimmage, averaging 6.6 yards per rush compared to 2.4 for the Wildcats. Swift averaged 9.8 yards an attempt; Kentucky's longest run was eleven yards.

Dealing with nagging injuries this fall, Swift was healthy and, furthermore, dynamic. His first touchdown of the game was an instant-highlight, with two decisive cuts leaving defenders staggered in the open field. Swift later added an 83-yard score, one of the longest bursts in program history. He, for the day, finished with a career-high 156 yards. Individually, Swift's return-to-form only adds to Georgia's stretch-run momentum.  

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney made running the football Georgia's clear priority. The Bulldogs had 50 rushing attempts, while Jake Fromm threw only 20 passes. Mel Tucker's defense forced the Wildcats into dramatic scheme adjustments, bringing extra defenders into the box to limit Snell's success. From the top down, Kirby Smart wanted Georgia's physicality to be the difference against a team known for fundamental play. In a test of strengths, the Bulldogs flexed their muscle.

Georgia's 34 points were the most scored against Kentucky, previously tied with Clemson for the national lead in scoring defense, since former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson's regular season finale. The Bulldogs showed, with great conviction, who the best team in the SEC East is; Georgia held a commanding 28-3 advantage late in the third quarter. After a Mecole Hardman punt return setup a touchdown less than five minutes into play, the Bulldogs controlled the game.

Stylistically, Saturday's stand was an effort for the ages. Countless program wins have followed a similar script. At a place regarded as Running Back U, Georgia ran past and through one of the nation's best defenses to claim yet another division crown. For all of the hype, the stage and the circumstances, the Bulldogs simply did what they do best. If Georgia's mettle was tested, gold may prove to be the ultimate measure. 

The Bulldogs are back in the SEC Championship Game. A vintage showcase has come with more of the same.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports