Ealey produces school-record five rushing touchdowns
By Seth Emerson
LEXINGTON, Ky. — As Washaun Ealey limped to the sideline Saturday night, he was not alone. At every step he was met by another teammate or coach, there to slap him on the helmet or somewhere else.
At that moment, the tailback symbolized where the Georgia football team’s season had been, and where it may be going.
Four weeks ago, the Georgia football team was assumed finished by many, and Ealey was in tailback purgatory. After Saturday’s 44-31 win at Kentucky, the Bulldogs are officially back in the hunt, and Ealey is in the Bulldogs’ record book.
Ealey set a school record with five rushing touchdowns in a game, breaking a record held for 13 years by Robert Edwards. Ealey also tied Edwards’ record for most touchdowns (five) in a game.
“I feel like I’m doing stuff that I should’ve been doing all season,” said Ealey, who said a couple late-game injuries were nothing serious. “Right now, we’re on a roll, and hopefully we can stay that way.”
It wasn’t the prettiest record-breaking performance: When Ealey scored his fifth touchdown, he still didn’t have 100 yards on the night. A few late runs pushed his total to 157.
But given the previous struggles of Ealey and the Bulldogs (4-4, 3-3 SEC), they will take it. With the win, they remained a half-game out of first place in their division, entering next week’s game against Florida.
Ealey, the team’s leading rusher last season, was suspended for the opener this season after an arrest. Then he lost his starting job because of two critical fumbles. He only got to start the past two games because of fellow tailback Caleb King’s arrest, but he took advantage.
“Washaun, man, he’s not the type of guy to get down on himself,” Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green said. “I don’t care what he does, he’s going to keep talking trash. He can fumble five times, he’ll still go ‘I’m the best, I’m the best.’ “
It was also the first time Georgia scored 40-plus points against three straight SEC foes. But offense took a backseat in this one:
Georgia was the beneficiary of Kentucky’s three first-half fumbles. In the first half, Georgia’s average starting position was the Kentucky 15.
“I was joking around after we had the kickoff return: We’ve had four plays, and we have 14 plays on the board; that’s pretty good right there,” quarterback Aaron Murray said.
It started on the first drive, when Georgia recovered a fumble at the Kentucky 24.
Justin Houston got to Hartline first and was credited with the sack. But DeAngelo Tyson also applied a hit and forced the ball loose.
Three plays later, Ealey converted a third-and-short by barreling for 13 yards, setting up his 3-yard touchdown run.
After a Kentucky field goal, Brandon Boykin struck. His 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the third of his career.
“When we got in the huddle, I told everybody, ‘You just give me 2 seconds. You just hold your blocks for 2 seconds. I promise you I’m going to get through it,’ ” Boykin said. “And everybody made a commitment to do that, and it was pretty after that.”
Then it was time for another Kentucky fumble.
Kentucky’s La’Rod King caught a pass and lumbered into Georgia territory. But before he could go down, Bacarri Rambo stripped the ball loose. Sanders Commings picked it up and returned it to Kentucky’s 34.
Ealey followed with a touchdown.
Later, the field got even shorter: Kentucky muffed a pitch-out, and Houston pounced on the loose ball at the 5. Ealey punched it in again, and it was 28-3.
“To be a great defense you’ve got to get turnovers,” Houston said. “We want to be a great defense, and we’re starting to be a great defense.”
Kentucky (4-4, 1-4) still made the game dicey in the second half, rallying within 34-17 late in the third quarter. But an onside kick try was knocked out of bounds, and the result was a quick drive and Ealey’s final touchdown of the game.
Kentucky kept plugging away and did recover an onside kick with 1:20 left. But four plays later, an incompletion officially ended any hopes.
“I feel like we’re really going to turn this around,” Green said. “This is going to be a special season.”