Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (11) runs the ball during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Athens, Ga. Georgia beat Kentucky 19-10 to clinch a spot in the SEC championship game. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
ATHENS -- The game was as ugly as Lee Corso's mouth when he dropped an F-bomb at the end of ESPN's "College GameDay" earlier in the day. But all that matters for Georgia is it can now book a trip to the SEC Championship Game in December.
Blair Walsh kicked four field goals, Aaron Murray and Marlon Brown connected on a fourth quarter touchdown, and the defense played another stellar game Saturday to lead the Bulldogs (9-2, 7-1 SEC) past Kentucky 19-10.
The win clinched the SEC East for Georgia, its fourth division title under head coach Mark Richt in 11 seasons and the first since 2005.
Georgia's defense continued its stout play, giving up just 142 yards in the air and 165 total. The unit was led by Alec Ogletree's nine tackles and one sack.
Linebacker Jarvis Jones helped seal the game by forcing a fumble with 1:13 to go in the third quarter. GAC grad Christian Robinson recovered the ball at Kentucky's 10-yard line to set up the Murray-to-Brown touchdown play.
"I saw our defensive line get pressure, and all of a sudden the ball falls out," Robinson said. "So I jumped on it, and I knew we gave our offense a chance to score."
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said there's no secret to how his unit has played so well recently, giving up just 23 yards rushing Saturday against the Wildcats (4-7, 1-6 SEC).
"Play hard; play physical; set the edge in the run game; be stout," he said. "It's really a total team effort."
Richt, who had been on the hot seat in the minds of some earlier in the season, is likely very secure now after his team won its ninth straight game.
"I'm very, very proud of our team," Richt said. "To lose the first SEC game and come out as the Eastern Division champions is a hard thing to do."
Kentucky made a game of it in the first half. The Wildcats took the opening kickoff, drove 65 yards on eight plays and put a field goal through for a 3-0 load.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kentucky tried a sneak onside kick that was recovered like a soccer goalkeeper by Peachtree Ridge grad Connor Norman. The Bulldogs responded with a 23-yard drive and a 39-yard field goal by Walsh to tie the game.
With about four minutes to go in the quarter, Georgia's Branden Smith picked off a pass from Maxwell Smith and returned it 53 yards to the Kentucky 27. The Bulldogs were unable to move much and settled for another 39-yard Walsh field goal and a 6-3 lead.
The Wildcats used a Georgia turnover to score their only touchdown of the day in the second quarter. After running back Ken Malcolme fumbled away the ball for the Bulldogs at their own 27, Smith led Kentucky into the end zone in six plays, aided by a couple of penalty calls, and put the Wildcats up 10-6.
But Georgia's defense held for the remainder of the half, and Walsh put two more field goals through in the second quarter to put the home team up 12-10 at halftime.
Brown, a 6-foot-5 junior, caught two balls for 22 yards, including Georgia's only touchdown. The play early in the fourth quarter put the Bulldogs up by two scores, and Kentucky never threatened to get back into the game.
"I was on the sideline, they said 'Marlon, you're in, you gotta run this play and you gotta score a touchdown,'" Brown said. "I said, 'Alright, I gotcha.'"
"It was a great pass from Aaron, and I just caught it."
Murray, a redshirt sophomore who added to his season record touchdown pass count with No. 28, had a mediocre day statistically. He was 16 of 29 for 162 yards and an interception, but he came through with a touchdown when the team needed it.
"It's a great feeling," Murray said. "The locker room after the game was absolute craziness. Guys jumping around, screaming. It's a lot of fun."
Peachtree Ridge grad Drew Butler had struggled at times this season, but in his last game in Sanford Stadium he played like the man who won the 2009 Ray Guy Award for the nation's best punter.
Butler started out with a 35-yarder in the second quarter, but then knocked a 48-yarder skyward that was downed at the 1-yard line by Blake Sailors. The Wildcats couldn't move, and the defensive stop set up Walsh's third field goal.
"Our entire punt team stepped it up today," Butler said. "Blake Sailors made a great play on that ball. Definitely got a friendly bounce, and we were able to put some pressure on them and just take care of the field position for the defense."
Butler ended the day with four punts for 190 yards and a long of 55.
"It's a dream come true to win on Senior Day," Butler said. "To have it also be for an Eastern Division title it's truly special."
Butler, the son of legendary Georgia kicker Kevin Butler, got a little fatherly advice before the game.
"He told me to enjoy every second of it, and that's exactly what I did," Butler said. "Busing over here today, the Dawg Walk, pregame warmups, seeing my family; it was pretty nostalgic. It was a great feeling, and I definitely appreciate the Bulldog Nation and these coaches and everybody in Athens, Georgia. It's been a special ride, and we've still got a lot of things to accomplish."