LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Tony Dixon's 3-yard run with a minute left lifted Kentucky to a 24-20 comeback victory over Georgia, snapping a nine-game losing streak against the defending SoutheasternConference champs.
The victory, which sent members of the Homecoming crowd pouring onto the Commonwealth Stadium field to remove a goal post, was a much-sought, program-defining win for coach Rich Brooks. He'd fallen short on two other opportunities earlier this year against Florida and South Carolina.
It means Kentucky (5-4, 3-3) is just one win away from bowl eligibility. The Bulldogs fell to (6-4, 3-4) in a disappointing season.
Dixon saw little action until the fourth quarter, but he dominated the Wildcats' final drive. Even on his short runs, he was pushing much larger defenders two or three yards farther than it appeared he would be tackled.
Georgia had a little more than a minute left to mount a game-winning drive, but Matthew Stafford threw his third interception, right into the hands of Kentucky cornerback Trevard Lindley. Stafford now has 12 interceptions this year, compared with four touchdown passes.
The Bulldogs took a 20-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter on a 3-yard scamper by Danny Ware. The extra point was blocked, so Kentucky could have settled for a game-tying field goal, but it got the touchdown instead.
Kentucky won for only the 11th time in 60 meetings between the two teams since 1939. The Wildcats' 24-17 victory in 1996 in Lexington was their last.
After Lones Seiber kicked a 48-yard field goal to put the Wildcats on the board first, Georgia took a 14-3 lead by scoring on its longest and shortest drives of the year only minutes apart.
The long one was 92 yards, a balanced attack of runs and passes, which culminated with Stafford finding Mario Raley in the corner of the end zone on a nine-yard slant.
The short one was a one-yard, three-play drive that ended when fullback Brannan Southerland plunged forward, just getting the tip of the ball past the goal line.
That touchdown nearly belonged to Tra Battle, who put the Bulldogs in position by picking off an errant Andre Woodson pass and dodging tacklers for 32 yards before finally going down at the one.
Woodson was more successful on his next redzone chance, throwing a strike to a closely covered Keenan Burton in the back of the end zone to make the score 14-10.
Woodson would complete 23 of 32 passes and two touchdowns - both to Burton. Woodson now has 20 scoring passes on the year.
But interceptions were the story of the first half, two apiece for each team. The half ended with three consecutive interceptions, two stopping drives that had progressed almost to the goal line.
Stafford, forced to start inside the Georgia one because of a well-placed Kentucky punt, threw his first pass right into the arms of Kentucky defender Johnny Williams.
Kentucky was only inches away from a lead then, but Woodson couldn't capitalize. He threw another interception to Tony Taylor - the fifth of the year for Taylor, who brought it back 52 yards, putting the Bulldogs in prime position to add points before halftime.
Stafford led Georgia to the Kentucky two, but this time it was Roger Williams who picked him off, keeping the Bulldogs' lead at four.
Kentucky, faced with the opportunity to pull within one in the third quarter, tried a fake field goal instead, but Seiber fumbled the ball on the trick run, giving it back to the Bulldogs.
The game was stopped for several minutes in the fourth quarter because of an injury to Raley. He had caught a pass but fumbled it after a hit by Kentucky's Myron Pryor.
Woodson tried a flea-flicker to Dicky Lyons after play resumed. That didn't work, but he ultimately found Burton for a 10-yard score.
For highlights of Saturday's game, join us tonight on Sports Overtime Saturday Night at 11:20 pm on WYMT.