ATHENS, Ga. -- A week after combining for 259 rushing yards against Auburn, Georgia tailbacks Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas produced 11 against Kentucky.
Thomas missed Saturday's 19-10 win for violating a team rule, and Crowell had two carries before an ankle injury sidelined him the rest of the game. The Bulldogs continue to be without Richard Samuel, who injured his ankle against Florida, so the responsibility to help clinch that first SEC East title in six seasons fell to Brandon Harton and Ken Malcome.
"I really wasn't expecting Isaiah to go down, especially that early," Harton said. "My number got called, and I went in. I wasn't nervous as much as I was anxious just to get that first play out of the way."
Harton and Malcome combined for three fumbles, hampering an offense that never got on track, but also combined for 138 yards on 32 carries. Harton, who was placed on scholarship in August, amassed 101 yards on 23 rushes.
The two combined for 57 yards on 11 fourth-quarter carries to cap an admittedly conservative play-calling day by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.
"I was thanking God the defense was playing as well as they were, and I really didn't want to do anything to lose the ballgame, and we still fumbled three times," Bobo said. "That's just the hand we were dealt today, and I'm really proud the guys kept fighting. We didn't play as well as we would like, but we did enough to win."
Neither Bobo nor head coach Mark Richt knew the availability of Crowell, who is 168 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season, for this week's game at Georgia Tech.
Crowell was noticeably missed immediately after leaving Saturday's game. When the Bulldogs ended the first quarter with a pair of Harton runs for no gain and opened the second quarter with a third straight Harton carry, this time a 3-yard pickup, there was detectable booing at Sanford Stadium.
Malcome entered the game with 10:44 before halftime and promptly fumbled after a hit by Danny Trevathan.
"I was nervous," Malcome said. "It was a big game, and I didn't know what to expect."
Harton and Malcome had a combined 23 first-half yards on nine carries.
Holes began to open for the tailbacks in the second half, but their troubles weren't over. Harton had carries of 14 and 20 yards during Georgia's first drive of the third quarter, but he fumbled after an 8-yard run to the Kentucky 40, and Winston Guy recovered for the Wildcats.
Harton fumbled a second time with 3:39 remaining and the game already decided, but he will go down as a 100-yard rusher on a day the Bulldogs won their division.
"It feels great," the 5-foot-6, 174-pounder said. "From not expecting it to actually doing it was a huge step. I feel blessed to be a part of this today."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...