Rapid Reaction: Georgia coasts to 10th victory after early scare at Tennessee
James Cook and Stetson Bennett pulled Georgia out from an early scare as the top-ranked Bulldogs continued to roll toward Atlanta.
Tennessee put some serious pressure on Georgia early, but the visitors responded swiftly and delivered a strong counterpunch in the second quarter on Rocky Top on Saturday to coast to a 41-17 victory. Even with the lopsided margin, it was the most points Georgia has allowed this season. It was the final SEC game for Georgia, and possibly the final test before Atlanta, as Georgia continues to wait for its opponent from the SEC West for the SEC Championship Game.
Bennett attempted and completed the most passes all season, 17-for-29 for 213 yards and a TD, but his running ability proved to be most effective, including a 9-yard run in the second quarter to give Georgia its first lead of the game, and the lead for good. He rushed 8 times for 40 yards and a touchdown.
Cook had 3 touchdowns overall, including this one early in the fourth quarter to turn the lights out on any Tennessee comeback hopes. Cook finished with 10 carries for 104 yards, and 3 catches for 43 yards.
Have a day, James Cook!
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 13, 2021
Meanwhile, Georgia’s historic defense stopped Tennessee on 3 straight fourth down plays on drives down the stretch.
One unfortunate development was Georgia lost LB Nolan Smith with about 11:12 remaining, as he immediately clutched his left arm or elbow, and later went to the locker room.
Georgia pulled away midway through the first half, and the second quarter was a key sequence. Georgia outgained Tennessee in yards in that quarter, 191-30. The Vols began with 162 yards on 23 plays, and then had 27 yards on their next 16 plays.
The Vols scored first and delivered Georgia its largest deficit of the season at just 7-0. It was 12 games since Georgia trailed in the second quarter or later, and it was last season against Mississippi State.
Tennessee scored in efficient 10 plays that covered 77 yards and was an early warning shot to the top-ranked team, which has now won 10 of the last 12 meetings. It was the first touchdown Georgia allowed in the first quarter this season. It didn’t take Georgia long to answer, just 2:32, as Cook had a season-high 39-yard touchdown run to cap a 6-play, 78-yard drive. It was the second-longest run of the season for Georgia.
It was a test of wills as Tennessee came into the game ranked first in the country in several offensive categories, including plays per minute (2.92), 70-plus yard plays (5) and points per minute (1.59). Georgia, meanwhile, was similar on defense. The Bulldogs lead the country in defensive categories, like 6.6 points per game, 2 rushing touchdowns allowed, 3 passing touchdowns allowed, and opponent red zone touchdown percentage at 25 percent.
Before Saturday, Tennessee outscored opponents 138-37 in the first 15 minutes. Georgia, meanwhile, has trailed only twice all season after early field goals by both Auburn and Missouri. After Missouri went up 3-0 last week, Georgia scored the next 40 points and won 43-6.
Tennessee scored first, and then responded once Georgia answered, and it was a unique sight for Georgia when Tennessee kicked a field goal late in the first quarter. It meant that Georgia trailed into the second quarter, and it was 12 games since Georgia trailed in the second quarter or later, and it was last season against Mississippi State.
However, Tennessee had its first real negative play midway through the second quarter when Hendon Hooker threw an interception to Derion Kendrick.
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) November 13, 2021
Bennett helped Georgia convert points off the Kendrick interception when he scored his first rushing touchdown of the season 5 plays later to give Georgia its first lead of the game with 7:24 remaining in the first half.
As Tennessee waned, Bennett stepped up, and more than doubled his passing yards on 1 drive in the second half, 80 yards altogether, after had 74 yards on Georgia’s first 6 drives.