Rapid Reaction: Tennessee hangs with Georgia early, but Bulldogs pull away to improve to 5-0
With true freshman quarterback Brian Maurer getting his first career start and a rowdy home crowd waiting for them at Neyland Stadium, Tennessee had nothing to lose against No. 3 Georgia.
But despite the Bulldogs’ 43-14 win to improve to 5-0 on the season, maybe there were some hopeful moments for the Vols to take from a game where it led early in the 2nd quarter but simply ran out of offense — and answers — as time progressed.
Early on, it looked as if it would be a wire-to-wire win for Georgia. After its defense forced the Tennessee offense into a quick 3-and-out, Georgia’s first drive on offense ended in a familiar fashion: with a touchdown to put the Dawgs ahead 7-0 thanks to the typical dose of accurate passing from Jake Fromm and strong running from D’Andre Swift.
All Maurer did, though, on the first play of Tennessee’s ensuing drive was hit Marquez Callaway in stride with a 73-yard bomb to knot the game at 7-7 and send Neyland Stadium into a frenzy.
Was it a sign of things to come for the underdog Volunteers?
After the Dawgs had to settle for a 50-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship to take a 10-7 advantage following a 25-yard touchdown catch by Lawrence Cager that was wiped out on a push-off, Maurer marched the Vols down the field to take a 14-10 lead on a drive capped by a 14-yard catch by Jauan Jennings to open the 2nd quarter. Tennessee 14, Georgia 10, and Rocky Top was in full throat.
Then reality came rushing in for the Volunteers as the Dawgs slowly, but surely regained. control of the game.
Blankenship’s 34-yard field goal made it 14-13. After back-to-back punts by Tennessee, Georgia found itself back in the end zone as Cager eventually ended up with his touchdown to make it 20-14. A promising Tennessee drive came up empty thanks to a missed 47-yard field goal attempt by Brent Cimaglia, and 5 plays, 75 yards and 50 seconds later, Fromm’s pass to George Pickens made it 26-14 with 9 seconds remaining in the first half.
Still, it was a closer half than expected. And while Georgia’s offense was held off the scoreboard for much of the 2nd half outside of a short Blankenship field goal to stretch it to 29-14, both its offensive line and its defense held up its end of the bargain. Tennessee’s defensive front didn’t do much to make things uncomfortable for Fromm as the Dawgs’ offensive line left the junior with a clean pocket to work with all evening long. Meanwhile, Brian Herrien’s short scoring run with just over 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter was the kill shot to give the Dawgs a 36-14 lead, an advantage that grew to 43-14 on a huge hit on Maurer by Eric Stokes that was returned 60 yards by Tae Crowder.
Fromm finished the evening 24-for-29 with 288 yards and 2 touchdowns. Georgia ran the ball 39 times for 241 yards, with Swift and Herrien combining for 28 attempts for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns.