Rapid reaction: Georgia at Tennessee
Here are some quick thoughts on Tennessee’s thrilling 38-31 win against Georgia at Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon:
What it means: The SEC East is officially up for grabs. With two consecutive conference losses, Georgia has fallen from the pedestal on which it was placed as the preseason favorite. Though Tennessee lost its first two games in the league, the Vols are finally on the board with a conference win.
What I liked:
- Tennessee’s resiliency. The Vols trailed by as much as 24-3 late in the second quarter, only to score the game’s next 28 points to take a 31-24 lead. For a Vols team that has had a tumultuous couple of weeks, it would have been very easy to pack up camp after getting off to a very bad start to the game.
- Georgia RB Sony Michel’s performance in place of injured RB Nick Chubb. Though he has been a key cog in the Bulldogs offense all season, he took his game to the next level as the feature back in this game with 145 yards on 22 carries, including a 66-yard scamper that was highlight worthy.
- Tennessee’s decision to go for it on fourth down twice on the same drive in the final two minutes of the first half. The Vols converted the first on a completion to WR Von Pearson, and the second went for a touchdown to WR Josh Smith to make the score 24-10.
- True freshmen Jack Jones and Chance Hall manned the right side of the Tennessee offensive line for much of the afternoon and did a pretty admirable job.
- Georgia’s ability to create points in non-traditional ways. The Bulldogs scored on a 96-yard fumble return by Leonard Floyd and a 75-yard punt return by Reggie Davis.
- Speaking of Reggie Davis, he also hauled in a pair of big passes for the Bulldogs, including a 48-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 31-31 early in the fourth quarter. He did, however, drop what looked to be a sure touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game.
What I didn’t like:
- The left knee injury to Georgia RB Nick Chubb on the first play from scrimmage was an awful way to start the game. No matter which team you were rooting for, there’s just no way that what appears to be a significant injury to one of the game’s most special talents can be anything but unsettling to fans of the game and the league.
- The officials picking up a flag for a block in the back on a Georgia punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter. The explanation was that it was determined to be a “block in the side” of the Tennessee defender, but the replay left some reason to refute that claim.
- Georgia’s finish to the first half. The Bulldogs had a chance to potentially take a 24-3 lead to the locker room, but instead allowed two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the half after a pair of fourth-down conversions and then fumbled the kick-off return leading to another score, leaving Georgia with a 24-17 lead at the half.
- Tennessee scored two touchdowns on short pass plays to RB Alvin Kamara after motioning out of the backfield, but both plays were thinly-veiled pick plays that were not called. Both wide receivers on Kamara’s side of the field had no intentions of running routes, only running interference on defenders. Good play calling by offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, but this is something that needs to be addressed in college football.
- Georgia had all kinds of trouble wrapping up on tackles of Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs. He seemed to elude an inordinate amount of attempted arm tackles by Bulldogs defenders.
Who’s the man: Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs. He had the game that Vols fans had been waiting to see from him all season, rebounding from an early interception to throw for 312 yards and three touchdowns on 25 of 42 passing. He also ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
Key play: Trailing by seven points late in the fourth quarter, Georgia WR Reggie Davis dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball by QB Greyson Lambert that would have been a 44-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 38-38. Instead, the Bulldogs had to punt and ultimately came up short of tying the game on their next chance with the football.
What’s next: Tennessee heads into a bye during Week 7, which will undoubtedly serve as extra prep time for a trip to Alabama to take on the Crimson Tide on Oct. 17. Meanwhile, Georgia also has a Week 7 bye week. The Bulldogs will host Missouri, which is the defending SEC East champion, on Oct. 17 in a game that could again have serious divisional implications.