5 Biggest Takeaways: Tennessee suffers another close call at No. 12 Georgia
The Tennessee Volunteers suffered another heartbreaking loss to No. 12 Georgia in their annual SEC matchup Saturday. The Bulldogs held a 436-401 edge in total yards and a 31:47-28:13 advantage in time of possession. Tennessee’s defense forced Georgia to a 1-of-10 third down efficiency.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s game.
1. Justin Worley is the only answer: Justin Worley had his best performance against an SEC rival of his career on Saturday. The senior threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns on 23-of-35 passing. His absence at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter was a huge factor in Tennessee’s loss as Nathan Peterman looked lost facing Georgia’s defense.
With Worley healthy, the Vols are a much better team that is capable of passing downfield and brings a balanced attack.
2. Jalen Hurd keeps improving: Let’s get it out of the way, Jalen Hurd’s fumble ultimately cost Tennessee the game on Saturday. But without Hurd’s season-best 119 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, the Vols wouldn’t have been in any position to mount a comeback. Hurd continues to progress each game and surpass his previous totals. Tennessee has an elite SEC tailback in the making.
3. Tennessee’s pass catchers are as good as advertised: Marquez North capped off a quiet game with Tennessee’s final touchdown. Josh Malone was solid in his first career start at wide receiver. Jason Croom had his best performance of the season with 60 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
Pig Howard added 60 yards and a touchdown on four catches. Tight end Ethan Wolf saw a season-best 69 yards and five catches after missing Tennessee’s last game with a knee injury. The Vols have multiple options to spread the football around and will continue to develop as the season progresses.
4. Tennessee’s defense continues to impress: Todd Gurley rushed for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. That’s a given. Gurley is– if not the best– one of the top players in the nation.
Otherwise, Tennessee’s defense dominated Georgia’s offense, forcing Hutson Mason to throw two interceptions and just 147 yards on 16-of-25 passing. The Vols forced the Bulldogs to a 1-of-10 third down efficiency and did what they could to contain a tough rushing attack outside of Gurley’s big late-game runs.
5. Tennessee is a contender in the wide open SEC East: The SEC East is wide open. Georgia is still considered a favorite to win their half of the conference. Tennessee managed to challenge one of the top teams in the east on their home field and should have prevailed. The Vols are fully capable of upsetting the remaining SEC East teams on their schedule and should use Saturday’s game as a point of reference in their rebuilding process.