VOLS’ COMEBACK COMES UP SHORT AT NO. 5 GEORGIA, 51-44
ATHENS, Ga. -
Tennessee's afternoon in Sanford Stadium began with a 17-point deficit.
It ended with turnovers on its last three possessions. But in between,
the Vols showed plenty of resolve in pushing No. 5 Georgia to the brink
before falling, 51-44, on Saturday.
"I am proud of this team for fighting," said head coach Derek Dooley.
"I think we showed that we have some resilience in this ball team, but
we a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball. We are leaving here a
better team than when we got here."
Georgia scored all of its 51 points in the first three quarters, and 30
of those came in the third quarter. UT's defense, which gave up several
big plays on the ground before and allowed the Bulldogs to gain 234
yards of total offense in the first quarter alone, dug in and gave the
offense two chances to tie the game in the third quarter.
"We kept hanging in there but couldn't get over the hump and get a stop
when we needed it," said Dooley. "We had the ball in the last
possession and had an opportunity to score, but we didn't get it done.
We haven't been in those situations a lot. We are going to learn from
it and next time execute it better."
Taking over at its 28-yard line with 7:31 to go and trailing by seven
points, the Vols drove to the Georgia 50 before Sanders Commings
intercepted a Tyler Bray at the Bulldogs' 36.
Georgia, which had just one first down in the fourth quarter, went
three-and-out on its next possession, giving UT the ball at its 26 with
4:06 left. Tennessee moved the ball into Georgia territory and
converted a key third down with an 11-yard completion to Cordarrelle
Patterson to the Georgia 27.
Four plays later, though, Bray fumbled trying to escape pressure and
Georgia's John Jenkins fell on the ball, effectively ending UT's upset
bid. The Vols had one last-ditch chance to try and tie the game, but
Bray's first pass from the UT 35 with 15 seconds left was tipped and
intercepted by Commings.
That Tennessee (3-2, 0-2 SEC) would even have a chance to tie the game
in the fourth quarter seemed highly unlikely after the way Saturday's
The Bulldogs scored on four of their first five possessions -- the lone
exception an interception UT safety Byron Moore returned for a
touchdown -- and had a 27-10 lead with 11 minutes remaining in the
Two lengthy touchdown runs, a 75-yarder by Keith Marshall and a 51-yarder by Todd Gurley, gave Georgia plenty of early momentum.
The Vols, though, punched back.
On the Bulldogs' next possession following Gurley's long run, the Vols forced a punt. Then they started forcing turnovers.
After a 10-play drive ended with linebacker A.J. Johnson's third
rushing touchdown of the season, linebacker Herman Lathers sacked
Murray and Johnson scooped up the loose ball at the UGA 18-yard line.
Four plays later, tailback Rajion Neal scored from 10 yards on a
catch-and-run. That score gave the Vols 20 unanswered points -- and
their first lead of the game -- with less than a minute to go before
But those final 42 seconds proved enough time for Georgia to get in
range of kicker Marshall Morgan, whose 50-yard field goal made the
score 30-30 at halftime.
Georgia opened the second half with 14 unanswered points on touchdown
passes of 8 and 32 yards from Aaron Murray to Michael Bennett.
The Vols, though, bounced right back again.
Patterson broke free for a 46-yard touchdown run thanks to key blocks
from Bray and tailback Marlin Lane. Patterson, who looked to pass
first, cut back twice and escaped Georgia's defenders for his second
rushing touchdown of the season, which made the score 43-37 with 4:13
remaining in the third quarter.
Three plays after that, though, Georgia's Marshall broke free again,
going untouched off tackle for 72 yards and what proved to be the
Marshall finished with a game-high 164 rushing yards, and the Bulldogs ran for 282 yards total.
While Georgia's freshmen backs carried the day, Tennessee's running
game made a major improvement from where it was the last two games in
After rushing for a combined minus-12 yards the last two years against
Georgia (a figure that includes negative yardage from quarterback
sacks), the Vols ran for 197 on Saturday.
Neal had 104 of those rushing yards, and Tennessee's offensive line got
more dominant as the game went on. UT's fourth-quarter touchdown drive
had eight running plays, including the last six, ending with Neal's
The loss marked the first time in program history that Tennessee lost
when scoring 40 or more points breaking a streak of 177 consecutive
wins when it reached that threshold.
The Vols have a week to recover from Saturday's game and get ready for
a trip to No. 21 Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 SEC) on Oct. 13.
Mississippi State did not play Saturday.