Tennessee players warming up before the Georgia game. Photo by RTI/Ric Butler.
ATHENS, Ga — No. 3 Georgia punched No. 1 Tennessee in the mouth from the game’s offset as the Bulldogs defended their spot atop the SEC east with a, 27-13, victory Saturday afternoon.
Here’s four quick takeaways on a humbling afternoon for Tennessee football.
Georgia Jumps On Tennessee Early
The top five matchup got off to a pretty strong start for Tennessee. Georgia running back Daijun Edwards fumbled on the sixth play from scrimmage and Tennessee jumped on it to start its first drive in Bulldog territory.
After one first down, Tennessee settled for a field goal. Chase McGrath drilled a 47-yard field goal to give the Vols the lead. It was just about the last good thing that happened for Tennessee all afternoon.
Georgia answered quickly, going 80 yards in five plays led by a 52-yard Arian Smith reception and a 13-yard third-and-10 touchdown scramble by Stetson Bennett.
Pre snap penalties plagued Tennessee early with the Vols committing three on their first two drives and seven for the game.
Mistakes piled up on Tennessee in the opening quarter. Dee Williams let a punt land over his head and led to Georgia pinning the Vols at the one-yard line.
Hendon Hooker held on to the ball too long in the end zone and fumbled on third down. Javontez Spraggins recovered and somehow avoided the safety, but after a short punt Bennett hit Ladd McConkey for a 37-yard touchdown.
Georgia tacked on a five-yard touchdown on the second play of the second quarter as the Bulldogs punched Tennessee in the mouth and put them in a major hole early.
Before Tennessee had 70 yards of offense, Georgia led 21-3.
Bulldogs Control The Line Of Scrimmage
Both Tennessee and Georgia had elite line of scrimmage play throughout the season. I wrote and spoke at length this week about whichever team could run the ball more effectively and control the line of scrimmage would win the game.
The Bulldogs controlled both lines of scrimmage, rushing for 132 yards on 3.2 yards per carry while Tennessee ran for 82 yards on 39 carries. Those numbers were much more lopsided in the first half.
Georgia’s offensive line created steady holes in the run game allowing the Bulldogs to stay out of third-and-long. Tennessee’s defense struggles to get pressure when it’s not an obvious passing down and that showed up. Bennett had plenty of time to throw all day and was affective while doing so.
Tennessee’s pass protection had kept Hendon Hooker upright all season but Georgia’s pass rush presented problems all afternoon. Georgia tallied seven sacks on Hooker and didn’t allow the Tennessee quarterback to have a clean pocket all afternoon.
Georgia’s control of the line of scrimmage was enough to decide the game though not overly surprising. It’s the ensuing subject that was surprising and made Saturday’s game so one sided.
More From RTI: Josiah-Jordan James Expected Back For Tennessee’s Season Opener
Georgia Dominates On The Perimeter
Georgia controlling the line of scrimmage was enough to decide the game. The Bulldogs winning on the perimeter on both sides of the field was very surprising and made the game a blowout.
Georgia’s offense had struggled to hit chunk plays all season and while the Vols’ pass defense had been suspect, they’d done a good job of avoiding back breaking big plays.
That’s why it was quite the surprise when Georgia hit three pass plays over 35 yards. Bennett had plenty of time to throw and was extremely accurate tossing it to mostly open receivers down the field. The Bulldogs could have potentially tallied more if they weren’t sitting on the clock in the second half.
On the other side of the ball, Georgia’s defensive backs physicality gave Tennessee all sorts of issues. The Vols have made a living out of long touchdown passes this season and Georgia did what many, including myself, believed was impossible. They completely cut off the tab.
Tennessee’s longest reception of the game was just 17 yards. In fact, it was Georgia corner Kelee Ringo that made the big play when Tennessee tested him down the field. Ringo won a jump ball with Cedric Tillman for just Hooker’s second interception of the season.
If anyone read this section before the game, they’d know Tennessee had no chance to win.
A One-Sided Game By The Numbers
Last week, Tennessee dominated Kentucky and I presented the final numbers in this final section because it told the story as well as anything else.
The same holds true this week with the result flipped.
Georgia out gained Tennessee, 389-289.
Hendon Hooker’s streak of throwing for a touchdown pass ends at 21.
Paxton Brooks punted four times.
Tennessee went two-of-13 on third downs.
Georgia went seven-of-12 on third downs.
Georgia averaged over 10 yards per pass attempt.
Tennessee averaged just 3.9 yards per play.
No Tennessee receiver reached 75 yards.