ATHENS, Georgia (WATE) – It was a tale of two halves in Athens on Saturday as the Bulldogs conference-best defense held Tennessee scoreless in the later half, while the Georgia offense racked up 27 unanswered to defeat Tennessee 44-21.
Tennessee, who ranked second in the SEC entering Saturday’s contest, ended the contest with negative one rushing yards on 27 attempts.
Jarrett Guarantano went 23 of 36 for 215 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The signal-caller was sacked five times, two of which were strip sacks for fumbles ultimately resulting in a 10 point swing for Georgia.
Trey Hill’s snap went over the head of Georgia Quarterback Stetson Bennett, who failed on his attempt to scoop the pigskin pushing the ball back into Georgia’s endzone where two defenders pounced on it, but somehow Tennessee’s Kivon Bennett recovered for the Vols touchdown. Brent Cimaglia’s point-after attempt was good putting the Vols up seven-nothing 43 seconds into the game.
The Vols and Bulldogs both fail to convert on the ensuing drives.
Deandre Johnson was ejected for targetting on Georgia’s third possession of the game, the consequential fifteen-yard penalty for roughing the passer set Georgia up on the Tennessee 30-yard line. Two plays later, Kenny McIntosh burned Henry To’o To’o setting Georgia up at the Tennessee one-yard line. The Bulldogs cashed in on the ensuing play for their first score of the day, a one-yard line from leading rusher Zamir White.
The Vols gave Georgia 34 free yards on their next drive, a result of pair of pass interference calls against Alontae Taylor and Jaylen McCollough) and a defensive offside (Kurrott Garland), as the Bulldogs put together a 12-play 95-yard drive. Stetson Bennett capped off the drive with an eight-yard touchdown. Jake Podlesny’s kick was good putting Georgia up 14-7.
The Vols forced a fourth-and-short on Georgia’s ensuing possession, the Bulldogs are flagged for an illegal motion (a penalty the Vols decline) which forces a turnover on downs setting Tennessee up at Georgia’s 36-yard line. The Vols need just one play to find the paydirt as Jarrett Guarantano hits Josh Palmer for the 36-yard score. Cimaglia’s point-after attempt is good creating a new game in Athens (14-14).
After Jack Podlesny recorded a career-long 46-yard field goal to put Georgia up 17-14, Tennessee began its fifth drive of the game on its own 33-yard line following Velus Jones Jr. 31-yard return.
The Vols then went to work on Georgia’s secondary as Guarantano completed three passes in the six-play drive, a 5-yard and 12-yard completion to Brandon Johnson followed by a 27-yard touchdown pass that Guarantano delivered to Josh Palmer’s back shoulder putting the Vols up 21-17.
After Kenny McIntosh returned Paxton Brooks 65-yard field goal to the Georgia 42-yard line with 3:08 left in the half, the Bulldogs made 9 plays using three minutes and seven seconds to put Georgia at the Tennessee one-yard line. Georgia opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal but was stopped short of the goal line giving Tennessee a four-point advantage heading into the locker room.
The start of the second half a 180 from the Vols first-half start. On 3rd down of Tennessee’s second-half opening drive, Guarantano had the ball stripped while being sacked by Azeez Ojulari. Ojulari recovered the fumble on the Tennessee 21-yard line.
Georgia failed to convert on third down and called on the leg of Podlesny for a 34-yard field goal attempt cutting the Bulldogs deficit to 1.
On third and 1 of the ensuing Tennessee drive, Guarantano committed the Vols second turnover of the season, as he was picked off by Eric Stokes at the Tennessee 36-yard line.
Again, Tennessee’s defense held Georgia out of the endzone. Podlesny’s 51-yard field goal was good putting Georgia up for the first time in the second half 24-21.
The six-point swing only the beginning of a 27-point run for the Bulldogs which included a 21-yard touchdown pass from Stetson Bennett to Kearis Jackson, a one-yard touchdown pass from Bennett to Jalen Carter, and a strip-sack and fumble that was forced, recovered, and returned by Monty Rice to put Georgia up 44-21.
Up Next: Tennessee returns home to Neyland Stadium to host Kentucky on Saturday, October 10th at noon.