Vols suffer first loss, fall to Bulldogs 27-13
Georgia defense sacks Hendon Hooker 6 times in dominating performance
ATHENS, Ga. (WVLT) - The Tennessee Volunteers are in the Peach State for week 10 of the college football season, where they meet an SEC East rival in the Georgia Bulldogs.
Two number-one teams, Tennessee No. 1 in the College Football Playoff Poll and Georgia No. 1 in the AP Poll, are set to meet for the 53rd time. Currently, Georgia leads the series 26-23-2, winning each of the five matchups.
Tennessee hadn’t won in Athens since 2016 when then QB Josh Dobbs through a hail mary 43-yard touchdown pass to Jauan Jennings as the clock expired to win back-to-back games for the first time since the 2006-2007 seasons.
However, this is not a Tennessee team of the recent past. They’re 8-0 on the year, taking down giants like Alabama, and are currently 5-0 against Top 25 AP Poll teams.
Tennessee started hot against the Bulldogs a season ago, scoring on two of their first three possessions, but Tennessee couldn’t hold on through the next three quarters, eventually falling 41-17.
This team is hyper-focused on the task at hand. With the SEC East division title, SEC Championship and playoff appearances all up for grabs between the hedges.
Clad in white jersey’s and orange britches, the top ranked Vols won the coin toss and deferred to the 2nd half. Tennessee on defense first. The Dawgs began to march, first with Kenny McIntosh on the ground and then a pass completion from Stetson Bennett to Brock Bowers moved UGA into Vols territory at the 47, but on the next play RB Daijun Edwards fumbled and the ball was recovered by Tennessee.
UT would start its first possession inside Georgia Territory. Hendon Hooker would complete a pass to Jalen Hyatt. Then forced with a 3rd and 5 at the 30, a false start would push UT back to the 35 forcing a 3rd and 10. A short pass to TE Princeton Fant would force a 4th and 5 and FG attempt by Chase McGrath was good from 47 yards out. Vols take an early 3-0 lead over the Bulldogs.
Stetson Bennett pass complete to Arian Smith for 52 yards to the Tennessee to the 28 for a 1st down at the UT 28. The longest UGA completion of the season to a non-tight end. Then on 3rd and 10 from the Vols 13 quarterback Stetson Bennett avoids the UT pressure and beats safety Jaylen McCollough to the pylon. Point after is good and the Bulldogs take a 7-3 lead with 8:32 remaining in the 1st quarter.
Vols start to move on their second possession, but are forced with a 3rd and long. On the play Hooker goes deep, but overthrows speedster Jalin Hyatt and the Vols are forced to punt. On the play, Hyatt stepped on the officials foot and was seen limping a bit off the field.
Starting inside their 20 yard line Jeremy Banks tackled the UGA RB for a loss on 1st down. The Dawgs gain some back on a short completion to Bowers, but a 3rd down pass would fall incomplete forcing a UGA punt, which was phenomenal. 75 yards marked out of bounds at the Tennessee one.
That would spell disaster for the Vols. On 3rd and 6 at the UT 5, Hooker was pressured in the end zone, was hit and fumbled. The ball was recovered by Tennessee’s Jerome Carvin in the end zone, His knee appeared to be down in the end zone which would have resulted in a safety, but after official review, was ruled a fumble recovered in play by Tennessee forcing another Paxton Brooks punt.
Georgia would start its next possession in great field position at the UT 37 and on the first play from scrimmage it’s quarterback Stetson Bennett going up top and hitting a wide open Ladd McConkey who had beaten Doneiko Slaughter on the play. PAT makes it 14-3 Bulldogs late in the 1st quarter.
On its next possession, Tennessee gets a first down run from Jaylen Wright, but then the drive stalls and the Vols are forced to punt yet again.
After a penalty was called on the Vols for interfering with the punt returner, UGA would start its next possession from its own 35 yard line. Bennett and company would strike again. The veteran quarterback would hit RB Kenny McIntosh on a deep wheel rout. The Dawgs would close out the quarter with a first and goal at the Tennessee 4 yard line.
First play of the 2nd quarter, McIntosh is stopped for a loss, but that just delayed the inevitable as Bennett throws his 2nd TD pass of the game connecting with Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint in the back of the end zone from 5 yards out. Point after makes it 21-3 Bulldogs. Tennessee looking out of sync on both side of the ball. Secondary being picked apart by Bennett while Hooker has been unable to complete any passes deep down field.
A couple of pass interference penalties would aid the next UT drive. AT the Georgi 33, Hooker connects with Cedric Tillman who gets Tennessee down to the UGA 17. Hooker would then run on first and Wright on 2nd, but a 4th and 5th pre-snap penalty would force a 3rd and 12 at the UGA 19. The 3rd down pass is thrown short and incomplete to Princeton Fant. The Vols settle for a 36 yard Chase McGrath FG. 21-6 Bulldogs with 9:36 remaining in the 2nd quarter.
Tennessee’s defense would force a Georgia punt. The Vols would drive into UGA territory, but the drive ends in disaster as Hooker is intercepted by Kelee Ringo at the goal line. The pass was intended for Cedric Tillman who had mad a big catch and run earlier in the possession. Georgia takes over at it’s own 20 late in the 2nd quarter.
Back on the field came a Tennessee defense which has played a lot of snaps in the 1st half. Hooker 12-16 for 88 yards with one interception while Bennett has thrown for nearly 200 yards and 2-TD’s and has also run one in.
From bad to worse for the Big Orange as Georgia takes the interception and drives right down the field scoring with just :03 remaining in the half, placekicker Jack Podlesny connects from 19 yards out. Dawgs take a 24-6 halftime lead.
Tennessee has just 139 total first half yards, only 88 through the air. 6 penalties for 40 yards has also hurt UT’s cause as well as one big interception by the Bulldogs late in the 1st half.
Tennessee would get the ball first in the 2nd half and unfortunately their fortunes would not change. After moving into Georgia territory, the Vols would be faced with a 3rd and 13 at the UGA 44. Hooker would be sacked making UT 1-for-9 on 3rd down conversions in the game.
Georgia’s first drive of the 2nd half would start inside its own 15 and on 3rd and 6 from the 17, Bennett connects with McConkey for a first down. Dawgs would pick up another first on a Kenny McIntosh run. Then on 3rd and 9 on a beautifully designed play Georgia would pick up 23 yards on another Bennett to McConkey pass play into UT territory. The drive would eventually stall forcing a UGA FG. Podlesny is god from 37 yards out as Georgia tacks on three more points to take a 27-6 lead very late in the 3rd quarter.
Disaster as Tennessee’s Wright coughs up the ball in the rain. This mighty TN offense being humbled by a GA defense that lost several players to the NFL. Finally a bright spot as UT recovers a UGA fumble, Vols get it right back with seconds remaining in the 3rd. On the final play of the third and on 1st and 15 following another pre-snap penalty by the Vols, Hooker would scramble picking up good yardage. Tennessee will start the final quarter with a second and short yardage situation.
Disaster to start the 4th quarter for the Vols. Hooker sacked repeatedly and with a frenzied crowd in the pouring rain Tennessee would continue to struggle with pre-snap penalties. 7 total now in the game. However on 4th and long, on what appeared to be a UGA sack to end the UT threat, the Dawgs were called for a face mask penalty giving UT new life. However the Vols could not do much with it as Hooker is sacked on third down forcing a 3rd and 10. On 4th down, Hooker’s pass is incomplete. ball goes over on downs to Georgia. The Bulldog defense has kept Tennessee off balance all game.
Not much production from the Georgia offense as well in the 2nd half in the sloppy conditions. Tennessee denied time and again though and with 3rd and 9 at the Bulldog 34 with 4:46 remaining Hooker is forced out of the pocket forcing another 4th down situation. BUt on 4th down new life as Hooker connects with Jalin Hyatt for 28 yards down to the UGA 5. From there, Jaylen Wright caps the 61 yard drive in two minutes to close the game to 27-13 Georgia. 4:15 seconds remaining and an almost certain onside kick coming for UT.
Tennessee would try the onside kick, but Georgia recovered. All the Vols could hope for was a 3-n-out and they’d get it stopping UGA on 3rd and 12, but Bennett’s deep pass is incomplete. Dawgs forced to punt and the touchback would set Tennessee up at their own 20 yard line with 3:47 to play.
The Vols would pick up one first down, but the next series of downs would not prove successful and on 4th and 3, Hooker would be sacked yet another time ending another Tennessee threat and for all intent and purposes the game.
A long day for UT fans and especially a team with high aspirations of pulling off the win over the defending national champs.
27-13 is the final as Tennessee falls to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in SEC play. Stetson Bennett improves to 23-3 as a starter. Hendon Hooker is denied a TD pass snapping his 20 game streak in that department.
Some key numbers, the Vols just 2 of 14 on 3rd down conversions and 3 of 5 on 4th down. 9 penalties, 7 of them of the pre-snap variety. two turnovers and Hendon Hooker was sacked 6 times. A formula for disaster as the Volunteers suffer their first setback since last season’s Music City Bowl.
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