An explosive opposing offense, a handful of injuries, a refusal to call holding on Tennessee receivers, and double-digit players dealing with a nasty stomach flu. Georgia had all sorts of excuses for this game turning out closer than it should have been.
In the end it didn’t need any of them.
The Red and Black survived an initial offensive onslaught from the Volunteers, eventually clamping down to hold the Big Orange to their second lowest point total of the season. The Vols’ 374 yards of total offense were the most Georgia’s given up all season, but until a late Hendon Hooker touchdown pass it all amounted to a grand total of 10 points.
Once the ‘Dawgs got a feel for Tennessee’s pace of play near the end of the first quarter it felt like the game took a decided turn against the home team. A pair of turnovers, a first half interception and a fourth quarter fumble, led directly to 14 Bulldog points that Tennessee didn’t have to give.
Offensively, the Bulldogs rode a balanced, efficient attack to more points than they needed. Stetson Bennett was 17 of 29 passing for 213 yards, but his effort isn’t fully captured in those numbers. He also saved the Red and Black yards with a couple of heads up plays to throwing it away. And he looked better running the ball than any UGA quarterback since D.J. Shockley.
James Cook joined in with his best game of the season, rushing for 104 yards on 10 carries and adding 3 receptions for 43 yards. His 3 total touchdowns may not have been the margin of victory, but it felt like Todd Monken could call his number whenever Georgia needed a big play.
Georgia has several players who appeared to be dinged up throughout the game, including Devonte Wyatt who went to the turf and was helped off the field no fewer than four times. We’ll need to see which if any of those are serious. Jordan Davis went Bulldog fans’ hearts into their throats when he went down early, but came back to play a few snaps. Nolan Smith appeared to tweak an elbow, but also appeared to shake that off. We don’t know exactly how many players are dealing with the flu (Jalen Carter left the game and finished it in street clothes), and we need to deal with that.
In the end this felt like about as stout a test as fate was going to throw at this team before Atlanta and they passed comfortably. Personally, I’ll take it every time.