It’s hard to call a game in which the final margin was so wide one of Georgia’s biggest tests of the year, but Saturday was every bit of it. Georgia trailed 10-7 and gave everyone enough chances to overreact, but in the end it was yet another win for the Dawgs.
Here’s how Georgia met three keys to a win.
Third downs are critical
Tennessee likes to score quickly and do so often. The way for Georgia to counter that? Extend scoring drives by converting third downs. That keeps UT’s offense on the sidelines, and if Georgia can eat time off the clock and turn those drives into scores, chances of a win are good.
Georgia was good enough to get the job done, here going 5-of-12. Anytime you can have a conversion rate on third down that’s not abysmal, you have to feel good about things. It also helped Georgia win time of possession as the game went on, and when you go against an offense like Tennessee’s that likes to score fast, your offense is the best defense, even if that defense is a once in a generation type. Georgia trailed 10-7 after a quarter, and the Vols held the time of possession edge of 8:43 to 6:17 through 15 minutes. Not coincidentally, Georgia won the time of possession battle the rest of the way and took the lead, and ran away with the lead.
Win the island
It’s said that to be a good defensive back, one has to have the mentality of being on an island, knowing that it’s a DB and nobody else that can make plays. If there’s a group that has a chip on its shoulder going into Saturday, it’s Georgia’s defensive secondary, that has certainly heard doubts about ‘yeah, but who have they beat with that defense.’ You don’t want to assume big plays against Georgia won’t happen, but the Bulldogs have to minimize them, that’s for sure.
Those big plays you saw Tennessee rip people for? They were non-existent, as a pass play of more than 50 yards did not happen until the second half. Other than Cedric Tillman, no other Tennessee receiver was a factor. I’d put him in a class with Josh Vann against USC, a guy who got chunks of yards, but not enough to make a difference in the end. This Georgia defense got a test that it needed, and it passed in Knoxville.
Make the crowd a non-factor
When the Vols a chance to win, Neyland Stadium can be a very tough place to play, no question. The last thing Georgia needs is to give up an early score and let the crowd get fired up. That’s why if Georgia scores on its first three drives, one of UT’s biggest allies, its crowd, can be a non-factor.
First of all, shoutout to the “Road Dawgs” for taking a bite out of Tennessee’s home-field advantage.
The Vols got their crowd into it early, but Georgia squashed any of those hopes beyond the first quarter.
For sure, the same national pundits that continue moving the goalposts when to comes to Georgia’s defensive success will do the same when sizing Georgia’s play up in a rabid environment, but the fact is that two of Georgia’s most impressive wins have come in opposing stadiums.