Best moments and highlights from Tennessee vs. Georgia

The defending national champion No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs host the No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers in a marquee matchup that will likely have major implications on the SEC championship game and College Football Playoff.

According to ESPN Analytics, the winner of this game will also have a 99% chance of winning the SEC East.

This has been a lopsided series in recent years as Georgia enters the showdown riding a five-game winning streak — tied for its longest in series history — with all five wins by more than 20 points.

Tennessee will look to change that with Heisman Trophy-favorite Hendon Hooker at the helm. Hooker has 21 touchdown passes this season, second to only Peyton Manning (23) through eight games in program history. Most of them have gone to Jalin Hyatt (14), who’s on pace to become the third receiver in SEC history to catch 20 touchdown passes in a season.

Here are the best moments from Tennessee-Georgia:

First half takeaways

Georgia

Georgia’s not bad on offense, either. After fumbling the ball away on its opening possession, Georgia scored touchdowns on three of its next four and piled up 306 yards of offense in the first half. Quarterback Stetson Bennett handled Tennessee’s pressure-based defense well, throwing for two scores and running for another one. The Bulldogs ran the ball well when they wanted. They had just as much success against the UT secondary, which had a couple of big busts. Georgia’s offensive line stifled Tennessee’s defensive front, giving Bennett plenty of time to throw and the backs plenty of room to run.

On the other side of the ball, Georgia’s defense did a good job of getting pressure on UT quarterback Hendon Hooker. The Bulldogs avoided breakdowns in the secondary and kept the Vols’ speedy wideouts in front of them for the most part. — Mark Schlabach

Tennessee

The crowd noise was deafening in the first half, and Tennessee repeatedly put itself in third-and-long situations, which is exactly what coach Josh Heupel said the Vols needed to avoid. The Vols committed back-to-back false start penalties after moving inside the Georgia 10-yard line in the second quarter. It was that kind of half for the Vols, who punted three times after punting a total of 18 times in their previous eight games.

All season long, Tennessee has been able to hit explosive plays in the passing game, but the Vols weren’t able to hit any big plays down the field in the first half.

But over and above everything else, Georgia was the better team at the line of scrimmage in the first half. The Vols couldn’t get any pressure on Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who had tons of time to throw and picked apart the Vols’ secondary. Tennessee was just OK running the ball and didn’t have an offensive play from scrimmage longer than 17 yards. That’s after coming into the game with an FBS-leading 36 plays of 30 yards or longer.

In being held to the two McGrath field goals, it was the first time this season since the 34-27 overtime win against Pittsburgh in Week 2 that Tennessee had gone an entire half without scoring a touchdown. — Chris Low

A score before the break

The Bulldogs squeezed in one more score before the half with a field goal as time expired. Georgia enters the locker room with a 24-6 lead over Tennessee.

It’s loud in Athens

‘s>

The crowd noise has played a factor so far for the Vols. Tennessee has committed five false start penalties with 9:56 left in the second quarter.

Georgia’s Twitter account took note of the pre-snap miscues.

Tennessee cuts into the lead

An 11-play, 56-yard drive by Tennessee ended in a field goal as Georgia’s defense stiffened up on their side of the field.

Tennessee trails 21-6.

Hot start for Bennett

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett looks like a Heisman Trophy candidate playing in Sanford Stadium on Saturday — at least so far.

The former walk-on has accounted for three touchdowns to give the Bulldogs an early 21-3 lead over the No. 1 Volunteers. The first one came on a 13-yard scramble in which he dodged a blitzing UT player and beat another to the corner of the end zone. The second one was a 37-yard pass to Ladd McConkey down the right sideline. McConkey put a nasty move on UT safety Doneiko Slaughter to slip past him. The third one was a 5-yard strike to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint in the back of the end zone. Bennett completed 6 of 10 passes for 156 yards in the first quarter. He has handled UT’s pressure well so far. — Mark Schlabach

Dawgs strike fast

It took one play for the Bulldogs to extend their lead as Stetson Bennett found Ladd McConkey for a 37-yard touchdown.

Georgia leads 14-3.

Bennett finds the end zone

UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett found receiver Arian Smith on a 52-yard pass to get Georgia into Tennessee territory. On third down at the Vols’ 13-yard line, Bennett showed his mobility on a scramble and pylon dive for the score.

Georgia leads 7-3 after the extra point.

Vols capitalize on Bulldogs’ turnover

Bulldogs running back Daijun Edwards fumbled on the opening drive, which led to a field goal for the Volunteers. Tennessee leads 3-0.

That was a pretty good stand by Georgia’s defense after Edwards coughed up a fumble on the opening possession. The Volunteers took over at the UGA 47, but the Bulldogs forced a long field goal from UT kicker Chase McGrath. The crowd noise was a factor early; the Volunteers had two false starts on their first possession. — Schlabach

Celebrity sightings

Cleveland Browns running back and Georgia alum Nick Chubb and more stars are in the building to watch the Bulldogs battle the Vols.

Updates from Sanford

As expected, Georgia receiver Adonai Mitchell won’t play against the Volunteers. He isn’t in uniform for warm-ups. Mitchell, a sophomore from Missouri City, Texas, has been sidelined with an ankle injury and hasn’t played since Georgia’s 33-0 shutout of Samford on Sept. 10. He had five catches for 69 yards with one score in a 49-3 rout of Oregon in the opener. He is one of Georgia’s best deep threats, and quarterback Stetson Bennett could have used him against Tennessee’s shaky secondary. — Schlabach

What should you know about the Vols?

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said the Vols should be as healthy as they’ve been all season.

Cedric Tillman, who led Tennessee in receiving last season, figures to provide a boost to an already potent receiving corps. He played limited snaps last week against Kentucky, and Heupel said they had him on a “pitch count” after missing the previous four games.

Heupel said Tillman will be “ready to roll” against the Bulldogs. The 6-foot-3 Tillman creates serious matchup problems with his size and athleticism, particularly with speedy Jalin Hyatt and his 14 touchdowns on the other side.

Tillman has been practicing full speed, but the Vols wanted to make sure he was 100 percent before bringing him back for a game. Tillman had tightrope surgery to repair a high ankle sprain in September. — Low

How about them Dawgs?

There’s no question that Georgia’s defense will miss senior outside linebacker Nolan Smith, who led the Bulldogs in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hurries. He’s a versatile defender who Georgia moved around a lot, and he’s one of the team’s most experienced players.

But the Bulldogs were going to struggle to get pressure on Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker regardless. Hooker gets rid of the ball quickly in Tennessee’s fast-paced offense. He has tremendous eye discipline and doesn’t make many mistakes, which is why he has only one interception this season.

Georgia’s cornerbacks — Kelee Ringo and Kamari Lassiter — are going to have to play well on the perimeter to slow the Vols. They’ll face a monumental challenge in trying to contain UT receivers Tillman, Bru McCoy and Hyatt.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the Bulldogs are going to have to adjust to UT’s pace on the fly and do it well.

“They got multiple paces they use and they can go as fast as anybody in the country. They practice it, they preach it, they do a really good job researching themselves and figuring out how they can go faster. And our job is to be able to match that conditioning level.” — Schlabach

It’s on in Athens

What might be the biggest game in Sanford Stadium history is still hours away, but thousands of fans have flocked to Athens from every direction.

Former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning is here. So is former Georgia defensive back and NFL Hall of Famer Champ Bailey. Country music star Luke Bryan arrived for “College GameDay” via private jet. PGA Tour golfers Kevin Kisner, a Georgia alum, and past U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland were expected to arrive from Justin Thomas‘ wedding in Nashville sometime Saturday morning.

The Bulldogs have hosted plenty of big games at Sanford Stadium during the past 93 years, but perhaps none bigger than Saturday’s, which will probably decide the SEC East title and who will play in the SEC championship game. The winner will also have an inside track to the College Football Playoff, while the loser will need help from other teams to get into the top four.

It’s the first top-five matchup at Sanford Stadium since 1983, when Bo Jackson and No. 3 Auburn ended No. 4 Georgia’s 23-game SEC winning streak with a 13-7 victory between the hedges.

“It’s a big game, right?” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “There’s nothing about a number being in front of it. It would be a big game regardless because both teams are in the East.” — Schlabach

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *