Tennessee football: Turning points in Vols’ 44-21 loss at Georgia

Oct 10, 2020; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Kearis Jackson (10) reacts after catching a long pass behind Tennessee Volunteers defensive back Theo Jackson (26) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2020; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Kearis Jackson (10) reacts after catching a long pass behind Tennessee Volunteers defensive back Theo Jackson (26) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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These were the key moments for the Tennessee football Volunteers at the Bulldogs.

What happened? Tennessee football took a 21-17 lead into halftime and had the ball going into the second half at the Georgia Bulldogs. Down in Athens, Ga., Jeremy Pruitt’s top 15 team looked like it was in great position to shock Kirby Smart’s No. 3 ranked team.

Well, as we get set to break down the turning points from this game, we’ll obviously be looking at the moments that changed the game. If UT had won, the turning points would have clearly included two fourth down stops and the early touchdown on the bad snap.

However, Tennessee football didn’t win. As usual, our turning points don’t always mean scores. They just mean the key moments that dictated the flow of the game. Here are the plays that cost the Vols at Georgia.

Deandre Johnson targeting penalty

Early on, Tennessee football led 7-0. The Vols had stopped the Georgia Bulldogs twice. On Georgia’s third drive, a 3rd and 5 near midfield was about to come up. However, Deandre Johnson was hit with a targeting penalty, allowing UGA to stay on the field.

Because of that targeting penalty, the Dawgs drove down the field and scored a touchdown. UT’s defense lost all momentum, and it could have had a stop if it hadn’t. More importantly, Johnson, UT’s best pass-rusher, was knocked out of the game. That proved crucial on some third downs later in the game.

Jarrett Guarantano fumble to open second half

UT had all the momentum. Up 21-17, they got the ball to start the second half. However, on 3rd and 14, Azeez Ojulari strip-sacked Guarantano for his first turnover of the year, and the Georgia Bulldogs got the ball right at the red zone spot.

This was crucial. Part of beating UGA involved not turning the ball over, and doing it once made palms get sweatier on Rocky Top. Confidence in the offense began to dwindle too, as it only had two decent possessions to that point.

Interception by Jarrett Guarantano

Jarrett Guarantano’s turnover was a crucial moment, but it only resulted in a field goal, so the Vols still led 21-20. However, after his first turnover of the year, on the next drive, he had his first interception of the year.

Eric Stokes picked him off on 3rd and 1, and that set up another UGA field goal to give the Dawgs the lead. With Guarantano’s interception, Tennessee football could only think about the points they had left on the field, and that held the Vols back mentally even more the rest of the way.

Two third down conversions by Georgia on one drive

The defense got a third stop after those field goal drives, but the Vols’ offense couldn’t do anything. Then, on UGA’s fourth drive of the third quarter, the offense got going. On 3rd and 10 from the UT 44, it seemed like the Vols would get the ball back, but Stetson Bennett found Kearis Jackson for a 20-yard gain.

After that, though, 3rd and 7 came up. The Vols had a chance to get a stop again, and that would have led to another field goal to only make it 26-21. However, a busted coverage allowed Bennett to find Jackson again for a 21-yard touchdown pass, making it 30-21 for the first two-score lead of the game for either team. That broke it open.

Jarrett Guarantano strip-sacked for a fumble return touchdown

Stetson Bennett had another touchdown pass to Jalen Carter in the fourth quarter to put the Georgia Bulldogs up 37-21. However, it was still a two-score game, so Jarrett Guarantano went right back to work. Well, he had his third turnover of the half, as  Monty Rice strip-sacked him, recovered the fumble and ran it in for the score.

Next. Five takeaways from Vols' 44-21 loss at Georgia. dark

That was the deciding factor in the game. Tennessee football had now shot at coming back after that. The two third-quarter turnovers were the most important part of the game, but this one was the nail in the coffin.