The Tennessee football Volunteers nullified every advantage they had at the Bulldogs.
Remember that Seinfeld episode where George Costanza realizes that every instinct he has is wrong, so he goes with the opposite of everything, and his life falls into place? Well, you could apply that to Tennessee football and what happened at the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday.
If you could point to an advantage Jeremy Pruitt’s team had entering the game, it became a disadvantage that day. On Thursday, we had a post laying out in detail all the reasons the Vols could upset Georgia. You can read that by clicking here.
Well, every single one of those reasons for why Tennessee football could upset Georgia became a reason as to why Georgia won. The Dawgs were already the better team. Nobody was under any illusions of that entering the game. These things just made it worse.
Let’s start with the first slide: A more effective rushing attack. Did UT have an effective rushing attack with its supposedly “elite” offensive line on Saturday? Nope. The line had its worst game, committing 35 yards worth of penalties and allowing five sacks, and Ty Chandler and Eric Gray combined for just 36 yards on 16 carries. So much for ball control and running the ball well.
What about penalties? Heading into the game, the Vols were one of the best teams in the nation at not committing penalties, and the Dawgs were the worst in the SEC. Well, UT committed 10 penalties for 84 yards, more than Georgia’s six penalties for 70 yards. Those penalties by the Vols included the issues on the line and a targeting call that knocked Deandre Johnson out of the game.
What about Tennessee football’s secondary finally being at full strength? The issues on Derrick Ansley’s defense all started with slot receivers and tight ends because Shawn Shamburger was out the first two games, and Bryce Thompson first played safety and then only played on third down. Thompson was back at cornerback and Shamburger returned Saturday.
How did it work out? Well, Kearis Jackson, UGA’s slot receiver, had four receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. Tre’ McKitty, the Dawg’s tight end, was second on the team in receiving with two receptions for 47 yards.
More from All for Tennessee
- Tennessee football: 10 years Vols beat Alabama but not Kentucky
- Tennessee basketball picked to win SEC by most CBS analysts
- Tennessee football: WR Jimmy Holiday best QB option vs. Alabama
- Tennessee Vols morning report: Jeremy Pruitt, Rick Barnes interviews
- Tennessee football: Five Alabama Crimson Tide to watch for against Vols
Then there was the turnover issue. Georgia had committed two on the year, and the Vols had yet to commit one. Early on, this seemed like it would continue, as the Dawgs had a high snap on their first drive that UT recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
Up 21-17 to open the second half with the ball, though, UT committed two straight turnovers on third down. Jarrett Guarantano had his first fumble of the year and his first interception. In the fourth quarter, Guarantano had another fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Finally, we said that this could be a trap game for Georgia with a hangover from their win over the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide next week. The reality is that while Georgia played sloppier, it looked like Tennessee football was caught in the trap game with its sloppy play.
So literally every way the Vols could have upset UGA ended up working out against them. Now, to be fair, the lack of run game and the issues in the secondary are more about just how good the Dawgs are. Those things were left to hopefulness on Rocky Top.
Here’s the crazy part, though. The way Tennessee football built a first-half lead was mostly the opposite of what we said would happen. That first mistake, with the bad snap ending in a touchdown, was the only part in line with what we called.
Each of the Vols’ touchdowns, though, were passes from Jarrett Guarantano to Josh Palmer. Against the best secondary in the nation, that would not have been seen as their pathway to take the lead.
Then they held on because of two fourth down stops, one on 4th and goal from the one-yard line and another on 4th and 1. Given the Vols’ defensive line struggles the first two games of the season in the middle, it was shocking for them to pull that out.
Simply put, Tennessee football played Georgia the exact opposite of the way they wanted to play. When the Dawgs regrouped, the Vols could have had something if they had maintained the advantage in turnovers and the penalty battle. That didn’t happen.
As a result, the Dawgs pulled off the blowout. Already the better team, they had gained over 200 yards more than Rocky Top. Winning the turnover battle and the penalties battle, however, allowed them to put the game out of reach.