Believe it or not, Tennessee football wasn’t all that far away from making it a game in their 27-13 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs on the road Saturday. Make no mistake, Georgia was the better team, but if a few things went differently, the Vols could’ve been in it. Here are the turning points from Saturday’s matchup between the hedges.
Vols settle for field goal on opening drive
You can’t overstate this as a momentum killer. The Vols forced a fumble on the opening drive and had the ball near midfield. They could’ve taken control early. However, Georgia’s defense held, largely thanks to a false start that forced UT to play behind the sticks. Chase McGrath hit a 47-yard field goal on that drive, and they went up 3-0, but it was a win for Georgia.
Stetson Bennett 13-yard touchdown run
On the drive after that field goal, Georgia made it all the way down to the red zone and brought up a 3rd and 10 at the Tennessee football 13-yard line. Tim Banks dialed up a brilliant blitz package on the play, and Juwan Mitchell got back there, but Stetson Bennett made a great play to elude the pressure and run for a score. A drive stalled and potential drive stop put UGA in control.
Brett Thorson 75-yard punt
It was still a game after that 7-3 Georgia lead, and the Vols were about to get the ball back. However, Georgia had an epic punt that pinned UT on its own one-yard line. Hendon Hooker got sacked on the next drive and nearly had a safety, giving UT little room to punt it back, so it was a bad punt. UGA turned that into a score, but it all came down to this elite punt.
Hendon Hooker pass intercepted by Kelee Ringo
Down 21-6, the Vols had a chance to make it a one-score game before the half. It was 1st and 10 on the Georgia 39 with under five minutes to go. They took a shot. Hendon Hooker threw it deep to Cedric Tillman. Kelee Ringo stayed with Tillman the whole way down and intercepted the pass. This showed how elite Georgia’s cornerbacks are and further deflated them.
Vols’ second trip to Georgia red zone stalls
Down 27-6, you still felt a comeback was possible for the Vols. They drove down to the Georgia 19, and a touchdown would cut it to 27-13 with nine minutes to go in the game. A facemask on 4th and 23 saved UT. However, then Hendon Hooker was sacked and threw two incomplete passes, so UGA got it back up 27-6 in the fourth quarter.
That was the nail in the coffin. Tennessee football had a few other setbacks, including a first-half drive in the Georgia red zone ending in a field goal and a Georgia field goal giving them a three-score lead at halftime. However, these plays were the ones that really kept Georgia in control.