The Georgia Bulldogs had an upset victory at home in the works but let it slip through the cracks on the last play of the game. Regardless of the outcome, there were definitely some positives to take away from this game on both sides of the ball.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs were able to successfully establish their running game, which had gone dormant since week one. The offensive line did a much better job in run blocking and creating holes and it allowed running backs like Sony Michel and Brian Herrien to move the ball effectively. With the offense missing Nick Chubb for most of the day, it was very encouraging to see these two running backs have impressive performances.
Jacob Eason was also very effective in the Bulldogs passing game and often was able to buy himself time and not force many bad throws. Eason finished the day 17 out of 28 with two touchdowns and one interception. One of Eason’s most impressive plays was when he had the awareness to dive on Sony Michel’s goal line fumble for a touchdown. It was a very heads up play by the young quarterback and he should most definitely be commended for it.
Eason also had a few mistakes, which included a crucial fumble late in the game, where he was backed up on his own goal line, and an interception that was thrown on a 3rd and 15 play, where it was absolutely vital for Eason to get the ball out of his hands. However, Eason continues to gain valuable experience with each and every game and he is truly one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the SEC.
The Bulldogs’ freshmen in the receiving corps were also very impressive and played a big role in the Bulldogs success on offense. Two freshmen, who impressed especially in the later portion of the game, were Isaac Nauta and Riley Ridley. Nauta had his biggest game of the season and got his first touchdown of the year on a pass play that went for 50 yards. Nauta was also the Bulldogs leading receiver, with five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, and this game marked one of the first times in recent memory in which the Bulldogs offense had a tight end as their leading receiver.
Ridley also had a very big day with two catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Ridley’s last catch was his most pivotal catch, as it was a 47-yard touchdown catch that gave the Bulldogs the lead with ten seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately, the score did not hold up for the Bulldogs, but the team has to be pleased with the effort that these two freshman wide receivers displayed and they should continue to improve as the season continues.
The Bulldogs defense also had a very strong performance in this game and did a great job limiting the Volunteers running game. Tennessee running backs Jalen Hurd, who finished with 42 yards on 10 carries, and Alvin Kamara, who finished with 62 yards on 16 carries, struggled throughout the day and that can be much attributed to the Bulldogs doing an exceptional job of setting the edge. The Bulldogs also did a much better job in getting pressure on the quarterback and had their best game of the season in this aspect, in my opinion.
The Bulldogs secondary also did a nice job defending the pass, and for the most part did an outstanding job of defending the deep pass. Although they did not play their greatest game, their execution improved immensely from the Ole Miss game because they did not let Josh Dobbs burn them with the deep throw. The last play will sting for this unit, but it does not determine the Bulldogs overall performance in the secondary.
Special Teams continued to be shaky for the Bulldogs but this time, it was in the punting game rather than the field goal kicking game. Rodrigo Blankenship only had one field goal on the day, but he delivered the Bulldogs first perfect performance from the kicking game of the year. Marshall Long had a few shaky punts, which was odd to see from him because he has for the most part been one of the Bulldogs strongest performers on special teams.
Reggie Davis had a great day returning kickoffs and had a 46-yard return that was very crucial for the Bulldogs in the later portion of the game. Isaiah McKenzie was not able to show his returning ability in the punting game because he had to call the fair catch on Tennessee’s only punt. The kickoff team for Georgia struggled and will have to do a better job of kicking the ball to the end zone and not allowing the opposition to have 20 to 30-yard returns.
Overall, This game marked the Bulldogs strongest performance since their game against North Carolina, but the last play of the game will overshadow the improvements that were made by the Bulldogs.