With college football’s greatest ever running back looking on, the Georgia Bulldogs gave Herschel Walker reason to be proud as they dispatched Tennessee 38-12 on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
Capturing their SEC home opener and climbing to 5-0 season and 3-0 in the conference, the Bulldogs surged into a 17-0 halftime lead, built their advantage to 24-0 in the third quarter and then held off a mild Volunteer rally that saw Tennessee pull within 24-12 with still 11:10 left in the game. Georgia then salted the contest away with two touchdowns in the final four minutes.
But as one can see in these weekly Stats That Matter, the Bulldogs still made enough mistakes against a floundering Volunteer team that it gave head coach Kirby Smart plenty to talk about as Georgia gets ready for Vanderbilt this Saturday night and then the trip to LSU on Oct. 13.
Plays of 20 plus yards (offense/defense)
Not as many of these as in recent games as the Vols defense was determined to prevent the Bulldogs from breaking off explosive plays. Tight end Isaac Nauta rambled 31 yards for a first-quarter touchdown after scooping up a Jake Fromm fumble and Fromm had pass completions of 23 yards to J.J. Holloman and 22 yards to D’Andre Swift. Tennessee’s two plus-20 yards plays were costly to Georgia … quarterback Jarrett Guarantano hitting Josh Palmer with a 37-yard touchdown pass and then connecting with tailback Ty Chandler for another 35-yard score.
Too many uncalled-for penalties again raised Smart’s ire. The Bulldogs had six Saturday for 40 yards. Most severe were a personal foul infraction called against outside linebacker D’Andre Walker – who otherwise had another outstanding game with five tackles, a sack and a tackle-for-loss – and a pass interference assessed against freshman corner Tyson Campbell. And you have to say there was a bit of clock mismanagement by Georgia as the Bulldogs called their final timeout of the game with still nearly the entire fourth quarter to be played. Good thing it wasn’t a one touchdown game.
Special teams wins vs. miscues
A pretty solid day in this area as Rodrigo Blankenship regained his touch on touchbacks by booting all seven of his kickoffs into the end zone as well as converting the only field goal he tried, a 43-yarder in the second quarter. Freshman punter Jake Camarda averaged 41.0 on four punts with one kick pinning the Vols inside their own 20, with the punt coverage team not allowing UT any return yards.
There were a couple of outside runs by the Volunteers where Smart said the Bulldogs didn’t tackle well but, overall, the Georgia defense plugged up the middle all afternoon as evident by the Tennessee running game being held to a measly 66 yards.
Neither Fromm, Justin Fields nor UT quarterback Guarantano threw an interception Saturday and there was only one lost fumble in the game, when UGA linebacker Juwan Taylor recovered a Volunteer fumble late in the game at the Tennessee 31. That led to the Bulldogs’ final touchdown, a 15-yard scamper by Fields. But Georgia, somewhat shaky on offense in the first half, did fumble the ball four times but luckily didn’t lose any of them.
Red Zone (offense/defense)
A very good day for the Bulldogs here as they scored all five times when they advanced inside the Tennessee 20-yard line, with four of those scores being touchdowns. And to illustrate how the Georgia defense wouldn’t allow the Vols to have any sustained drives, Tennessee never marched inside the Bulldogs’ 20 the day long.
Third down conversions
The Bulldogs were 8-of-14 on third down tries while the Vols could convert on only 2-of-10 opportunities. Georgia was also 1-of-1 on fourth down conversions.
Run/pass attempts (total plays)
The Bulldogs, winning the time of possession 37:27 to Tennessee’s 22:33, totaled 74 plays for 441 combined yards running and passing while the Volunteers ran just 46 plays for their paltry total of 209 yards.