Here are the post-game notes from the UGA vs Tennessee game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, October 1, 2016.
GEORGIA POSTGAME QUOTES
Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart
On the loss …
“The kids fought hard and I’m proud of the way they played. We challenged them this week. We practiced physical and we played physical. Bottom line is we’ve got to do better; we’ve got to do better than them. … We’re a good football team, but we’ve got to improve. We challenged them to play their best game today and a lot of them did that. That’s a response I was proud of. A lot of the kids played hard and physical. Now we’ve got to do it again next week.”
On the Eason-Ridley touchdown pass …
“(Eason) extended the play and threw a laser in there. That was a big play and we caught it. The sad thing is we had an undisciplined penalty and that will bite you when you least expect it. We pride ourselves on being disciplined. They should know that. You hate to learn a lesson like that. It’s disappointing.”
On Eason bouncing back after the turnover that resulted in a Tennessee touchdown …
“That’s the kind of kid he is. He’s levelheaded and composed, and that’s good for a quarterback. He stepped up and made some good plays.
He needs to play with consistency. He can’t be affected by good plays or bad plays.”
On the last play of the game …
“That’s something we practice every week – last-play defense. You put your best jumpers in the end zone and everybody gets up and gets the ball down. We do drills to rep it. Their kid just went up and got it.”
#1 Junior Tailback Sony Michel
On Coach Smart’s message…
“[Coach Kirby Smart] told us to stick together as a team, which we are always going to do. We are going to keep fighting and we have some learning to do. We’ll go to practice, practice hard and get prepared for our next opponent.”
On Eason and Ridley.
“Those guys fought hard the entire game. They made mistakes but capitalized and stay poised and kept fighting for our team.”
On moving on…
“It should linger. We have that 24-hour rule; whether we win the game or lose the game, we have 24 hours, then we move on. We have another SEC opponent next week, which is a big game for us. Within these 24 hours, you have to move on.”
#73 Senior Offensive Guard Greg Pyke
On tough plays in his career.
“I’ve never been a part of something like that. We won the game, then next thing you know, we lost the game. It’s heartbreaking. I’m wishing we could have won but they had a good play on offense and our defense didn’t make the play. That’s just how it goes. Kudos to them on making that good play.”
On running success…
“We had to size that during the week. We needed to be able to run the ball better, we practiced hard and we worked on it and I think that showed out there today.”
#2 Senior Defensive Back Maurice Smith
On the heartbreaking loss…
“There’s just so much emotion involved. You’re in it until the last play. Once that ball comes down, you’re hoping that the people did their job and knocked it down but for it just to fall into somebody’s hands and you see their team running on the field, it’s just heartbreak.”
On the final play…
“I wasn’t able to see how [Jennings] caught it. I just do my job and we expect everyone to do their job, but we’ll clean it up.”
TENNESSEE POSTGAME QUOTES
Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones
“What can I say? First of all, I think just a great, great college football game, particularly in the second half. (Georgia coach) Kirby’s (Smart) team came out. I have a lot of respect for him and what he’s done and for what he’s building here, and obviously for (former Georgia football) Coach (Mark) Richt as well. We knew that we were walking into a great environment and we had to grow up as a football team. I didn’t like our performance in the first half. I thought we were nonchalant. I didn’t think we were very physical on both sides of the football. There’s something about this team. They’re resilient. They understand. You don’t win a game like that unless you have character, and I continue to say it. We were in two-man (coverage) at the end of the game. (Jacob) Eason makes a play. Give them credit, but when they got the 15-yard penalty we felt we had a chance. That’s a kickoff return that we put in at the end of the game. We’ve had it for three years and have never used it. Give them credit, we rep it every Thursday and we were able to get it, and it put us in midfield or in range where you can get a Hail Mary. I told our kids in the huddle ‘We’re going to come down with it. We’re going to find a way.’ Josh (Dobbs), probably the best ball he’s thrown in his career. What can I say about Jauan Jennings? He wasn’t going to be denied. He has a little bit of vertical to him. Again, just resiliency. Eleven-straight wins, fifth-longest streak in school history. But really the most important thing is that it’s one step closer. We needed to be 1-0 (today) and we were 10. Puts us to 5-0 overall. Just finding ways to win football games, what can I say? I thought Josh Dobbs managed the football game, did some good things. Jalen (Hurd) went out with a lower extremity (injury), so we weren’t able to have Jalen Hurd (in the second half) because he wasn’t able to play. What can I say? Alvin Kamara stepped up and was a workhorse for us in the second half. Again, just proud of our players and the character that has been displayed.”
On Jauan Jennings’ catch on the hail mary…
“I think if you ask him he relies on his instincts to go up and get the football. Jauan is one of the most competitive players I’ve ever been around and he wasn’t going to be denied. I give Coach Azzanni credit. We called timeout to see how they were aligned, and he shuffled the lineup on the trips side. Those are things that people don’t realize, but Coach Z put them in position to make a play. So did Josh Dobbs. Jauan came down with it.”
On his emotions after the final play…
“Kind of surreal. I saw the ball, tight spiral, had good lift. I thought we had a chance. It’s one of those moments in time that you’ll remember forever. I’ve also been on the other end of them, too, and you remember them forever. I think it’s a great illustration that you play until the clock hits zeros. From my vantage point I could see him come down with the ball, land on his back, and all I could see was a mad rush to the field. The thing I was worried about was replay, but there was no replay needed for that. It’s something I’ll remember for a lifetime.”
#24 Junior Defensive Back Todd Kelly, Jr.
On his reaction to the game winning Hail Mary…
“Speechless. We were blessed with another win. The defense gave up a big play and that’s uncalled for from our defense. We’ll go look at the film and make corrections. But at the end of the day, we won the ball game and we’re 5-0.”
On how important the win was.
“It’s huge. It was a crucial win for us, on the road. We have a lot of guys that have never been on the road before and came down to Athens, and the atmosphere was awesome. The Georgia fans brought in, and Georgia was ready to play. They punched us left and right, but we never gave up. We were in the corner, but at the end of the day it’s all about four quarters.”
#11 Senior Quarterback Joshua Dobbs
On last play of the game…
“Nobody on the sidelines said it was over – everyone said we can still get into field goal range, we still have three time outs to use, we can run hook and ladder. We lucked out with great field position, great return, and we were able to capitalize on it.”
On what it says about team…
“We have the most competitive team in the nation, I feel like. We find ways to win, fight it out – adversity has been thrown our way each and every game. There’s no quit from this team. Everyone is hungry and that’s the type of attitude you have to have to be successful.”
*Series History: With No. 11 Tennessee’s 34-31 comeback on the final play of the game, the No. 25 Bulldogs fall to 3-2 (1-2 SEC) as the Vols (5-0, 2-0 SEC) extend their lead in the series to 23-21-2. The last five games between the teams have been decided by a TD or less with one needing overtime. This was the 14th time both teams came in ranked in the AP top 25, and Georgia is now 5-9 in these games.
*Points Off Turnovers: Georgia scored 10 points off three Tennessee turnovers while the Vols scored 7 points off two Bulldog miscues. Coming into the game, the Bulldogs had scored just 13 points off nine turnovers this season. Senior STAR Maurice Smith stripped Alvin Kamara and recovered it late in the first quarter. This was Tennessee’s first play following Georgia’s opening touchdown of the day. The Bulldogs converted this turnover into a field goal, their fourth of the year. First-time starter Deandre Baker blasted Jalen Hurd as he caught what would have been a 24-yard touchdown at the goal line. Hurd fumbled and DB Aaron Davis recovered it for a touchback. Georgia turned this miscue into seven points. Smith returned in the fourth quarter to pick off Josh Dobbs.
The Bulldogs went three-and-out on their next possession. UT forced a fumble in the endzone and Cory Vereen recovered it for a TD with 2:56 left for the Vols first lead at 28-24. The Bulldogs now are currently +3 in turnover ratio. Georgia has forced 12 turnovers for 23 points and opponent have scored 38 points off eight Bulldog miscues.
*Career Day For Nauta: In the passing attack, freshman TE Isaac Nauta had a career day with five catches for 83 yards. He hauled his first career touchdown catch on a career-long 50-yard strike from freshman QB Jacob Eason. Nauta came into the game with four catches for 32 yards. Eason finished 17-for-28 for 211 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Eason fired a 47-yard TD strike to freshman Riley Ridley with 10 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a short-lived lead. Riley finished with two catches for 59 yards.
*First Time: Freshman receiver Riley Ridley’s first career catch was a 10-yard reception in the opening quarter and then snagged a 47-yarder for his first career TD with 10 seconds left to give Georgia a lead. Michel finished the drive with a 14-yard touchdown, his first of the year. This capped a 10-play, 79-yard drive that lasted 5:32. During the drive, Georgia racked up 52 yards on the ground. Redshirt freshman PK Rodrigo Blankenship also connected on his first career field goal. He drilled a 27 yarder to put Georgia up 10-0 at the 11:21 mark in the second period. Blankenship is 1-2 on the year. The Bulldogs went up 17-0 after freshman QB Jacob Eason jumped on Michel’s fumble as he crossed the finish line. This was Eason’s first touchdown on the ground. This also marked Georgia’s first recovered fumble for a score since Lorenzo Carter pounced on one against Nicholls earlier this season.
*Rushing Attack: Junior TB Sony Michel finished with 91 yards on 16 carries after posting 72 yards and a touchdown in the opening half. Freshman TB Brian Herrien carried the ball 15 times for 74 yards. The Bulldogs totaled 392 yards, including 181 on the ground. Junior Nick Chubb, who missed the second half of the Ole Miss game last week due to an ankle injury, saw action on only one play today and had a 3-yard rush.
*Tackles: Sophomore ILB Natrez Patrick finished with a career-high 10 tackles, including his second career sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. Meanwhile Maurice Smith, who forced and recovered a fumble, also recorded a career-high seven stops and had an interception.
*Go For It: The Bulldogs are now 4-for-6 on fourth downs this season after successfully converting one in the 2nd quarter. Michel shot through the middle of the line for three yards on a 4th-and-1 situation to the UT 25. Georgia failed to convert a 4th-and-2 with 9:02 left in the game at UT 25.
*For Starters: Sophomore DB Deandre Baker and freshman DL Julian Rochester started their first career games for the Bulldogs. They are the 10th and 11th first-time starters this season.