The Georgia Bulldogs survived a very close game versus the Tennessee Volunteers in Athens Saturday afternoon on the strength of a potent of its offense and some timely late turnovers.
With the victory Georgia moves to 5-0, which matches the Bulldogs best start since the 2007 season.
This contest was a lot closer than many anticipated and was still anybody’s game late into the fourth quarter. But, the Dawgs made some opportunistic plays on defense at the end and scratched out the victory.
Here are postgame grades for the Bulldogs from their win over the Volunteers.
Aaron Murray had another strong performance for the Bulldogs against Tennessee. Murray completed 76 percent of his passes and had eight different Bulldogs with at least one catch.
He finished the night 19 for 22 passing for 278 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. But, to be fair, the interception really was more of a great play by the Tennessee defense than a mistake by Aaron Murray. The ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage and that slowed it down enough for Byron Moore to jump the route and return it for a touchdown.
As he has been all season, Murray was again very accurate in the vertical passing game, with long strikes to Michael Bennett, Tavarres King and tight end Arthur Lynch.
Possibly Murray’s best throw of the game ended up as an incompletion. In the fourth quarter, Murray did a great job of looking the defenders off his receiver, turned at the last minute and delivered a laser into Rantavious Wooten’s chest in stride. Unfortunately, Wooten couldn’t hall it in for his quarterback.
True freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley continue to wow the Bulldog Nation.
Simply put, Gurley is an absolute beast. Tennessee learned the hard way that he is extremely hard to bring down once he gets a head of steam. He runs through arm tackles and often looks like he’s made of rubber the way defenders bounce off of him.
Once again, Marshall displayed great vision and breakaway speed. Give him a crease, and he’s into the second level in an instant and breaking ankles on his way to the end zone.
The two put up some gaudy numbers in the win over the Volunteers. They combined for 294 yards and five touchdowns on 34 touches. That translates to an astounding 8.7 yards-per-carry.
None of the Georgia receivers were able to reach the 100-yard mark in this game, with Michael Bennett coming closest with 70 yards on five receptions and two touchdowns. Bennett was the only wideout to score against Tennessee.
Tavarres King and Rantavious Wooten had average games, neither surpassing 40 receiving yards on the day. And Wooten had the aforementioned drop on a perfectly thrown ball that would have gone for a much needed first down in the fourth quarter.
Arthur Lynch actually led the Bulldogs in receiving yards against Tennessee with 75 on only three catches for an impressive 25-yard average. Jay Rome also notched his second catch of the season in this game, a very nice 21-yard gainer in the first quarter.
Both Lynch and Rome also had a good game in the blocking department, giving Murray time to throw and helping spring some big runs for Marshall and Gurley.
Although a question mark coming into the season, the offensive line is looking better every week. Today against the Volunteers was no exception.
Anytime you have two running backs combining for nearly 300 yards on the ground, the offensive line must be doing something right. The unit was able to consistently open holes for Gurley and Marshall, and the backs took care of the rest once they got to the second level.
Pass protection was also solid for the Bulldogs. The line did allow Herman Lathers to come untouched into the backfield, resulting in a lost fumble by Murray. But, to be fair, that easily could have been a missed assignment by Gurley. That was also the only sack given up by Georgia in the game.
The defensive line looked as bad as they have all season against Tennessee this afternoon. The Volunteers, who struggled rushing the ball against Florida, ran for 197 yards against the Bulldogs, more than twice their total against the Gators.
The line was getting pushed around, especially in the fourth quarter. In the final period, the Vols were moving the ball seemingly at will until they self-destructed with costly turnovers.
The linebackers deserve similar flack as the defensive line for allowing Tennessee to run all over the Bulldogs in this game. There were way to many missed tackles and guys failing to wrap up the Tennessee running backs.
On a positive note, Alec Ogletree was responsible for one of the interceptions. 'Tree did a great job of reading Bray’s eyes and made a fantastic play on the ball, tipping it high in the air and eventually into Damian Swann’s hands.
Jordan Jenkins also forced Tyler Bray’s fumble in the fourth quarter, stalling what looked to be a promising drive for the Vols.
First, the good. Sanders Commings had a great day with two interceptions and at least one more pass defended. Commings second interception effectively ended the game, coming with 15 seconds left. But his first was also in the fourth quarter and was a huge play for the Bulldogs as UT was driving with a chance to tie the game.
But there were some big issues in the secondary for the Bulldogs as well. Bacarri Rambo seemed a little rusty at times. He misjudged a pass by Tyler Bray, trying to jump a route but instead let Zach Rogers get behind him. It was sheer luck that Rogers fell down because he otherwise had a clear path to the end zone.
Branden Smith was similarly bailed out of giving up a big play. In the second quarter, Cordarrelle Patterson had Smith flat beat and Bray delivered a perfect pass that went right through Patterson’s hands. Had he caught that ball, Patterson had nothing but green grass between him and the end zone.
This game was a nightmare on special teams for the Bulldogs.
Malcolm Mitchell may be one of the best playmakers on the team, but until he shores up his decision making he doesn’t need to be returning punts anymore. Mitchell failed to call for a fair catch with a defender right in his grill, took a big hit and was lucky to hold on to the ball. Later, instead of fair catching a punt, he let it hit around the Georgia 15-yard line and it eventually rolled down to the one where it was downed by Tennessee.
Marshall Morgan again showed his range with a 50-yard field goal to tie the game just before halftime. But Morgan missed a PAT—his second of the season—and had another blocked.
Todd Gurley made a huge mistake on a kickoff return, stepping out of bounds while touching the ball, again at the Georgia one-yard line, pinning the Bulldogs deep in their own territory for the second time in the game.
If not for a big blocked punt by Marc Deas, special teams would have certainly graded an F for this game.
Mike Bobo seemed almost bipolar in his play calling in this game. At times, there was a brilliant mixture of runs and passes that had the Volunteer defense reeling and Georgia charging down the field.
But during other stretches, it seemed that Bobo forgot that Aaron Murray was on the field and called run after run. During those stretches, the Vols defense pinned their ears back and Georgia’s running game was going nowhere.
The Georgia defense has struggled some in the first half of its first four games, but Todd Grantham made great second half adjustments and the Bulldogs always clamped down defensively in the second half. Not so much against the Vols.
Tennessee continued to move the ball throughout the second half and Georgia simply had no answer. Well, the Bulldogs answered by forcing turnovers, but the Dawgs’ certainly can’t rely on takeaways to bail them out moving forward. They need stops and it didn’t look like they were capable of making them against the Volunteers in the second half.