Tennessee Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 5 Game vs. Georgia
For many Tennessee fans, it is still hard to put into words what they watched take place Saturday in Athens.
For the first 20 minutes, Georgia was running away from the Tennessee Volunteers. The only reason Tennessee had any kind of life was because Byron Moore put them on the board with an interception for a touchdown.
Then the script completely flipped, and the Vols surged forward. Tennessee scored 20 straight points to take a 30-27 lead before the Dawgs tied it right before half.
After halftime, Georgia once again started to run away from the orange and white. But every time the Bulldogs created separation, the Vols battled back and had the football three separate times in the final seven minutes trailing by seven points.
Let's try to make some sense of what happened Saturday and pick out winners and losers.
Winner: Raijon Neal
After a year away from the tailback position, Raijon Neal is back in the backfield and has clearly asserted himself as the clear starting tailback.
His performance Saturday wasn't spectacular or flashy, but it was very consistent. Neal carried the ball 23 times for 104 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
In addition to his work on the ground, the running back added 53 yards on five catches, including a touchdown.
The Vols were searching for a true tailback when the season started, and it seems like they have one now.
Neal has shown the burst and power to provide the Vols the consistent run game they so badly need to become a complete offense.
Winner: Offensive Line
Tennessee fans are tired of hearing about the struggles of the ground game, and they may not have to hear about it anymore after Saturday.
The Volunteers rushed for 197 yards and three scores against a Georgia defense that was clearly a little overrated coming into the game.
Trailing 51-37 in the fourth quarter, Tennessee went on a 13-play, 60-yard drive to cut the deficit to just one score. Nine of those plays were rushing plays, including the final seven on its way to the end zone.
The Vols lined up and ran it right at the teeth of the Georgia defense. It was the most impressive scoring drive of the season to this point.
It wasn't just great work on the ground for the offensive line, though. They also kept Tyler Bray pretty clean when he dropped back to throw.
Working against several of the top defensive prospects in the country, Tennessee didn't allow a sack and gave Bray plenty of time to throw on most occasions.
The offensive line may have been the most impressive Tennessee unit on Saturday.
Loser: Justin Hunter
Everyone is aware that Tennessee has two playmakers on the outside who will soon be playing on Sundays.
Cordarrelle Patterson showed off some of his playmaking ability on an impressive 46-yard touchdown run that was actually supposed to be a pass. Aside from the touchdown, Patterson was relatively quiet.
Justin Hunter, on the other hand, was quiet pretty much the entire day. The junior made just three catches for 46 yards and failed to come up with the big, explosive play that fans have come to expect.
Not everything falls on Hunter, though. Tyler Bray had a couple opportunities to get the football to him in space in the fourth quarter and just missed him.
However, when Tennessee puts 44 points on the board, you would expect Hunter to play more of a role in it.
Winner: Derek Dooley
This may not be a popular pick with Tennessee fans, but I truly think Derek Dooley walks away from this game as a winner.
He didn't win the game and Tennessee fans are getting tired of moral victories, but there was plenty to be happy about.
For the first time in his three years, his team went toe-to-toe with an elite team for four full quarters. So many times during Dooley's tenure the Vols have played great teams well for two quarters. Earlier this season against Florida, Tennessee played well for almost three quarters.
Saturday, Tennessee put forth great effort for the full 60 minutes.
Sure there were some things that need to be fixed, but the effort and determination was there, and that is a welcomed sign.
Whether Vols fans want to admit it or not, this program is showing signs of moving in the right direction.
Anytime you allow 51 points, it's pretty obvious that the defense comes away as a loser.
The Vols were once again gashed on defense on numerous occasions. Tennessee allowed three touchdowns of at least 50 yards, and Georgia looked like it was playing against air at times.
It's very clear that the Vols are still struggling their way through the transition to the 3-4 defense. It's also clear that they lack the speed necessary to avoid allowing big plays.
Georgia amassed nearly 600 yards of offense, including almost 300 on the ground.
Tennessee is going to have to win games in spite of their defense rather than because of their defense. With that being said, if the Vols could make some improvements on that side of the ball this season, they will likely win at least one big game the rest of the way.
It wasn't all bad for the Tennessee defense on Saturday. They made three consecutive stops in the fourth quarter, providing the offense with opportunities to play for the win.
They also scored a touchdown and made stops that gave Tennessee great field position that would lead to scores.
However, there was a lot more bad than good.
Winner: Byron Moore
Byron Moore was a part of the Tennessee defense that was continually gashed on Saturday, but Moore sets himself apart as a winner because of the touchdown he had in the first quarter.
During that first quarter, Georgia was doing whatever it wanted, and Tennessee really had no answer. The only touchdown they put up was Moore's 35-yard interception return.
For Moore, it was his third interception in the last two games after having two against Akron.
Moore was a disappointment last year when Tennessee fans were expecting him to make an impact right away coming out of junior college.
He's making up for it right now, though, providing the defense with a playmaker on the back end.