Tennessee took a 14-10 second-quarter lead over No. 3 Georgia behind gritty play from true freshman quarterback Brian Maurer before falling, 43-14, in front of a crowd of 92,709 Saturday night at Neyland Stadium.
In his first career start for the Vols (1-4/0-2 SEC), Maurer completed 14 of 28 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. The Ocala, Fla., native connected on 10 of 21 attempts in the first half for 205 yards and two TDs, propelling UT to a four-point lead with 14:57 to go in the second stanza.
Redshirt senior Jauan Jennings turned in a career-high 114 yards receiving and tied his career best with seven receptions. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the fourth time as a Vol. Senior Marquez Callaway posted his second career 100-yard receiving game, hauling in three balls for 105 yards and a touchdown.
The efforts by Jennings and Callaway gave Tennessee a pair of 100-yard receivers in a game for the first time since Nov. 10, 2012. On that date, Justin Hunter and Mychal Rivera accomplished that feat vs. Missouri.
Georgia (5-0/2-0 SEC) stayed unbeaten behind junior quarterback Jake Fromm, who completed 24 of 29 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns and helped the Bulldog offense win the time of possession battle 36:28 to 23:32.
UGA went on top 7-0 with 7:07 remaining in the first quarter on a one-yard plunge by D’Andre Swift and a PAT by Rodrigo Blankenship.
Tennessee wasted little time responding, as Maurer found Callaway behind the Bulldog secondary for an electrifying 73-yard touchdown strike on the second play of the ensuing drive. The completion was the fifth of Maurer’s collegiate career and his first in Neyland. Junior Brent Cimaglia added the PAT to knot the score at 7-7 with 6:25 left in the opening stanza.
Georgia went back in front with 2:34 to go in the first period, but the Bulldogs had to settle for three after an offensive pass interference penalty and a swarming Tennessee defense halted their drive. Blankenship was good from 50 yards to make it 10-7 UGA.
Maurer and company seized the lead on the next possession, as the freshman signal-caller fired a dart across the middle to Jennings for a 12-yard touchdown on the opening play of the second quarter. Cimaglia’s PAT put the Vols up 14-10 with 14:57 to go in the half. Maurer threw for 66 of the 75 yards during the 10-play drive.
After a 40-yard run by Brian Herrien, UGA had it first and 10 from the UT 22 on the very next possession. The Vols dug their heels in again, though, forcing the Bulldogs to settle for a 34-yard Blankenship field goal that cut Tennessee’s lead to 14-13 with 11:31 left before the half.
Georgia moved back in front with two touchdowns in the final 1:59 of the half. Fromm connected with Lawrence Cager for a three-yard score and then hit George Pickens from seven yards out with nine seconds remaining. Blankenship added the extra point after the first TD, and the Vols stymied the Bulldogs’ two-point conversion following the second strike, leaving the score 26-14 at the intermission.
UGA pushed its lead to 29-14 with 7:03 remaining in the third frame, as Blankenship booted a 27-yard field goal through the uprights.
Herrien added a one-yard TD run for the Bulldogs with 8:02 to go, and Tae Crowder returned a fumble 60 yards with 4:39 remaining. Blankenship added both PATs to provide the final score.
Tennessee will be back in action next Saturday at Neyland Stadium, as Mississippi State comes to town for a noon contest on the SEC Network.