ATHENS, Ga. – Tennessee jumped out to a 10-0 lead and hung tough all afternoon, but dropped a tough 35-32 decision at #12/13 Georgia on Saturday. The Vols were seeking their first road win against a ranked team in 21 contests, dating to a 2006 win at #10 Georgia.
The Vols fall to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the SEC. Tennessee has dropped its last 10 conference openers dating to 2004. Georgia moves to 3-1 overall and levels its record at 1-1 in the league.
Freshman Jalen Hurd had a huge day for the Vols as he ran for 119 yards and a touchdown. His rushing yards were the most by a true freshman since Jamal Lewis ran for 127 in the 1997 SEC Championship game vs. Auburn.
Tennessee starting quarterback Justin Worley finished 23-of-35 for 264 yards with three touchdowns. He connected with Jason Croom, Pig Howard and Marquez North. Worley suffered an injury midway through the third quarter and was replaced byNathan Peterman (4-of-9 for 20 yards) for three series, but returned late and nearly led the Vols to victory.
Senior linebacker A.J. Johnson led a valiant defensive effort with 17 tackles. Johnson moved to fifth in career tackles at Tennessee with 370. It was his 20th career game with double-figure stops. Jalen Reeves-Maybin racked up 10 tackles and 3.5 TFLs.
For the Bulldogs, Todd Gurley ran for 208 yards on 28 carries and his 32nd and 33rd career rushing touchdowns tying him for third all-time in Bulldogs history. UGA’s quarterback Hutson Mason was 16-of-25 for 147 with a passing and rushing touchdown.
Tennessee’s sensational third-down defense was outstanding yet again. The Vols held Georgia to just 1-of-10 on conversions. For the season, Tennessee has limited foes to 20.8 percent (11-for-53).
With the Bulldogs clinging to a four-point lead for most of the second half, Gurley ripped off a 51-yard burst with 9:31 left in the fourth quarter to give UGA a two-score lead at 28-17.
After suffering an injury in the third quarter which forced him to miss three series, Worley returned following Gurley’s second score. Worley immediately led the Vols to a scoring drive as he connected with Howard on a 31-yard touchdown pass with 8:07 left in the fourth, making it 28-23.
Tennessee converted the two-pointer as Worley lobbed the ball to Daniel Helm making it 28-25.
On the ensuing possession, the Vols defense was stout, stopping Georgia for three consecutive losses on rushing plays finishing with a Curt Maggitt sack forcing Georgia to punt. The punt was downed at the 1-yard line with 4:38 left in the fourth.
With the Vols looking to drive 99 yards to tie or take the lead, Hurd fumbled the ball in the end zone and it was recovered by Josh Dawson for a touchdown. That put Georgia up 35-25 with 4:27 remaining.
The Vols kept battling. Worley connected with North for a six-yard touchdown to make it a one-score game, 35-32 with 2:15 remaining.
With less than a minute remaining, Gurley converted a 4th-and-3 to seal the victory for the Bulldogs after Tennessee stopped Georgia on third down for the ninth time in 10 attempts.
With Georgia up 21-17 to begin the second half, the teams grinded it out in the third quarter exchanging turnovers.Cameron Sutton picked off a pass for the Vols early in the quarter, but UT was unable to convert. Late in the quarter, with Peterman into the game, an exchange to Marlin Lane was fumbled and Georgia took possession at their own 23. The Bulldogs drove into Vols’ territory, but were forced to punt after Maggitt sacked Hutson.
Georgia scored 21 consecutive points to take a 21-10 lead with a little more than a minute left in the first half, but the Vols quickly answered. Worley guided UT 83 yards in just 59 seconds finishing it off with a 23-yard bolt to Jason Croom in the left corner of the end zone to cut the deficit to 21-17 at halftime.
Tennessee jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter as Worley moved the Vols down the field with efficiency.
After a 46-yard field goal by Aaron Medley to make it 3-0, the Vols drove 72 yards to take a 10-0 lead. Hurd capped off the drive worth a 1-yard plunge with 5:04 left in the quarter.
Georgia got on the board with as Gurley pushed the Bulldogs down the field and Mason finished the drive with a 3-yard rush over left tackle to make it 10-7 with 1:07 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs took their first lead of the game on Gurley’s 1-yard dive over the pile of linemen with 8:45 left in the second quarter. The play was reviewed to confirm Gurley touched the goal line and the score was upheld, making it 14-10.
Nick Chubb took a slant pass from Mason and finished an 11-play drive with a 20-yard touchdown reception to put the Bulldogs ahead 21-10 with 1:17 left in the first half.
(Release courtesy of Tennessee Athletics/Carter County Sports photo)