It was a second half to forget for the Tennessee football team on Saturday.
The Vols were unable to hold on to a halftime lead as No. 3 Georgia reeled off 27 second-half points to take a 44-21 victory over the No. 12 Vols in Athens, GA.
Tennessee saw an eight-game winning streak snapped with the loss as they fall to 2-1 on the year.
“First of all, I would just like to give credit to Georgia,” Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “I thought they really outplayed us there in the second half. When you look at the game, of course, you learn a lot when you look at the tape, but you can’t turn the ball over three times against anybody and expect to win.”
It was a tale of two halves for the Vols.
Tennessee got on the board in the opening minute as an errant snap ended up in Kivon Bennett’s hands in the endzone for a Volunteer touchdown. Georgia tied the game up midway through the quarter when Zamir White scored on a one-yard touchdown.
The opening seconds of the second quarter saw Stetson Bennett score on an eight-yard run to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the night.
However, Tennessee answered as Jarrett Guarantano found Josh Palmer in the endzone for a 36-yard touchdown.
After Georgia added a 47-yard field goal from Jack Podlesny, Tennessee regained the lead as Guarantano hit Palmer for the duo’s second touchdown of the night with 3:08 remaining in the half.
Georgia looked to even things up in the closing seconds of the half, but the Tennessee defense held strong from their one-yard line to end the half.
Tennessee’s fortune, however, started to turn after the half.
The Vols turned the ball over on their first three possessions of the second half, but limited Georgia to just a pair of field goals.
However, the Bulldogs got some breathing room as Kearis Jackson caught a Bennett pass to give UGA a 30-21 lead at the end of the third quarter. From there, it was all Bulldogs.
Guarantano was 23-of-36 for 215 yards and two touchdowns with most of the success coming in the first half as the Vols had trouble containing the Bulldog pressure.
“They got pressure on the quarterback,” Pruitt said. “I don’t know exactly what pressures they ran. I know a couple of times we had people blocking them and they beat us in one-on-ones. Then we threw a pick, which was an ill-advised throw. You just can’t do stuff like that. It’s pretty simple. We turned the ball over three times and didn’t get any turnovers in the second half. That’s the difference in the ball game.”
Tennessee was unable to get the running game going as the Vols finished with negative yardage.
Eric Gray had eight carries for 25 yards, while Ty Chandler had 11 yards on eight carries.
“Yeah we didn’t run the ball very well at all,” Pruitt said. “We didn’t seem to get in rhythm offensively, we created a couple of big throws there, but to win in this league you have to be able to run the ball. We didn’t run the ball tonight. It’s tough to win that way when you become one-dimensional.”
Gray added 54 yards receiving in the game, while Palmer was the leading receiver with 71 yards on four catches.
“They just came out better in the second half,” Palmer said. “Honestly, we just have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot by making dumb mistakes. But they were just a better team in the second half.”
Tennessee returns to action on Saturday inside Neyland Stadium when Kentucky comes to town. Kickoff is set for noon.
Photos courtesy of Tennessee Athletic Communications