Tennessee needed to show some resolve and improvement after a disastrous loss to Florida last weekend, and they did just that against Georgia. The Vols still lost by 26 points to the No. 2 team in the country, but they managed to make it a game in the fourth quarter before Georgia went on a game-sealing scoring drive that took seven and a half minutes.
The Vols, once again, got off to a slow start. They were outscored 17-0 in the first half and managed just 68 yards on a mere 22 plays in the first half of play. Tennessee trailed 24-0 before finally finding life on offense in the third quarter, and they managed to cut that lead to 24-12 in the fourth quarter with a 35-yard touchdown reception by Ty Chandler.
But Georgia proved to be the more talented team on Saturday, and they rode their rushing attack to victory, scoring twice in the last few minutes of the game to ice it.
Now we go back and evaluate some of the reasons why Tennessee earned the outcome they did. Here are the key numbers from the Vols’ 38-12 loss to No. 2 Georgia.
Few Sustained Drives
Georgia absolutely dominated the time of possession on Saturday. The Bulldogs held the ball for 37 minutes and 27 seconds in the game while the Vols possessed it on offense for just 22 minutes and 33 seconds. That was one of the biggest differences in the game and why Georgia was able to wear down UT’s defense.
The Vols went three-and-out three times against Georgia, had two drives that lasted just one play (the last drive before halftime and the Jeremy Banks fumble in the fourth quarter), and they had three other drives where they only picked up one first down on the possession. Tennessee only had two drives last three minutes or longer while Georgia had six possessions go for three or more minutes.
Tennessee’s longest drive of the game was their 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive in the third quarter that took four minutes and 38 seconds off the game clock. Their other scoring drive only took five plays to go 57 yards and lasted two minutes and 24 seconds.
The Vols’ inability to pick up first downs in the first half was one of the biggest factors that did them in on Saturday. Once again, the Vols buried themselves in too big of a hole to climb out of. They’ve been out-scored 31-0 in the first quarter by Power Five opponents this season.
Finally, a Pass Rush
It took five games for it to happen, but the Vols finally found a pass rush this season.
Darrell Taylor had a career game on Saturday, notching three sacks and forcing fumbles on two of those sacks. While Tennessee couldn’t capitalize and recover those fumbles, Taylor more than showed off his ability against the Bulldogs.
But it wasn’t just Taylor. While no other Vol recorded a sack, there were multiple times where Tennessee collapsed the pocket or were able to at least get some pressure on Jake Fromm.
The three sacks that Tennessee totaled on Saturday were the most the Vols have earned in a single game this season, and the 15 yards lost on those three sacks were also the most on the year for Tennessee. The Vols did allow two sacks on the day themselves, but the ability to get to the QB was a nice change of pace for Tennessee’s defense.
A Down to Forget
Third downs have been a strange down for the Vols this season. On defense, they’ve been able to hold most opposing offenses to little success on the money down. But on offense, Tennessee has been far from stellar on the most crucial down of the game.
On Saturday against Georgia, however, both sides of the ball struggled on third down.
At halftime, Georgia was just three-of-seven on third down attempts, and Tennessee was doing a decent job of keeping the Bulldogs from converting. But in the second half, Georgia wore down UT’s defense and started picking up more and more first downs on third down. The Bulldogs converted five of their seven third down attempts in the second half and finished 8-of-14 on third down.
Tennessee’s offense was just as bad on third down as Georgia’s offense was good. The Vols converted only two of their 10 third down attempts, and they were stopped on multiple third-and-one attempts in the first half.
The Vols are now converting just 35.9 percent of their third down attempts this season.
Red Zone Woes Continue
Tennessee continues to not provide any resistance in the red zone to opposing offenses, and Georgia capitalized on that big time on Saturday.
The Bulldogs had five trips into the red zone against Tennessee, and all five times they came away with points. Four times Georgia scored a touchdown when in the red zone, and they were held to a field goal just once. The Vols never made it into the red zone on offense, as both of their scoring plays came from 30-plus yards out.
On the season, Tennessee has allowed opponents to score on every single red zone possession they’ve had. Opponents have gotten into the red zone 14 times against the Vols, and all 14 times they’ve come away with points. Before Saturday, Tennessee had at least done a decent job of holding teams to field goals in the red zone, forcing them to kick for a field goal four out of the nine times teams had made it into the red zone.
But on Saturday, Georgia was unstoppable in the red zone, and UT’s defense was only able to keep them out of the end zone once. But even that time, the Bulldogs still got points out of the trip.
Finding More Big Plays
Georgia came into Saturday’s contest only having allowed three plays of 20 or more yards to opponents all season. Opponents ran 271 plays against Georgia before Saturday, and they only managed to pick up 20 or more yards three times.
Against Tennessee, however, that total nearly doubled.
The Vols managed to rip off two plays that went over 30 yards on Saturday, and they scored on both of them. Jarrett Guarantano found Josh Palmer down the sideline for a 37-yard touchdown, and Ty Chandler took a short pass and zipped down the field for a 35-yard score. The Vols also had a 17-yard run that won’t count as a play of 20 or more yards, but it was close.
Tennessee continues to find ways to make big plays on offense, and they were able to do so against a stout Georgia defense on Saturday. The Bulldogs had allowed offenses to pick up 20 or more yards on just 1.1 percent of their offensive plays before Saturday. The Vols managed to gain 20 or more yards on two of their 46 plays against UGA’s defense, good for 4.35 percent of their offensive plays.