Things went well for Tennessee for one play at Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Georgia controlled the ensuing 125 plays as the Bulldogs coasted to a 38-10 victory.
Georgia outplayed Tennessee in every facet of the game in a dominant victory. Here’s four quick takeaways.
Inability To Sustain Drives
The game couldn’t have started better for Tennessee. Jaylen Wright ran 75 yards up the middle on the first play of the game for a touchdown. It was exactly what the Vols needed to gain some early confidence and get the crowd fully bought in.
Nothing went well for Tennessee’s offense after that. The Vols totaled two first downs on their next four drives and didn’t cross midfield until there was less than two minutes remaining in the first half. There were no horrific plays like in the Florida or Missouri losses but Tennessee couldn’t sustain anything.
There was a high and hot Joe Milton III third down throw that went through Squirrel White’s hands. A second down Dylan Sampson run should have gone for a first down but he cut outside instead of inside and didn’t pick it up.
After totaling 75 yards on the first play of the game, the Vols totaled just 113 yards on their final 25 plays of the first half. Tennessee’s offense wasn’t a disaster but it struggled to string anything positive together.
The same issues that plagued Tennessee in the first half plagued them in the second half. Over the course of the game, the Vols had just two drives that gained multiple first downs.
Tennessee’s Defense Unable To Get Off The Field On Third Down
Tennessee’s defense entered the Georgia game coming off a very bad performance where it was unable to get off the field on third-and-intermediate. Georgia entered the matchup with the SEC’s best third down offense.
It was a part of the game that Tennessee seemed poised to struggle in entering the game. That’s exactly how it went.
Georgia scored on four of five first half drives and went five-of-seven on third down in the process. There was a backbreaking Dillon Bell 21-yard back shoulder catch on third-and-12 in a sequence Georgia turned second-and-18 into a first down.
But besides that, the Bulldogs didn’t do anything special on third down. They just made winning plays as Georgia’s offensive line protected Carson Beck well like they have all season.
One of Tennessee’s two third down stops in the first half was a 12-yard gain on third-and-18 which still set the Bulldogs up for a much easier field goal try.
The second half was much of the same. Tennessee forced a three-and-out to open the second half when Oscar Delp dropped an easy pass on third down but that was about the only way the Vols got off the field. Georgia finished the game nine-of-13 on third downs.
More From RTI: Tennessee-Georgia Game Recap
Carson Beck Dices Up Vols’ Secondary
Tennessee’s pass defense’s improvement was one of the main stories of the first half of the season. It’s regression is one of the main stories of the second half of the season.
The analysis on why is for another time though Kamal Hadden’s injury and the pass rush taking a step back are two key factors.
But the important thing here is that the trend continued against Georgia. I was very skeptical of Tennessee’s ability to slow down a rapidly improving Bulldogs’ passing attack and that proved true. The Bulldogs threw the ball all over Shield-Watkins Field.
Carson Beck was surgical against Tennessee’s zone defense frequently making correct reads and throwing the ball into open windows. When Tennessee went man-to-man they struggled to guard Georgia’s receivers and tight ends.
Beck was superb against Tennessee, completing 24-of-30 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns. The Vols’ defense did a solid job of limiting Georgia’s running game but it mattered not. Georgia moved the ball through the air with ease and Tennessee couldn’t get the Bulldogs off the field on third down.
No Response From Tennessee … Again
The common theme in Tennessee’s four losses this season is a pretty daunting one— the opponent hit the Vols in the mouth and they never responded.
Tennessee’s loss against Georgia wasn’t as bad as the other three in this regard. The Vols absolutely collapsed when things went wrong in those games. Against the Bulldogs, Tennessee didn’t collapse. Georgia is just a really good team and the Vols couldn’t do anything to regain any momentum.
Georgia scored 24 unanswered points in the first half and outscored the Vols 38-3 for an extended stretch of the game.
It’s hard to say definitively why this has been the case for Tennessee this season or why it’s been such a reoccurring issue. But it’s certainly not a good sign for the health of Tennessee’s program and probably says a lot about this team’s leadership.
The way it happened against Georgia wasn’t inexcusable on its own. It happening in four out of 11 games is though.