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Five Critical Moments: Tennessee Non Competitive Against Georgia

Dylan Sampson runs the football. Photographed by Jackson McCarter/Rocky Top Insider

Tennessee football was little resistance for No. 1 Georgia on Saturday afternoon as the Bulldogs rolled the Vols 38-10 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. The Vols fell to 7-4 (3-4 SEC) with the loss ahead of next week’s regular season finale against Vanderbilt.

Here’s five critical moments from the Vols’ loss against Georgia.

More From RTI: PFF Grades From Tennessee Football’s Loss At Georgia

Play Number One

Things couldn’t have started better for Tennessee. Joe Milton III handed the ball off to Jaylen Wright and the Vols’ offensive line cleared a lane that easily allowed for Wright to run through the first two levels of the defense.

Then a pair of Georgia defensive backs underestimated Wright’s speed, taking bad angles at the ball carrier. Tennessee’s top running back ran right past both and went 75 yards untouched. Neyland Stadium came unglued.

It was the type of play that Tennessee needed if they were going to make it a competitive game. It was just about the last good thing that happened for Tennessee.

The Ensuing Three-And-Outs

This is more than one moment but really two sequences that allowed Georgia to completely grab the game’s momentum.

The encouraging thing about Tennessee scoring on the first play of the game is that it didn’t have to use its scripted plays and drive. Even with all of Tennessee’s offensive deficiencies this season, they’ve been really good when opening games with scripted plays.

But on Tennessee’s two ensuing drives following the first play touchdown they did nothing. The Vols went three-and-out twice totaling 14 yards on those two drives. During that time, Georgia scored 10 straight points and took the lead that it never relinquished.

A Near Game Changing Play

For a moment, Tennessee nearly regained the momentum on the ensuing drive. Carson Beck’s pass over the middle was tipped right into Doneiko Slaughter’s arms for an interception. Slaughter returned the interception to the 20-yard line giving Tennessee a chance to retake the lead or at the very least tie up the game and stymie Georgia’s run.

But as the dust settled a yellow flag was apparent. Defensive holding on Slaughter was the call. The corner wasn’t guarding the intended receiver.

It wasn’t a bad call. There was hand fighting from both players and Slaughter did grab the receiver. But it wasn’t a terribly obvious call either. During a season where Tennessee hasn’t gotten many breaks from officials and has been unable to respond to adversity when things go poorly, the play felt like a perfect encapsulation of the frustrations of Tennessee’s season.

Back Shoulder Backbreaker

Tennessee struggled to stop Georgia without creating a negative play. But with Georgia leading 17-7 midway through the second quarter the Vols finally got the offensive holding call they’ve been wait on for a month. It backed Georgia up into second-and-21.

The Vols badly needed a stop and then a score before halftime to cut Georgia’s lead to one-score at halftime. Georgia picked up nine yards on second down, setting them up for a third-and-12.

Like the rest of the game, Tennessee couldn’t get off the field. Carson Beck threw a beautiful back shoulder pass and Dillon Bell hauled in the pass for a 21-yard gain and a first down. Doneiko Slaughter’s coverage was strong. He even turned his head but he couldn’t bat down the pass.

It was a backbreaking sequence as Georgia went on to score a touchdown and take a 24-7 lead on the drive. It was also another example of the Bulldogs’ making impressive winning plays even when Tennessee’s defense had strong coverage.

Another Ill Timed Three-And-Out

Georgia finally made a mistake when Oscar Delp dropped an easy pass on third down on the opening drive of the second half.

Tennessee got the ball back trailing by two touchdowns. The Vols weren’t going to win the game. But this was their chance to go cut the deficit to seven points and potentially make it a game.

Instead, the Vols went three-and-out and punted. Tennessee never possessed the ball down by two scores or less again.

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