Dave Hooker audio
ATHENS, Ga. - Two drives.
For all the football played Saturday afternoon in Sanford Stadium, Tennessee's 26-14 loss to No. 10 Georgia came down to two key stretches.
Trailing by six points, the Vols watched as Georgia marched 97 yards for a touchdown in a two-minute drill just before halftime.
Needing to get its offense back on the field for any chance to rally from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter, the Vols gave up a 17-play drive that took nearly 11 minutes off the clock.
Those were the backbreakers for Georgia.
And they were head-bangers for Tennessee's defense.
"We've been saying for the last two weeks, we've got to get off the field," senior linebacker Ellix Wilson said. "We didn't do it, and it kind of bit us in the behind. There's going to be 100 things we can correct after we watch this film. We've just got to go to work and correct those things that we made mistakes on."
Tennessee's most costly mistakes seemed to come on third down. For the day, Georgia was 9-for-17 on third conversions. On those two big drives, though, the Bulldogs were much better than that.
Tennessee (2-4, 0-3 SEC) was even a willing accomplice.
On Georgia's final scoring drive of the first half, it converted on a pair of third-downs.
On third-and-8 from his own 5-yard line, Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford found Knowshon Moreno for a 14-yard gain. On third-and-3 from the UT 9-yard line, Stafford hit Mohamed Massaquoi for a touchdown. In between, Tennessee's defense gift-wrapped two huge gains for Georgia by virtue of penalties.
Safety Demetrice Morley was flagged for hitting Massaquoi in the helmet, a call Chavis didn't seem to agree with following the game.
"More than suspect," Chavis said when a reporter offered his take on the flag. "I ain't going to question anything. You saw it, what did you think?"
Two plays later, cornerback DeAngelo Willingham slung Demiko Goodman to the turf several yards out of bounds.
In the case of Goodman's play, the penalty and reception moved the line of scrimmage from the Tennessee 49-yard line to the 16. And it only took 11 seconds off the game clock.
By moving swiftly to answer UT's only first-half touchdown, Georgia (5-1, 2-1 SEC) wrestled momentum away from the Vols heading into halftime.
"If we didn't let them score there, we probably have a little more momentum and Georgia has a little less momentum coming into the second half," said defensive tackle Dan Williams, who finished with six tackles. "But at the same time, we just had those two big penalties. That helped them, kept them on the field."
It was only a prelude to a monster drive that ended any chance for a Tennessee comeback.
After UT's offense turned an Eric Berry interception into points and pulled to 20-14, Georgia wouldn't give up the football. And Tennessee - which had another interception by defensive end Robert Ayers - couldn't take it away this time, either.
The Bulldogs only got a field goal out of the drive. But more important, they chewed up 10:55 by moving 76 yards in 17 plays.
After having been on the field for more than 30 minutes already, Tennessee's defense was simply gassed, Wilson said.
"Anytime you're on the field that long, it's going to catch up to you," Wilson said. "I don't care who you are. You've just got to get off the field when it's time for you to get off the field."
The Vols allowed their first 100-yard rusher (Moreno, 101 yards) since the Outback Bowl. Stafford's career-high 310 yards were the most since Kentucky's Andre' Woodson topped 400 yards in six overtimes last November.
The solution, Chavis says, can only be found on the practice field.
"We're going to respond the way we need to, I can assure you that," he said. "I can tell you one thing, I'm not going to lay down, and this football team's not going to lay down. We'll go to work tomorrow and we're going to work to get it better."
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.