Game Recap: UT vs Georgia
Tennessee Stat Book
ATHENS, Ga. - All Georgia needed, it turned out, was a Dooley back on the sideline. Even if it was on the other sideline.
Derek Dooley's short-handed, youthful Tennessee team was just the cure Saturday for what has been ailing Georgia's Bulldogs through a soul-searching, four-game losing streak.
That streak ended with a resounding 41-14 spanking of the error-prone Vols before a Sanford Stadium crowd of 92,746.
Thus, it wasn't much of a homecoming for Dooley, the Athens native who grew up between the legendary hedges watching his dad Vince become Georgia's all-time winningest coach.
"I thought we were (ready),'' said Dooley, "but it's hard to say we were ready when we go out there and get run out of the stadium from the first play to the last.''
There was no question as to the Bulldogs (2-4, 1-3 SEC) being ready - they led 17-0 in the first quarter.
The Vols (2-4, 0-3), meanwhile, were their own worst enemy.
Turnovers? Three of 'em.
Execution breakdowns? An ill-timed botched shotgun snap that nearly resulted in a safety (or worse) certainly qualifies.
Penalties? That too, as if Georgia needed any more help.
Trumped in the motivation department? Apparently.
"Georgia came out strong,'' said UT tailback Tauren Poole, one of 15 Georgia natives in a Tennessee uniform. "We didn't respond. We didn't respond at all.
"Initially, I think we were ready but we started looking at the scoreboard and hanging our heads.''
The scoreboard looked worse to the Vols every time Georgia freshman quarterback Aaron Murray got on the field.
Murray was 17-of-25 passing for 266 yards without a turnover.
He threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, including a 35-yard jaunt on Georgia's opening possession.
In his second game back from an NCAA suspension All-American receiver A.J. Green was virtually uncoverable. He had six catches for 96 yards, one of them a touchdown in the second quarter.
"He looked like he's in the NFL already,'' said Poole.
"On four, maybe five of those, we had him doubled in some fashion,'' Dooley said.
Georgia amassed 402 yards of offense and its defense held up its end of the bargain.
The Vols managed 269 yards, of which only 9 came on the ground. Poole chugged for 51 yards but four sacks and the errant snap reduced the net to a single forlorn digit.
The Bulldogs ended Matt Simms' no-interception streak in the first quarter by snagging a tipped pass.
They twice forced fumbles from Eric Gordon in the return game and converted each into touchdowns.
"They were hungry and ready,'' Dooley said.
"They looked like what everybody expected Georgia to look like this year.
"They've got a good team.''
Georgia coach Mark Richt no doubt slept better Saturday night. Disenchantment had grown to the point some felt a loss to a Dooley-coached team in Sanford Stadium would be a kill shot to his regime.
Moot point - at least for another week.
"You can't play the way we did today unless the guys are sticking together,'' Richt said.
"We knew,'' added Murray, "that we were capable of coming out and playing like this.
Dooley actually felt the same about his team - only he thought the breakdowns would have come last week at LSU in the Vols' first road game.
Instead they tumbled out in a flood Saturday.
Murray broke containment to race for Georgia's first score. Three plays later, Bacarri Rambo intercepted Simms.
"Not enough air on the ball,'' said Dooley. "The guy was open.''
UT could have minimized the damage but Marsalis Teague couldn't handle what would have been a drive-stopping interception.
At least Georgia had to settle for a Blair Walsh field goal and a 10-0 lead.
Not for long. Gordon fumbled the kickoff return and three plays later Murray hit Rontavious Wooten for the score to go up 17-0.
Tennessee finally answered as Simms found Justin Hunter for a 38-yard touchdown.
Trailing 17-7, the Vols forced two consecutive Georgia punts and seemed to be gaining traction.
But the second punt was fumbled by Gordon. Murray & Co. were back in business at the UT 37. Forget traction.
The touchdown came on a 22-yard strike to Green and it was 24-7.
More bad news was imminent. On Tennessee's first play after the kickoff, center Darin Gooch snapped the ball, hoping to catch Georgia offside, but Simms wasn't looking.
Simms covered the loose ball for a 23-yard loss at the Tennessee 3.
"Gooch was seeing shadows,'' Dooley said of the mishap he considered a fourth turnover. "I guess the (Georgia) guy's shadow was offside.
"That's about the story of our day.''
Add a personal-foul penalty on the ensuing Georgia punt return to the story.
After the flag, the Bulldogs started at the UT 21 and Walsh's second field goal made it 27-7 at the half.
"We didn't handle adversity well when it came,'' said senior linebacker Nick Reveiz, "and it came early and often.''
The third quarter saw UT drive 71 yards for a score, a 2-yard run by Poole. That success, however, was sandwiched by Georgia touchdowns before and after and the deficit grew.
The fourth quarter was scoreless, barely.
Dooley lifted Simms to get freshman Tyler Bray game experience and Bray drove the Vols to the Georgia 3 before his fourth-down pass was broken up.
Now Tennessee turns to an open date and then a visit from Alabama on Oct. 23.
"We have got to go forward,'' said Poole. "We've got no choice.''