Georgia looks like the real deal. Thanks to four Tennessee turnovers and a successful run game, the Dawgs dominated in Knoxville and throttled the Volunteers, 41-0.
The biggest question I had heading into the game was how Tennessee would try to attack Georgia's defense. Tennessee never figured anything out.
Through four weeks, the Vols were decent, if slightly inconsistent, at running the ball. But no one has been able to run on the Dawgs. The passing game has not been Tennessee's strength, but the Vols clearly thought they needed to find some passing success to open up the run.
Unfortunately, starting quarterback Quinten Dormady just wasn’t up to the task. He completed just five of 16 passes for 64 yards and two interceptions.
On the first play of the game, Dormady took too long throwing a short pass to the sideline, and it was picked off by Tyrique McGhee. After a Georgia field goal, Tennessee started its next drive with a false start and a quick three-and-out, then another three-and-out. John Kelly was finding no running room, and two long passes fell to the turf.
It never got any better. Tennessee found brief success on some cutback runs by Kelly and Carlin Fils-Aime, and Kelly ripped off a 44-yard reception in the third quarter. But passing misfires ruined every drive that a fumble didn’t. Midway through the second quarter, UT executed a nice hitch-and-go, but Dormady under-threw a wide-open receiver, and the ball was deflected, then picked. And at the end of Kelly’s long reception, he lost a fumble.
Oh yeah, and there was a buttfumble mixed in there, too.
Freshman Jarrett Guarantano came in for Dormady with the Vols down 31-0 late in the third quarter. Tennessee’s fortunes didn’t improve.
For a while, the Georgia offense wasn’t any better.
For all that’s worked for Georgia thus far this season, the run game has still been rather hit or miss. The Dawgs entered the game ranked just 86th in rushing success rate. That’s meant a lot of second-and-8s or third-and-7s for quarterback Jake Fromm. Against maybe the best passing downs pass rush in the country. UGA couldn’t afford to fall into too many second- or third-and-longs.
That wasn’t a concern for long. Fromm completed just seven of 15 passes for 84 yards, but after some early issues, the run game got rolling. Veterans Chubb and Sony Michel combined for 173 yards in 27 carries, and youngsters D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield added 87 yards in 12 carries. Swift logged a nasty, powerful 22-yard run in the second quarter, and Fromm tossed in a couple of nice scrambles, too, including one for a touchdown.
Field position helped Georgia early. Georgia got a field goal after McGhee’s fumble, then needed to drive just 54 yards for a touchdown on a nice lob from Fromm to Javon Wims. A couple of nice punt returns allowed the Dawgs to flip the field long enough to generate a two-score advantage, then helped to set up another easy score late in the half.
The Dawgs drove 87 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to open up a 17-point lead, then tacked on another touchdown following Dormady’s interception.
With Georgia, the SEC East has at least one excellent team
The general narrative about the SEC East in 2017 is that it is, well, the SEC East. Bad once again. It’s early, but there’s certainly been some evidence.
- South Carolina lost its best offensive weapon and proceeded to barely beat Louisiana Tech.
- Vanderbilt looked interesting enough to get Alabama’s attention, then proceeded to get erased by the Tide.
- Florida hasn’t settled on a quarterback since 2009.
- Tennessee might not have a quarterback either, and the run defense has been shaky at best.
- Kentucky has been experimenting with 0-on-1 defensive matchups, and the results haven’t been encouraging.
- Missouri has entirely lost the plot.
A combination of injury, unforeseen incompetence, and Bama have put the division in bad sorts. But I only listed six teams above. The seventh team had been outstanding over the season’s first month, and that continued on Saturday.
Georgia has looked a lot like the team athletic director Greg McGarity hoped it would become when he dismissed longtime head coach Mark Richt for former UGA defender and Nick Saban assistant Kirby Smart.
The Dawgs have beaten a solid Notre Dame team in South Bend (with a true freshman quarterback making his first start, no less) and thoroughly destroyed Appalachian State, Mississippi State, and Tennessee. They are allowing under 10 points per game. That’ll allow you to break in a new quarterback nice and slow.
Georgia has looked the part.
Now they have to keep looking the part. The Dawgs’ road gets at least a little bit easier moving forward — a trip to Vanderbilt doesn’t look quite as scary as it did a couple of weeks ago, and a visit from Missouri should allow UGA to rest some players before the annual trip to Jacksonville to face Florida.
The turnovers fairy smiled on the Dawgs today, turning a reasonably close game into a blowout. But recent history suggests that if their luck is going to turn around, it’s going to be against Florida.
Tennessee isn’t going to have a very fun week
After a heartbreaking loss to Florida and an almost equally frustrating win over UMass, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones lectured the media about getting too negative. He went so far as to drop a “fake news” reference.
Following an incredibly dispiriting performance in front of a gorgeous, checkered Neyland Stadium crowd, one that was fighting itself by the second half, I’m doubting the local media is going to be particularly interested in accentuating the positive.
Jones said what he needed to in the post-game press conference — no excuses, offensive performance was inexcusable — and tossed in some confusing bits (“Football is the greatest team sport, but it comes down to 11 individuals as well.”). But the bye week comes at a good time.
Jones’ tenure has not been all bad. He inherited a Tennessee program that hadn’t won more than seven games in a season since firing Phil Fulmer in 2008, and after going 5-7 in his first season, he went 7-6, then pulled off back-to-back nine-win campaigns. But even the successful seasons were remembered almost as much for the blown leads and missed chances as the successes. Part of that might have been because of media slant, sure, but ... they were also memorable missed chances.
Jones has come across as paranoid and defensive quite a few times during his tenure, even during the good times. The Tennessee job’ll do that to you, and now these are very much not good times.
Tennessee gets a week off before hosting South Carolina. A trip to Alabama follows that. Assuming Jones still has his job on the trip to Tuscaloosa, he’ll likely find himself under even more stress coming back.