Vols put on steam until they run out of fuel
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ATHENS, Ga. — The script of the game seemed to read from General Robert Neyland’s infamous Game Maxims.
“If at first the game — or the breaks — go against you, don’t let up ... put on more steam,” the legendary Tennessee coach’s third of seven maxims reads.
Tennessee had plenty of breaks go against it against Georgia Saturday afternoon in Athens, it just ran out of the steam late.
“There’s never been a game where you could have more adversity than we hit,” a frustrated Derek Dooley said after the game, “So I hope we at least showed we have a little resiliency in our ball club. Now we’ve just got to learn how to win. We’re going to have a lot of opportunities to do it.”
The Vols showed plenty of that resiliency in fighting back from deficits of as much as 27-10 in the first quarter and 51-37 in the fourth quarter to keep it a one-possession game until late in the contest.
When Georgia (6-0, 3-0 SEC) found big play after big play, Tennessee (3-2, 0-2) found response after response.
“We got hit by a freight train early in the game,” Dooley said of Georgia’s 27-10 start. “They were ready and we were on our heels. But we kept playing, and you find your way back in the game.”
Tennessee 20-consecutive points in the second quarter to erase the 17-point deficit and fight back to a 30-all tie at the half. But Georgia scored 14 points on it’s first two possessions out of the break to build a 44-30 lead, when the Vols again seemed to be back on their heels.
“Obviously it’s frustrating,” wide out Zach Rogers said. “We’ve got to look at the bigger picture, I know it goes in the loss column, whatever, but we showed a lot of heart, a lot of fight tonight.
“I think that’s what we can build on going into more SEC games.”
The Vols battled back to cut it to 51-44 but ran out of steam behind three-straight turnovers on it’s last three possessions.
Georgia’s ultimate response — picking off Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray with just under six minutes left in regulation and a 51-44 lead — was too much to overcome.
“I told Tyler, I’m sure everyone is going to comment on him not winning the game and that’s not fair to him, because he’s in a long journey as a quarterback,” Dooley said. “He hasn’t been in those situations a lot. He just hasn’t.”
Tennessee had four turnovers on the night and had a second half punt blocked.
GASHED: The Tennessee defense that showed up from the start Saturday looked a lot like the defense that folded in the final 20 minutes against Florida two weeks ago.
Georgia racked up its 51 points on 560 total yards, of which 282 came via the run game.
“Just a lot of missed tackles and missed assignments,” UT safety Byron Moore said. “There wasn’t anything they did that was special or we weren’t ready for. Just missed assignments.”
Included in Georgia 38 attempts on the ground as a team were touchdowns runs of 75 and 72 yards from freshman Keith Marshall and another 51-yard run for a score from fellow freshman Todd Gurley.
“We’re better in a lot of areas, but we’ve got to sure up this stopping the run,” Dooley said. “They’re a great running team.
“But we’re a lot better than what we showed. And it was frustrating.
When they get in the secondary, we have no ability to get the guy down. Which is really disappointing.”
Gurley finished the night with 135 yards on 10 carries. Marshall finished with a team-high 167 yards on just 10 tries.
“We’ve got to watch the film and evaluate our personnel,” Dooley said.
“If we have to make some changes, we’ll make some changes.”
An in-game change Dooley and staff made was playing LaDarrell McNeil at safety in place of Brent Brewer.
“I don’t think they had a long run when he was back there,” Dooley said of McNeil. “He’s going to get every opportunity to show us he’s a good football player.”
RUNNING TOUGH: Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said after the Florida loss he regretted abandoning the run too early in the second half. Chaney stuck with it in the second half against Georgia, and it paid off.
Rajion Neal had 107 yards on 23 tries, including a 9-yard score to cut the lead to 51-44 midway through the fourth quarter.
“We’ve ran the ball well all year. This group gets criticized and they’re averaging 180 a game,” a defensive Dooley said. “Every week you guys say ‘Are you surprised you ran the ball well? What does a team have to do?”
Tennessee ran for a combined 197 yards on 40 carries as a team.