Tennessee (1-4, 0-2 SEC) fell to No.3 Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) 43-14 after the Vols could not keep pace with Georgia’s offense in the second half.
Both Jarrett Guarantano and Brian Maurer saw significant playing time at quarterback when Tennessee played Florida two weeks ago, but Maurer got the start against Georgia.
After stopping Tennessee on the opening possession, Georgia moved the ball with ease early.
A couple quick screens and wide open holes in the running game got the Bulldogs down to the Tennessee 1-yard line. D’Andre Swift punched it in, and a Rodrigo Blankenship extra point put Georgia up 7-0.
Tennessee answered when Brian Maurer hit Marquez Callaway wide open down the sideline for a 73-yard scoring strike, and a Brent Cimaglia kick tied the game at 7-7.
The Bulldogs attacked the sidelines on their second drive, but their drive stalled following an offensive pass interference call. Blankenship was able to salvage some points with a 50-yard field goal that put Georgia up 10-7.
On the next drive, Maurer connected with three different receivers to get the Vols into Georgia territory before threading a 12-yard scoring strike to Jauan Jennings. Cimaglia’s subsequent PAT gave the Vols the lead at 14-10.
Late in the second quarter, Georgia retook the lead with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jake Fromm to Lawrence Cager. Blankenship’s PAT gave Georgia a 20-14 lead.
Tennessee was unable to answer after Cimaglia missed a 47-yard field goal. The miss was Cimaglia’s first of the season.
Fromm extended Georgia’s lead to 26-14 just before half with a 3-yard pass to Lawrence Cager, but the Georgia quarterback could not make a play on the two-point conversion attempt.
The second half started off slow, but about midway through the third quarter Maurer overthrew his receiver down the sideline and the pass was picked off by Richard LeCounte.
“You gotta look the safety off,” Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said on the interception in his post-game press conference.
However, on the following drive Georgia was stuffed at the line on third down, and then again on fourth, giving Maurer the ball back.
Georgia iced the game in the fourth quarter with a 10 play drive that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run by Brian Herrien and a made PAT by Blankenship.
Maurer strung a drive together late, but was hit in the backfield and fumbled, resulting in a 60-yard scoop and score by Tae Crowder that put Georgia up 43-14.
The final Tennessee drive stalled, and Georgia ran out the clock.
Despite the large score discrepancy, Tennessee may have played their most complete game of the season against Georgia.
The Tennessee offense looked completely revitalized in the first half against Georgia, and Maurer deserves a lot of the credit. The true freshman opened up the playbook for the Vols bypassing for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was his first career start. You can take that two ways, and I think he took that the right way,” reciever Marquez Callaway said after the game on Brian Maurer.
Pruitt echoed Callaway’s sentiments:
“He made some nice explosive plays that softened them up so we could run the ball some,” Pruitt said on Maurer. “I thought Brian did a really good job in the first half. I thought we did a nice job protecting him.”
Despite Maurer’s decent performance, Pruitt would not say which quarterback would start going forward and hinted at using a two quarterback system.
“Jarrett’s a guy that will help us win football games down the road. I guarantee you that,” Pruitt said.
However, the Vols struggled to put together drives in the second half, and Georgia was able to pull away.
Tennessee’s defense looked better in Tennessee territory, but it was a bit of a mixed bag for the Vol defenders overall.
“Sometimes tonight we didn’t make them earn it,” Pruitt said. “In the second half, defensively we didn’t give up as many plays.”
Next week Tennessee will face Mississippi State in Neyland. Kickoff in Knoxville is slated for 12 p.m. EST on Oct. 12. The game will be aired on the SEC Network.
Featured image by Ben Gleason
Edited by Ben Gleason and Ciera Noe