Tennessee (1-4, 0-2 SEC) fell to No. 3-ranked Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) in its SEC home opener at Neyland Stadium Saturday night. Here are some key takeaways from the loss:
Brian Maurer shows potential in first start
For the first time this season, Jarrett Guarantano didn’t start at quarterback for the Volunteers. Instead, true freshman Brian Maurer led the offense in his first career start. He showed flashes of brilliance despite the game’s lopsided result. One of the highlights of the game was when he connected with Marquez Callaway for a 73-yard touchdown strike to tie the game 7-7 in the first quarter. Overall, Maurer went 14-of-28 through the air for 259 yards and two scores. However, most of his success came in the first half when he completed 10-of-21 passes for 205 yards. In the second half, he did not fare as well. Georgia dialed up the pressure and hounded him relentlessly after halftime. As a result, Maurer only completed four passes in the half. He also threw an interception that derailed a promising drive.
Turnovers still a concern
Tennessee came up on the losing side of the turnover battle yet again in the loss to the Bulldogs. The Vols committed two turnovers in the game and lost the turnover battle 0-2. Maurer threw an interception in the third quarter and fumbled the ball after taking a hard hit in the fourth quarter.
It would be inaccurate to say that turnovers lost the game for Tennessee, given the lopsided score. However, turnovers have been a recurring problem for the Vols all season, and it is a problem that will need to be addressed going forward. Turnovers may not have mattered Saturday night, but they could be the difference between victory and defeat in more competitive contests.
Georgia’s defense lived in the Tennessee backfield
The Tennessee offensive line struggled against Georgia’s unrelenting defensive pressure. Brian Maurer was sacked three times and he was under heavy pressure for most of the game, particularly in the second half. On one of the sacks, Eric Stokes Jr. came off the edge on a corner blitz, forcing a fumble that Tae Crowder returned 60 yards for Georgia’s last score. The offensive line has struggled in pass protection all year. However, this is a problem that should correct itself as the young o-line matures and gets more in-game experience.
Up Next: Tennessee will host Mississippi State next Saturday for a noon kickoff. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
Edited by Christian Knox