Heading into a premier and highly anticipated matchup, the Vols were considered one of the nation’s best offenses. On the other sideline, Georgia was looked at as one of the country’s best defenses.
What resulted on a dreary afternoon in Athens was the No. 3 Bulldogs (9-0, 6-0 SEC) shutting down the No. 1 Vols’ (8-1, 4-1 SEC) attack in a 27-13 win.
For the first time this season, Tennessee was held to under 30 points and Hendon Hooker failed to find the endzone through the air. The Vols also totaled just 289 yards and turned the ball over twice.
“There were some things that showed up from film that appeared more often,” said Tennessee coach Josh Heupel on the poor offensive output. “We anticipated seeing a bunch of different looks from them…In the third quarter, there were a couple of things that we didn’t communicate very well. I didn’t think all in all we handled the noise very well. That’s false starts. Getting safety. Getting communication upfront. At the end of the day, that hurt us at times throughout the course of tonight.”
After reaching the top of most Heisman winner odds, Hooker faced the most resistance of the season. He was slung down six times on sacks and struggled to find receivers down the field. Georgia’s game plan of limiting big plays resulted in only 23 completions for 195 yards.
“They are a great ball team,” said Hooker. “They played extremely hard, and they got the win today. We have got to clean some things up. It is a learning process.”
Outside of the struggles through the air, Tennessee didn’t find much more success on the ground, either. The team’s three rushers combined for just 94 yards on 42 carries.
One key component of the game that led to the minimal offensive success was Tennessee’s inability to convert on third downs. The Bulldogs held the Vols to an abysmal 2-for-14 third down conversion rate which led to giving the ball back to Georgia and leaving drives empty-handed.
A large reason that the Vols fell behind the chains and were forced into tough third downs was penalties. Tennessee suffered nine in the game with the majority coming through false starts. Vol players and coaches admitted that the crowd noise inside Sanford Stadium led to the miscommunications.
“The crowd noise was effective,” said wide receiver Jalin Hyatt. “Sometimes we could not hear the snap or the play call from Hooker. I give credit to the fans. That would probably be the biggest thing that got us today.”
Next up for Tennessee is the home finale against a struggling Missouri team. The Vols will look to bounce back from their first loss of the year and keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive. The game will kick off at noon and air on CBS.
Ryan Sylvia is the Sports Editor at TNJN. He is a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in journalism and electronic media. Although he spent most of his life being raised outside of Philadelphia, he was born in Knoxville, and he is happy to be back home. Ryan has had a love for sports from an early age, and he found his love for writing in high school while taking journalism classes. He hopes to find a job involving both his passions as a sports journalist after graduation. To reach Ryan, email him at email@example.com