With 12 minutes left to play in the second quarter, it looked like Georgia’s 17-point lead would increase by the minute to the point where CBS would announce that at halftime they were switching to another game, any game, to prevent the nation from viewing the continuing carnage.
Instead, Tennessee would hold the lead before halftime after three unanswered touchdowns. It was a game that by the fourth quarter had turned into a football war — one fitting for this rivalry series already filled with crazy, memorable games.
Our fanbase is probably the only supporters of a 3-1 team that has a significant percentage howling for the head of their coach.
That symptom of fanaticism notwithstanding, the fans of the Georgia Bulldogs seem to be thinking that Saturday’s visit to Athens by Tennessee is just something to sandwich in between a grudge match with Vanderbilt and a monumental SEC East Division clash with South Carolina.
Vanderbilt and South Carolina. That’s what it’s come to I guess.
But, that’s OK. Whatever it takes to cause a foe to overlook you, to take you for a needed breather between two Saturdays of spent emotional energy.
Beginning with Tyler Bray’s pass that was intercepted and returned for an Akron touchdown on just the fourth play of the game, Tennessee found themselves in a difficult position for much of this game. It wasn’t until the Vols were able to get their third interception deep into the final quarter that Big Orange Country was able to exhale.
For the neutral fan, this was a highly entertaining game. A tally of 977 total yards, 630 of which were in the air, will tend to create that kind of enjoyable viewing. But for the Volunteer fan, this was anything but fun. There were visions of a season-destroying loss that kept appearing in the collective consciousness of the Vol Nation.
Nearly all of the air is out of the Big Orange Balloon.
It wasn’t simply that Tennessee lost to Florida at home last Saturday – the day that ESPN Gameday came to Knoxville to cover the hype that had reached levels not seen for a UT football game since the late ’90s / early ‘oos.
It was more about how that game was lost.
It was getting late in the second quarter and the natives were getting just a bit more than restless. The completely outmanned Georgia State Panthers were down only 14-6 in a game that should already have been decided. But Tennessee struck swiftly and decisively, just as they did last week against NC State. And then it was decided. Thoughts immediately turned to next Saturday.
At the end of the third quarter, the much-maligned Vol rushing game had 100 yards on the ground, and Vol freshman QB Justin Worley had more passing yards than the Razorbacks’ veteran gunslinger Tyler Wilson.
But the score at that point was Hogs 35 Vols 7.
It was all about big plays.
Looking for something to build on, Derek Dooley wasn’t afraid to put it on the shoulders of freshman QB Justin Worley. Delivering passes to 9 different receivers, Worley racked up 291 passing on a 23-for-33 performance. Da’Rick Rogers was Worley’s favorite target, getting 9 grabs for 137 yards, including a 47-yard TD strike.
Obvious kudos go to the defense for the shutout, only the third since 2003 (the last being last year’s 50-0 opener against UT-Martin), and the first on Homecoming since the blanking of Okie State in 1995.
Concerns still rain down on the running game. Against a poor team, it was atrocious, with only 120 net yards on 45 carries. That’s a 2.7 yards per carry clip.
The most entertaining part of the evening was the 6:10 pm call to a frat house to round up a place kicker in a pinch.